REVIEW: BREACH OF PEACE (LAWFUL TIMES #1)
A blood-soaked mystery...
BREACH OF PEACE is a dystopic fantasy novella that kept coming up in both my Goodreads and Amazon recommendations. The striking cover made it rather impossible to ignore and the fact that it is actually a self-published book also drew my attention. After getting it in paperback for a steal, I figured I would give it a shot.
HOW I RATED IT
4/5 A grizzly crime leads to a winding detective drama filled with intrigue, some light world building, and several stomach-churningly gruesome action scenes that made me wish I'd saved this for an spooky October read.
The story primarily follows Khlid who is an Inspector of a seemingly high rank. She is married to an Inspector of a lower rank named Samuel. Another key characters is the brutish Chapman who has some kind of beef with Sam, but gets along alright with Khlid. I wished I felt a bit more invested in both the rivalry between these two men as well as the dynamic between Sam and Khlid. Other than Chapman constantly being rude to Samuel for no apparent reason, I just didn't really understand why the two of them were constantly at odds. Likewise, while Khlid and Sam do not seem to be at all shy about making public displays of affection (even in their office or at a crime scene), I didn't feel like the story really showed us why they make a good couple. Because the story drops us right into the middle of an event that serves as a catalyst for a bigger ordeal, we also never really see any of them get to just be good at their jobs. They are thrown from one extenuating circumstance to the other and since Khlid finds herself in the center of these instances, I think her characterization as a hardened detective suffers the most since she is in a constant state of shock and terror. While this seems perfectly fitting within the context of what happens to her, I just wished we could have seen her be a badass for a chapter or two. I also think these moments of stress would have hit a lot harder if I got to see the three of these characters operating on a more typical case.
To be clear, I didn't dislike any of these characters, I just would have liked to feel more connected to them because I did find them quite interesting. I also would have liked better physical descriptions of many of the characters, especially Khlid, who barely gets any. One huge positive I have when it comes to the cast is that the minor characters were all handled really nicely (though again, I didn't have much to go on when picturing what they look like). Williams, Smits, and Rollins were all impressively compelling considering how small their parts are. Even a couple of characters who appear briefly towards the end of the story were handled very nicely.
While it is clear from the beginning that the story takes place in some kind of fantasy world that's possibly Victorian-inspired, I will say the worldbuilding is quite light for a story in this genre (even one of this length). I didn't get the clearest picture of what any of the locations looked like and largely formed my mental image of them all based on the aesthetic of the cover. In addition to environmental imagery, I also felt like other aspects of the world building could have been expanded upon, even if only slightly. One example is that religion comes up quite a bit, but the actual beliefs were not clear to me. I wasn't really sure if the "Almighty" was a who or a what, and I didn't really understand why Inspectors were considered holy. The Chosen were explained a bit better and I was pretty clear on their physical capabilities, but the Inspectors themselves had a somewhat ambiguous power level. I could never really tell if they were just well trained or if they also possessed enhanced strength of some kind as a couple of scenes seemed to imply that they do. I definitely understand that a whole fantasy world cannot be built out within the confines of such a short story, but I wished that the elements placed directly in front of me were better defined because I was pretty fascinated with it all and wanted to know more.
If it sounds like I didn't like this book as much as a 4/5 rating might imply, I think that's because it's tightly woven narrative is what really resonated with me. From the first page, there is an immediate air of intrigue and that only intensifies as more pieces of the puzzle unfold. Characters are introduced gradually and I felt as though I only had access to the minimum amount of information required for the plot to be coherent at any given moment. While the stingy delivery of character and world details were definite drawbacks for me, they also resulted in a fast-paced plotline with very little exposition dumping. The only thing that slowed me down a bit was how some of Greene's prose reads. It's not necessarily clunky and there weren't any noticeable errors aside from some inconsistent naming, but for some reason I did a double take on some of the sentences to understand what was being said or who was saying what. It could be that my brain wasn't fully working, but I've noticed that Greene has an interesting manner of speaking when I watch his YouTube videos, so it could just be that how he thinks/talks is different from how I do. A lot of the sarcastic humor also did not land for me, but again I think this is a quirk that I also find in his YouTube content.
I initially intended to just read this chapter by chapter, but the story hooked me enough where I ended up ripping through it instead, which I think is the mark of a compelling story.
As I mentioned upfront, this cover is one of the best I have ever seen. It is so captivating and does such a nice job of interpreting the three main characters. I also liked that the material had a softer feel to it than most matte paperbacks. On the inside, there's nothing crazy going on, but it's all well formatted and I liked some of the subtle touches with lettering as well as the larger font size.
This novella definitely could have had more robust world building and more fleshed out characters, but what it lacks in those areas, it makes up for in a tight narrative that propels readers across the pages with no loitering whatsoever. I will say that it was much more gruesome than I expected it to be from beginning to end, so I would NOT recommend this for those that are at all squeamish or sensitive to highly graphic violence. If you don't mind this type of content, then I think this would make an excellent read for Halloween, especially since I felt like the story leaned a lot further into horror than I would have guessed. Fans of fantasy horror in general, will likely enjoy this at any time of the year, even as just a quick pallet cleanser between novels. Even though this felt like a sort of extended prologue to the larger world Greene is setting up, I am not entirely sure if I will continue with the series or not. On one hand, I think it would be nice to see if any of my questions get answered in REBELS CREED, but I may just let the events of BREACH OF PEACE's ending simmer for a little while and see if the sequel (and it's less appealing cover) look enticing after reading some other things. For now, I'm glad I went on this twisted adventure and I think it functions well enough as a self-contained story in it's own right.