BOOK REVIEW: The Last Watch, by J. S. Dewes

  • Book One of The Divide
  • Published by Tor in 2021
  • Space Opera
  • 474 pages
  • ⭐⭐⭐

The Divide. It stands at the edge of the universe, marking the line between existence, and the infinite void beyond. Stationed here at the edge of reality are a handful of soldiers, who would rather be anywhere else . . .

Reputation. It’s a funny old thing. Publishing is a fickle system in which the more popular a work is, the more marketing it receives. And the more marketing you get, the larger the chance that your book will find an audience. The industry devotes massive amounts of time and effort into building a book’s reputation, often before it’s even been released into the wild for readers to find. But publishers don’t do all of this themselves. Especially for debuts and smaller releases, a lot of the heavy lifting is done by blogs. Much like the one you’re reading right at this very moment. How about that for a coincidence? I myself follow a lot of blogs, not just for the community, but to keep abreast of the new releases that I might otherwise have missed. Last year something very interesting happened. A book swept across blogs, garnering high praise from just about everywhere. ‘Book of the Year,’ they said. ‘The best debut in years,’ it was claimed. That book was, as you may have guessed by now, The Last Watch, the debut novel of J. S. Dewes. Such was it’s reputation that, despite the fact it’s not widely available in the UK, I made sure to get a copy at my earliest convenience. I was a bit late on that front actually, and by the time I found The Last Watch, the sequel was already out. So I bought both. Win-win, I thought to myself. It looked like my sort of series, and the reviews were glowing like a supernova. Surely, I told myself, that many people can’t be wrong?

Honestly, they’re not wrong. Not entirely. The Last Watch is a fun and action-packed debut that would make any author proud. Had I gone into it blind, I’d happily be putting Dewes up there with ones to watch like Michael Mammay or Drew Williams. But I wasn’t blind. I had soaked in all of this hype for the book. So much so that, fun as it was, I ultimately came away rather disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, The Last Watch is a good book, and I encourage you to seek it out and make up your own mind. But in my mind, I was expecting to be blown away. I was told that this book would reinvent the wheel. That my life would never be the same again. None of that happened. I come away from it exactly the same as I was before, albeit with 474 fewer pages in my TBR.

The Last Watch has so many things going for it. Fun characters, sparkling banter, a threat to the entire universe. It is full of tropes, including some that I’m not fond of. But there’s no denying it uses those tropes well. It’s an adventure in the purest sense, with just enough hints dropped in to suggest a deeper world beyond the page. If you want an adrenaline-fuelled romp across the edge of the universe, populated by a host of lovable characters, this is the book for you. But don’t make my mistake. Temper your expectations.

All of this gets to a predicament at the heart of blogging. If I am in any way representative of bloggers, then we do this because we want to tell people about the books we read. We want people to now about the great literature out there in the world. We exist to build up expectations. But with that comes a danger. Because no two readers are the same. I might love a book that you hate, and vice versa. Off on a tangent, this is why I also talk about books I don’t enjoy, because getting a better sense of my likes and dislikes can only give my recommendations more weight. But when everyone else is in agreement about something, you can’t help but feel you’re missing out. The danger is not that we make books out to be something other than what they are. The danger is that we build expectations too high. And when we find a book we love, that we want to tell the world about, I honestly don’t know if that can be avoided. I just hope others don’t encounter the same pitfalls that I did.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you may also like:
Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus, by Isaac Asimov
Mars, by Ben Bova
Cold Welcome, by Elizabeth Moon

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

2 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: The Last Watch, by J. S. Dewes

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