The Last Watch (The Divide Series book 1) by J.S. Dewes (book review).

April 27, 2021 | By | Reply More

Once upon a time the universe began with a bang and started to expand. Until it stopped. On one side there are stars, planets and all the varied life of the universe. On the other, there is nothing but a black, lifeless void. The line between two is the Divide. A place of strange gravitational weight where doppelgängers of future events flicker and fade randomly. Legend has it that the Viators came from beyond the Divide, an alien race that appeared and tried to wipe out humanity in a war humans barely won. Two hundred years ago, the Viators came back. Five years ago, the very last of their kind was destroyed. The System Collective Legion patrols the Divide until this day.

Cavalon Mercer arrives at the Divide in total disgrace, cast out from his royal family and the Inner Core of planets as punishment. He isn’t alone. All the soldiers at the Divide are troublemakers. They are the thieves, the violent and the insubordinate. The Divide is where they all end up because there is no place in the universe further away.

Adequin Rake. Titan. War hero. Adequin has spent the last five years at the Divide fighting against boredom and a lack of supplies. She isn’t trained to be the captain of the dreadnought Argus but the mistake that made her a hero also exiled her to the edge of the universe.

What expands can also contract. The Divide has begun to move. To shrink back towards the Inner Core of planets. Without an engine, training or supplies, Rake needs to find a way to save her crew and warn humanity.

‘The Last Watch’ is J.S. Dewes’ debut novel and it packs an action-fueled punch. If the Night’s Watch from ‘Game Of Thrones’ was put in the black isolation of space waiting for a deadly inhuman foe that is gone but not forgotten, like in ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ with some of ‘The Expanse’ mixed in for the epic space battles and mysterious alien technology you end up with ‘The Last Watch’.

I did enjoy ‘The Last Watch’. It was just too much all at once. There is so much going on. The history of the world and the characters, it’s all detailed and interesting but overwhelming at times. If you are more of a ‘chapter a day’ reader rather than a ‘forget to go to bed at a reasonable hour’ type, the adrenaline would be spaced out more reasonably and let the action remain exciting and not become the new normal.

‘The Last Watch’ has the feel of a television show with some wonderful action sequences and some solid world-building but what works on a TV show doesn’t always work as well in a novel. Even when shows are binge watched there are natural pause points. Some people got mad at ‘Game Of Thrones’ and ‘Lord Of The Rings’ for the excessive food talk (okay, they have a point with ‘Lord Of The Rings’) but sometimes those scenes are there for a reason. Meals provide the characters time to relax, talk and interact as a group so they can grow as a group. Attending a brawl in a mess hall or downing an MRE in a corridor while on patrol do not count as meal breaks. Naps can only be less than an hour in duration unless the definition of nap is expanded to include unconsciousness. I am a bit surprised that there were no stress related deaths due to adrenaline overdose as incident after incident pushes them both physically and mentally.

There are two point of view characters, Rake and Cavalon. Fighter army person and intellectual dodgy person. Between them, Cavalon and Rake can solve anything. Everything! In spite of Cavalon’s drug-addled rebellion against authority, he managed to get three degrees. Yet one stern talking to from Rake and he learns to toe the line with her very traditional ‘I’m not mad I’m just disappointed’ routine. In spite of Rake’s ship being full of ne’er-do-wells, her leadership gets them to band together and fight for the right as one. With all of the external obstacles and dangers in their way the characters are given little time to demonstrate their own growth as unselfish team players. Even Rake, the novel’s ‘good guy’, is so wrapped up in her own personal recriminations that I feel comfortable labelling her a mite selfish and a loner.

I’m having trouble comparing this to a novel since it’s so visual. The scrappy band of characters in space brings to mind ‘A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet’ by Becky Chambers, but they don’t directly compare. The situations the characters are put in are broader, more human versus alien than the inclusivity Chambers espouses. The best I can do is suggest ‘The Last Watch’ for those who enjoyed watching, not necessarily reading, ‘Game Of Thrones,’ ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ and ‘The Expanse.’

L.R. Richardson

February 2021

(pub: TOR, 2021. 480 page enlarged paperback. Price: $18.99 (US). £13.69 (UK) late May 2021). ISBN: 978-1-25023-634-0)

check out website: www.tor.com

Category: Books, Scifi

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