West of West #2
Dark Fantasy, Epic
Orbit; February 22, 2018
476 pages (PB)
4.3 / 5 ✪
SPOILERS – Contains spoilers for You Die When You Die
The Land You Never Leave is the second book in Watson’s West of West series, the continuation of a journey of stranded Vikings across a fictionalized New World in order to defeat an ancient evil threatening to destroy the world. Following the events of You Die When You Die; the Hardworkers have fled their destroyed town, pursued west across the continent by the Calnian Owsla—a squad of Amazon-like super soldiers, intent on eliminating them. In a twist ending, the two tribes unite, whereupon they must journey west of the Shining Mountains, past the Desert That You Don’t Walk Out Of, to the Meadows to save the world.
So begins TLYNL, or as I like to call it “Sex, Lies, and Wootah”.
TLYNL picks up right where YDWYD leaves off, with the Wootah and the Owsla on the edge of the Ocean of Grass, traveling west. Though some of the Owsla have been making eyes at the Mushroom Men, and the Wootah—though, mostly Finnbogi—have been entertaining lurid sexual fantasies involving the Owsla, the two tribes are far from trusting each other. Or even tolerating one another.
Soon enough, however, any chemistry is the least of their problems. For even before the two reach the Water Father, our heroes encounter the denizens of the Badlands—the Badlanders—a horrifying collection of monsters and killers, complete with their own Owsla. Far from bonding over a picnic, the two are soon at one another’s throats, with the Badlanders victorious, and the Wootah and Calnians taken prisoner and carted off to the Badlands to be brutally killed.
Before the book is out, Watson treats us to some terrifying threats both new and ancient, a few high-profile deaths, and a truly epic, entertaining adventure. Assuming you’ve read YDWYD, TLYNL provides more of the same, with intense violence, near-constant sexual innuendo, dark comedy, and generally good-natured fun. While I wouldn’t call any of what it does “family friendly”, well… you’d probably have noticed that from #1 anyway. TLYNL is an excellent continuation of the series—combining adventure, excitement, comedy with a number of unexpected twists, including one at the very end.
Finnbogi realized he might admire the psychopath who’d tried to have him killed by giant snakes more than the woman who’d taken him in and raised him like her own child. Life was odd.
- The Land You Never Leave, Finnbogi the Boggy
Though the Badlands plot dominates most of the book, there exist a number of minor and sub-plots throughout that add further elements to an otherwise jam-packed story. While a few of these are too brief or absurd to be enjoyable, most provide a brief respite, ensuring that the overarching plot doesn’t grow tedious or the pacing lax.
I was all-around impressed with The Land You Never Leave, but my favorite aspect of it is what I love to see in every post-first-book entry: character development.
Over the course of epic adventures, characters change. This is a big component especially of Coming-of-Age stories, so I was pleased to see it in TLYNL, for what were the Hardworkers in YDWYD exactly but big children? From being provided with everything they’ve ever needed, to being forced to survive on their own while being hounded and hunted across the continent. Well, come TLYNL they’re evolving into something more—or being left behind. Without a doubt, my personal favorite of these was Finnbogi’s development, for coming into TLYNL, well, he hadn’t done much. And as any such hero, the sequel provides him with more than enough hardship and strife to mold him into something new, something… Boggy-ish. Or, MORE Boggyish, I suppose. Without spoiling anything, I can’t say much, only that his personal journey was particularly impressive, though not without its own blunders.
While the individual character development stole the show, the group element needs to be mentioned. Coming into the second book, the Calnian Owsla and Wootah were tenuous allies. Throughout the course of the story this evolves into something more—while at the same time, also something less. That is, bonds are tested and stretched, or just broken and reformed. While some characters change, others stay resolute, forcing their dynamic to adapt, or be broken. Not all the change in TLYNL is positive. There is a combination of the two, some of which remains unresolved even at the end.
Sadly, while I loved TLYNL, it is not perfect. Toward the end, after the main plot has been completed, there is a bit of a stutter. Plot-holes, gaps, and questionable reasoning solved, and a setup for the finale only made possible by the timely intervention of a clairvoyant (and short-lived) warlock. Solved in but a chapter, no less. After an adventure that was entirely epic, this was a bit of a let-down.
The Land You Never Leave is a suitable successor to You Die When You Die, providing an epic adventure with more of the same fun, comedy, sex and violence prevalent in its predecessor. I particularly enjoyed the character development, specifically that of its individuals, though that of the group’s dynamic as well. However, a misstep toward the end when a fairly large number of potential problems are solved by a magical intervention, tends to spoil an otherwise epic conclusion. A number of revelations and interesting sub-plots did well to keep me reading through the end without issue—the last pages providing a particularly intriguing twist, one that hopefully will pay dividends in the final book.
Secrets and lies may yet bring an end to this noble mission, or the truth may remain forever buried. An epic adventure requires a fitting conclusion, one that I fervently hope Watson can provide. I don’t know about you, but I eagerly await the conclusion to this trilogy. And personally I’m hoping for a Bard’s Tale-esque ending. No, not that one. The second one. Or the third one, where they just go drinking. You know, either or.
Where Gods Fear to Go, the third and final installment of West of West, is set to release late this year—on December 3rd in the US and December 5th in the UK.