Review: The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth

Dwyn is a young man in the small, isolated town of Manicouga, son of the Minstor, who is betrothed to marry Kessa in a few weeks' time.

Mael is shepherding the remains of his own village from the north, chased out by a terrible storm that destroyed Land's End.

Both are trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. When the two meet, their love and attraction may change the course of history.

The Great North is a somewhat mythological love story about Dwyn, the local Minstor's son and heir to the rulership of his town, and Mael, one of the few survivors of a cataclysmic snowstorm that decimated his village, causing him to flee to warmer climes.  It's been a couple hundred years since the Reckoning, an event that effectively ended today's known world.  People live in a simpler world without electricity and running water, leading a mostly agrarian life where farming is an effort taken on by most, if not all, of the townspeople.  

I thought the premise of the story was fascinating.  Coatsworth really knows how to create a unique society and has put a lot of thought into this world.  Having the language evolve from today's speech was a stroke of genius as it pulled me into the story, making me feel like an insider as I recognized the root of those words and phrases.  I especially loved the bedtime story, a tale of a young magician with a scar on his forehead who fought against a man who had no name.  :)

Dwyn is hiding a secret from his father and the rest of the town.  His attraction to males is a punishable offense in his town so he keeps his indiscretions to a minimum, effectively living a lie.   That all goes out the window when he meets travel-weary Mael as he and his small group of survivors happen upon Dwyn's village looking for food and a place to rest up before heading further south.  There is an instant attraction between the two that causes Dwyn to rethink everything he has known in his life so far.

While the world building is five heart worthy, I felt the romance was a bit lacking in substance.  The story read more like a first or second draft.  The characters were not as fully fleshed as I would have liked; they needed more depth for me to really feel the emotions.  There were a lot of scenes that I felt should have been expanded upon.  I wouldn't say any of it left me cold but, I couldn't connect with either Mael or Dwyn or any of the characters for that matter.  I could see where they felt grief or anger or sorrow or love but I couldn't feel it.  I think the length of the book is a detriment to my enjoyment of it.  If it were longer I'm sure the author would have given me a stellar read since I know, after reading his full length novel Skythane, he is capable of immense emotional depth.  Oh, and for all you smut lovers out there, the sex scenes are fade-to-black.  While I normally prefer less sex and more story in my reads, I couldn't help but feel that showing the lovemaking here might have helped me connect more with the romance.

Having said all of the above, I still liked this story and I am eager to see where the author takes us in the next book.  The mythology is intriguing, the world fascinating and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

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