The war might still be raging elsewhere, but Estin will find the mountains are far from safe. Estin must decide what he is willing to do and become, as well as who to trust if he is to survive, no matter where he lives.
The format for this review is a bit different as I am reviewing two books in one. In Wilder Lands was a difficult book for me to rate: the parts that are well done are superbly well done, however the rest would have benefited from some tightening/streamlining—3.5 stars out of 5. The plot/conflict moves along better in the second book Into the Desert Wilds (4 stars out of 5) however it is still plagued with too many inconsequential players. Both books offer a great commentary on survival and how ones own struggles take precedence over what is happening in the larger world.
In the first book, Estin is instantly a sympathetic character. He is living on the street and his people (Wildlings) are often imprisoned or made slaves. The opening is powerful and the way Estin compares himself to a rat is well done. The remainder of the book is filled with artful comparisons and similes.
The story opens with a high amount of drama with Estin trying to escape the guards who want to capture him. This was a great way to show the disparity among the classes/races and set up this new world. Feanne, another main character, tries to negotiate peace/freedom for the wildlings. She is very brave and stubborn, a real heroine.
Once Estin becomes involved in taking the job for the human Varra, it would have been beneficial to have an idea as to what the overarching conflict of the story would be. I was fine with getting to know Estin and the world up to this point, but the action needed to be more gripping here.
From there, minor events are dragged on too long (for example, Varra and Estin trying to steal from the Duke) and I needed more on an idea of the ultimate impending struggle. The first quarter of the novel is okay but would benefit from some serious suspense building. The action starts once the reader finds out about the wildlings being hunted and killed and then raised from the dead as a kind of zombie soldiers. This is very interesting, but if less time was spent on Estin and Varra in the beginning and we found this out from Feanne sooner, it would help quicken the pace of the story.
The second book,Into the Desert Wilds, starts off from where the first book ends. This book suffers a similar fate as the first: unique character types, and a relatable sympathetic cast, but needs a more solid overarching conflict. It's a lot of the day to day struggle, which is fine, but the reader needs to feel like they're working towards an end goal.
The young wildlings (Feanne's kids) added a familiar element to the story; despite the obvious differences, teenage emotions ensue. The going back and forth between Estin and Oria's points of view was good: Oria is an interesting character and added a coming-of-age element to the story.
Estin going off on his own and Feanne and the kids being left alone was too reminiscent of the first book. Oria's viewpoint was a highpoint for me, along with the sibling rivalry with her brother Atall. I like these parts because they were easily accessible. Too many other parts of the fantasy world/grand scheme had too many gaps: there were too many questions about the mist and undead army. More information was needed.
Overall, for both books, the world creation and loveable characters make them worth reading, however they could benefit from streamlining to focus on the main characters and plotlines.
Book 1 Amazon (2.99)
Book 2 Amazon (2.99)