Little Gnome, Big Water: A Surprise to be Sure, but a Welcome One
I’m not really sure why I made a Star Wars reference in the title to this review, but it fits, so it stays.
I had minimal expectations when I opened Little Gnome, Big Water. Why? Because I really don’t like the book cover. While the artwork is creative, it doesn’t really communicate anything about the story to me . . . and after reading the book, I absolutely think the narrative goes well beyond what is displayed on its front.
Overall, Little Gnome, Big Water by Michael A. Wood is a creative, original book, a story that mishmashes urban fantasy, magical realism, and portal fantasy all into one. There’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot to take in, and while at times it can get a bit overwhelming, the story makes sense in the end.
And in some ways, the story makes too much sense. The world’s creative. The characters and their relationships have creative interactions and conflicts. But . . . by the start of the third act, I felt like I knew more than enough information, maybe too much, for Wood puts us behind the eyes of most of the protagonists and antagonists at some point during the tale. In an effort to provide some sympathy for the villains, or learn more about the motivations or back story of particular characters, the curtain is pulled back a bit too far.
However, these asides and stories are fascinating in their own right; the world Wood has developed (inspired heavily by Scottish mythology, reminding me of the book Korrigan by Rebecca F. Kenney) shines and blends from page to page. Wood did his research, reaching deep into the mythos and even crafting authentic accents for characters through their dialogue.
So while sometimes I felt the story took too long to develop, or developed for too long (there’s a difference), all of the development is good. If that makes sense? For instance, a lot of really good backstory goes into developing the main character, Muir, at the beginning of the book, but it takes away from the build up of meeting the “Gnome” for the first time.
And like the over developed scenes, I often felt like it wasn’t clear which characters were driving the story. Sometimes, its the Gnome, other times, its the antagonists, other times, its the human protagonists, but often, it wasn’t easy to tell who was in control. Is that bad? Not necessarily. But as some characters drifted on and off the page for long periods of time in a book only 210 pages long, I often worried the story was losing its focus.
Yet, at the same time, I very glad I took the chance on Little Gnome, Big Water. While I have a lot to say regarding my confused thoughts about the book, I overall enjoyed it because it made me think about its world, about its themes, about the fun philosophical and mythological reflections engaged throughout the narrative. If you’re a fan of the magical realism genre and you want to read a new indie author, I recommend giving Little Gnome, Big Water a chance, for a compelling tale exists within its twisting turns and complicated passages.
Writing: 6/10. Due to pacing issues and a few common typos and formatting issues, I can’t give a higher score than a six on writing. It’s not bad writing, but there’s nothing spectacular about it. However, it absolutely stays within the six range due to the fantastic dialogue for the Scottish characters.
Characters: 7/10. Lots of fun characters who stand out in my mind. Many heroes, one clear villain, and a few fun relationships and moments between them all.
Plot: 6/10. The plot lacks agency for much of the story, making it hard to get invested in its outcome. It picks up significantly during the second half of the book, however, and its a fun ride to the finish!
Setting: 9/10. A thoroughly well researched mythos combined with creative elements injected by the author’s own imagination. I loved it!
Overall: 7/10. Sevens are always hard. I’m giving it three stars because I didn’t love the book, even though I enjoyed many moments and had fun overall. That’s just me though, and I’m sure there’s an audience out there that will adore the words of Little Gnome, Big Water.