Lily - by Daniel Barnett
Well. What have I got to say about this one?
Lily, is, quite frankly, the capstone to an astonishing first half of an extraordinary series. Readers that have read the first 5 books will need no further incentive to read on, other than “Daniel wrote it”, so I feel it is incumbent on me to note that we are no longer “reviewing” the series, we are simply admiring it. I have given up on attempting to cherry-pick. The whole series is the cherry.
Standing alone, or put together in their collective whole, the concept of the series is as well-executed as the actual writing. It is not hyperbole, or misplaced admiration to say that one day, all series will be written like this. Let me clarify that for you: Daniel had the patience and foresight to wait with the release of his series. He wrote the first five books before releasing any of them and continued on with Lily as those books slowly came out. That enabled him to insert details, threads, foreshadowing, and character arcs through the length of the series – 6 books – arcs that sometimes took the entirety of all the books to complete. That shows enormous restraint and an innate understanding of story-telling. It rewards the reader that picks up on clues, mood, and obscure detail. It appeals to the depth of character that voracious readers crave. It lends his world credibility and provides consistency to the series.
This may well be the best “series” I have ever read.
My hesitancy there is not through lack of conviction. Barnett’s characters are superbly illustrated. Each character shines through individually. Character motivations, complexities, faults, graces – all are explored and given time on the page. All of the characters are fallible and are punished for those mistakes. All of the characters shine, and we, as readers, bask in their moments in the light. We wear the characters' emotions on our sleeves and are as traumatized and vilified as they are as Daniel leads them from one situation to the next.
So, my hesitancy, above, is not through lack of commitment to this series – it is due to knowing that this “review” might be read by a potential reader, years into the future. My words here are a moment in time, frozen in a maddeningly heartbreaking summation - of being halfway through an achievement that is – in my perspective – unprecedented, written in reflection – still in the shock and haze of having just finished Lily. “Just finished” being four days ago, and I am still processing the trauma and hope and pain of the book.
This review might be read by a person, in the future, that is looking ahead to the following 6 books in Daniel’s second half to his epos, already written, already lauded by his fans. And that second half, I have no doubt in stating, will be even more exemplary than this one. To clarify – I cannot say that this is the best series that I have ever read because, by the time the next six books are released, that may well be the best “series” I have ever read. In fact, I expect no less.
Daniel and Hal (the actual author).
Daniel is an exceptional writer. The Nightmareland series is an exemplary achievement. That we are alive and here as it unfolds is, honestly, a privilege.
At the end of the book, Daniel asks us to be patient whilst he completes the remaining books, together, in the same process as these books were produced. I think I can speak for everyone when I say – absolutely. We’ll be here, salivating, ready to pounce on them with the same eagerness as we devoured the first six.
My last note – I read primarily on Kindle. I believe that we live in a digital age, and we should be doing everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet. Postage, printing, it all contributes to a process that is adding to an ongoing problem. Lily was – very kindly – sent to me as an ARC e-book, direct from Daniel, in return for an honest review.
Yet I ordered all of the books in paperback, to arrive the day after Lily is released (tomorrow). Why? Was it the outstanding covers from Daniele Serra (which add such a wonderful common thread to the series) that swayed me? Certainly, that had something to do with my somewhat inconsistent/hypercritical decision. Or just that I wanted to support a fellow Indie Author?
I think it more likely, as a writer, I wanted that example of commitment to his art, here, in my house. Staring at me every day as I write my own series. A physical reminder of getting something right, no matter the time required. To planning out, refining. A promise from the author to the reader to produce his best work.
And what of Lily as a single book, alone – what do I think of it in isolation?
Lily is as good as I could have wished it to be and as devastating and traumatic as I had feared.
I hope it breaks you, too.
All the stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
P.S. - when are you going to come clean that it's Hal that's writing all the damn books, Daniel? Give the dog some credit.
YouTube review to follow.
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