Review: “The Wysman” by Dorothy A. Winsor

I received an ARC copy of Winsor’s newest novel The Wysman set to release this month on June 27, 2020. While the book was interesting and pleasant to read, I wouldn’t say it made my top ten or even my top twenty reads of 2020. There were many aspects of the book that the author could improve, all of which you can find below.

The Wysman is a standalone novel set in a Fantasy world where we follow a cripple named Jarka who’s apprenticing to become the next Wysman of the country. The book is Winsor’s second novel, and, while it takes place after the events of the first, it’s its own story. Readers’ are told in the blurb that they don’t have to read the first novel The Wind Reader to get a firm grasp on this one; however, this isn’t the feeling I got while reading. The story does OK on its own, but there were a lot of times I found myself lost or feeling out of the loop, as if certain facts should have been present in the story that weren’t there. This is a letdown as it took me out of the full immersion of the text.

The first 2 chapters of the book are a bit out there; It’s clear the author is trying to find the character’s voice and place in the world, so it’s hard to establish any connection with the MC, Jarka. Diction and sentence structure are jerky at parts, making it difficult to read. There’s a lot of information thrown at the reader right up front, but brief descriptions to back it up. As a standalone novel, this is a problem. I shouldn’t have to read The Wind Reader to get an understanding of Jarka and his current settings. If this is the case, then there should be an obvious sign such as The second book in The Wind Reader series.

An effective example of this are the character dynamics and the way they interact in the world. It’s clear that there are these connections between characters developed in the first book that we’re never given an introduction to, they just are; this gives the reader a sense of, once again, feeling out of the loop and never establishing a compelling connection with any of the characters. We see this in Jarka’s relationship with his family, Lyssa and her husband Clovyan. I did some digging, and in the first book, Jarka doesn’t live in the castle, he lives with this abusive man Lyssa married. We’re introduced to this strained relationship between Jarka and Lyssa in The Wysman, but it developed in the first book; the author tosses this dynamic at us, but does nothing with it apart from give a few, brief interactions here and there, though it’s never enough to feel anything more than a mild sympathy for the boy. It has potential to be an interesting, gripping part of the MC, but it never comes to fruition. Apart from this, I was never invested in any of the other characters. I had a moderate interest here and there, but the author never delves into their world. I often felt that I was gazing at things from the surface of the water, with everything interesting happening below it. We get tastes and snippets of possibilities, but never the full meal, which is disheartening.

One character, Prince Beran, is only ever mentioned by name. He has such an interesting place in the story, and I strongly believe he could have made the novel much stronger, especially with the level of atmosphere that would have been present had he been in the book. Instead, we’re told the relationships he has between each character, but we’re never shown that relationship.

While I’m on the point of characters, I want to touch on the supposed romantic aspect of the story. There’s a faint touch of this between Jarka and another character. The amount of interactions is so minor that we never get a full sense of what could be. They have maybe five or six interactions (Jarka is madly in love with her right at the start); this minor number doesn’t quantify a layer of romance, especially when those interactions only last a couple pages, and very little happens between the characters. I couldn’t get behind the relationship at all. There either have to be more meaningful interactions, or none, because what’s there now just feels like it’s (1) being forced on the reader, and (2) little thought put behind it.

Onto the plot. I won’t give anything away since the book is yet to be released, but it fell short with me. We have this key idea pertaining to the villain of the story “The Grabber” who our MC, Jarka, is trying to learn the identity of so he can stop them from harming any other children. That’s great for a basis, it’s the other layers (such as the romantic layer) that should add to the plot, when, in reality, it made the experience of the story a letdown. There was only one person in Jarka’s line of sight to question and suspect. He doesn’t pursue anyone else, and this pushes a certain mindset on the reader that just doesn’t work. It’s not plausible. In any investigation, there are always multiple suspects. Look at any other television or crime novel and you’ll see this. To set your sights on one person and continuously pursue them is unlikely. This dampens the plot and makes it less interesting to the reader because the thing that makes mystery/crime novels so thrilling and suspenseful is the fact that we never know who the culprit is, and neither does our MC. They’re constantly guessing and switching suspects at least once throughout the story. Then there’s this layer of character relationships, such as between Lyssa and Jarka, which the story forces on the reader. It adds nothing to it, it’s just there. Through the entire story we’re just told things, and I believe that describes this book rather well.

The reader is told various things, but we’re never shown anything.

We’re told about the plot, and it plays out.

We’re told about the characters, and it plays out.

As a reader, I don’t want to be told anything; I want to experience and be shown the story. To writers out there, this is the age old advice of show, don’t tell, and this book unfortunately does the opposite. There’s not a lot that lets the reader become invested in anything pertaining to the plot or characters, it’s all surface material, nothing in-depth, which is where I lost interest.

There were some aspects that were interesting, such as cute dialogue between a few of the characters. Winsor seems to get a better grasp on her story after chapter 2; there are more descriptions and material from then on out, which is nice. Aside from this, the idea of the plot was good, it’s the execution of that idea that soured the reading experience.

I want to thank the publishing house for providing me with an ARC copy of the book. It was very thoughtful of them, and I hope you enjoyed this review of The Wysman. If you would like to read it for yourself, you can pre-order it on Amazon. If you would like to learn more about the author, check out her author page. Until next time.

All the best.

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