Balam, Spring

Balam, Spring - Travis M. Riddle I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

This was a really enjoyable read. It's set in a small town so it makes for a nice break from sprawling epic fantasies. In fact, I was actually starting to be afraid I was going to burnout on fantasy so reading something smaller, more personal, and more mystery driven was just what I needed.

The book centers around the small town of Balam where a mysterious epidemic is killing the town's residents. It started when the town's previous white mage died and continued as a retired mercenary, Ryckert aids the new white maage Aava in resolving this mystery. Along the way, the book also shows several of the other characters in the town as they try to process what was going on.

In some novels which center around a mystery, I have to admit (to my shame), that I would often glance at the ending so as to not be surprised. I didn't do that here. Instead, I kept reading to find out what happened. To say the least, the cause was actually something both beautiful, tragic, and outright terrible. There were tears shed near the ending, and there are some scenes which I found to be beautiful and poignant.

The characters here feel real in both their personalities, their relationships, and their lives. There are characters who are straight, bisexual, gay, and lesbian and each of them feel real and seamlessly integrated into the world. Their relationships are both beautiful and sad, or even ugly. There are familial relationships, friendly relationships, and romantic relationships, and each of them were depicted beautifully.

I enjoyed the small town setting. As someone who has lived in a city her entire life, I found it to be very charming, a kind of quiet setting, and a very good break from world-changing stories. A small town's struggle in the face of an unknown epidemic made for a compelling story which I really liked.

I highly recommend this book. It's nicely paced, more slice-of-life than epic, but contains a poignant story which I think anyone can enjoy.