With so much urban fantasy saturating the market these days, it’s really nice to see that a good ol’ fashioned fantasy novel can still show up on the shelves. Like, say, Benjamin Tate’s Well of Sorrows.
Well of Sorrows tells the story of Colin, a boy who’s come with his parents across the sea to a new country, fleeing war in their homeland–only to discover that the city where they’ve settled has no use whatsoever for the influx of refugees. Violence eventually ensues, and Colin’s father must lead a group of their people out to try to found a new settlement. But there are strange and dangerous things out in the plains, things which have caused previous settlers to never be seen again.
Colin’s family’s group of course finds these dangerous things. And Colin’s life is irretrievably changed.
I could go on from there, but that would be significant spoilerage. I will however say that this is only really the first stretch of the book; the main storyline is what happens long after these events. And I can add that the worldbuilding is the primary thing that appealed to me about Tate’s work. The idea of an overseas colony, complete with strife between it and the motherland, is not new to fantasy to be sure. But it’s handled well here and with a nice balance between a realistic feel and just enough magic to remind you that oh yeah, this is in fact a fantasy novel–not to mention that there are two non-human races that initially will probably strike most readers as thinly disguised elves and dwarves. Tate’s names for them, the Alvritshai and the dwarren, do not exactly dispel that impression. (That said, the dwarren are not miners, which helps a lot.)
Much of the book hinges upon the volatile relations between the humans, the Alvritshai, and the dwarren, and this is really where it shone for me. I was less invested in Colin’s acquisition of magical powers that enabled him to be the prime person to stop the blossoming warfare, mostly because his acquisition of them is primarily off-camera and so I had to adjust hard to jump from “Colin as youth” to “Colin as man with magical ability”. Aeren, one of the lords of the Alvritshai, becomes a more accessible character in the latter stretches of the book.
Lastly, I’ll note that Tate had a bit too much “as you know Bob” type dialogue in various conversations, such as an Alvritshai character using a given term and then immediately following it with the term’s definition–in conversation to another Alvritshai. But that was pretty much the only issue I had with any of the writing at all, and I’ll definitely be coming back for the next book in the series. ‘Cause this ain’t done, not by a long shot. And I do need to know what happens next! Four stars.