Let me start first by saying that I am not usually one to pick up a horror novel. As a writer, I tend to lean towards YA fantasy or strict fiction, with little room for guts and gore. Because of this, I had a little bit of a hard time getting into the groove of Within, especially in the first good chunk of the book. But let me tell you, even if you’re not a horror fan like myself, there is still SO much this piece has to offer.
I am so incredibly impressed with Bunce’s ability to create such intricate worlds. Within the novel, he’s created a world as elaborate as that of R.R. Martin’s or even Tolkein. Denoril is made up of five provinces with scheming nobles each trying to get the largest chunk of the metaphorical pie. The novel has dwarves and trade cities and magicians and nearly everything you could want in a medieval style fantasy epic. Bunce does a really, really wonderful job with juggling the complexities of the world and the political systems and histories required with it while also taking the time to flesh out some really beautiful characters.
The novel follows a few different story lines, all of them having merit, but I found my favorite to be the troubled healer Tanea. She’s both compassionate and bad ass in her own way, and I found her struggle to define her relationship with her own deity enriching. (Of course, I am also a big cheesy romantic and I found myself excited whenever I flipped a chapter and realized the story was shifting back to Julian and her.)
I will warn you – there are some pretty graphic scenes in the novel and Bunce’s attention to detail will not be spared there. Animals (yes – even pets) are killed, children die in traumatic ways, and there is violence against women.
If you want a well written, intricately woven medieval dark fantasy with magic, love, and monsters, this is for you. It’s the start of something really, really big I think.