This book is first and foremost a coming of age story for a young man. It deals with lessons that he needs to learn about how the world works outside of Redfield, relationships, friendships and discovering who he really is. Wil is an excellent protagonist, an awkward teenage boy perfectly rendered, with enough flaws and things to learn that we also journey along with him as he becomes his own man. I can't profess to knowing exactly what goes on in a teenage boys head, but this seems closer to the truth of it. Though there isn't too much to set him apart from the crowd apart from his height, Wil is still an interesting character. Perhaps he is more interesting because he is not special, but wants more for himself. A lot of people can relate to this. A few other characters, such as Ian, Trevor and Silverskin were also very well drawn and had very distinct characteristics.
The pacing for me was slow to start. This was mainly due to all the storytelling that took place as the background of the characters were developed. Generally, this is not something I like as there are other ways to a back-story in motion without the main story stopping entirely. I tend to enjoy it if a book gets on with the main plot, saving the back-story for subplot rather than distracting the reader from it. The pace was also lacking due to the fact that the story flitted between Redfield and Wil. I was more interested in Wil's story than those that he had left behind, and with the stories being told there as well, I admit I was slightly impatient to get back to Wil. However, as the story developed, I found that this became a great device for building up the story and the tension as the danger lurked mainly with Redfield.
The ending was certainly the best part. The pace had steadily picked up during the book and speed up again in the last third. The final chapters are therefore a flurry of battle scenes, revelations and a rush of magic. It is true that some parts of this you can see coming, but in others you really can't. Mostly I did not think about any sort of mystery until I was nearing the end, and perhaps the book could have benefited more from making me question the events in Redfield.
The fantasy element was always there, but for the most part the book was grounded in reality, only really letting any magic slip in nearing the end. Yes, there is a silver man and a swamp man and they are both strange, but really I just accepted them for what they were, not really thinking about if there was any meaning to it. I think my reading of this book would have been better had I known there was something mysterious going on.
Tarnish is a good read and was interesting, but wasn't quite my thing. It is more suitable for those who enjoy steadily paced, classic heroes tales and male coming-of-age stories that are very character-driven. Personally, I would have preferred much more magic.
Tarnish on Goodreads
Tarnish on Amazon.com