I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Well House by M.S. Matassa
Published by Outskirts Press on February 22nd 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Mystery
Source: ARC from publisher
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The Well House: A man's incredible journey to save his pregnant wife from the ultimate evil. The dream is back and Ben Carson is terrified. His pregnant wife, Anne, is locked in a coma and Ben is the only person who can save her but he has no idea how to accomplish this. His dreams contain clues but they make no sense. Ben can't figure what a small white well house and black flying creatures have to do with Anne. Then he meets a mysterious woman named Thelma Grippe. What he learns from Thelma shakes him to the core, but gives him the knowledge to free Anne from the force keeping her in the coma. Once he locates the well house, Ben finds a passage to another dimension, where he searches for Anne. After a long, arduous journey, Ben faces the ultimate evil that holds Anne captive. The Well House is an exciting, unique and thoughtful story of a man's fight against unbelievable odds to save his wife. Part drama, part fantasy and part parable, The Well House is a multi-layered tale that takes you on an amazing journey, from the mountains above Boulder Colorado to the depths of the dark zone.
The writing is fine. I have noticed something about most ARCs that I’ve received lately: the writing is usually simple and occasionally awkward. In this particular book, it’s not awkward, but it doesn’t flow as well as it could. But given the author’s background, that is understandable.
As for the formatting, it is a bit unusual (but not bad). At least at the beginning, every few pages there is a backstory paragraph (or several) in italics. There was a bit much of that in the beginning, but later on only when new characters were introduced. It was kind of strange with the later characters, because they were given backstories worthy of a main character (or at least an important one) and yet they were introduced so far into the book.
One thing I did like was the time jumps. You know how in some stories, something happens with one character, and in the next part you jump back in time to see another character’s POV of the same event? That happened a few times here. I think those are important in order to get the maximum value out of the story and character depth.
One thing I’d like to mention is that the synopsis leaves out a pretty important factor in the story. This book gets pretty religious. I don’t mean bash-you-over-the-head religious, but a lot of the plot has to do with the Christian religion and history. It’s a fight between good and evil, of course, but the evil is, naturally, Satan. I’m not going to mark this as a spoiler because I think it’s important to know this before deciding to read the book. It was a bit of a surprise.
Anyway, the synopsis makes it pretty clear what’s going on. The first half is basically Ben trying to find a way to save his wife and trying to convince himself to do it, and then preparing to do it. Then the second half is the actual journey.
One thing I found pretty interesting was his wife’s occupation. She helps her patients overcome their fears through dream therapy. Interestingly enough, that’s what causes them to go into a coma. (Also not a major spoiler.) I thought this was peculiar because dreaming is not necessarily dangerous in that way. Dreams aren’t always accurate reflections of reality. They aren’t real (unless you’re Alice, in Wonderland). You can’t lose your soul through dreams. I’m not really sure why I expected the cause of the coma to be believable, but for some reason this kind of bothered me. It feels like it’s trying to be realistic but failing. But after all, it is a fantasy. That is to be expected.
Another lesser plot element was the status of Ben’s and Anne’s relationship. For a good deal of the beginning, we don’t have any interaction between Ben and Anne and we assume their relationship is fine because of their history (convenient italicized backstories) and his concern for her state. But then much later it’s revealed that they didn’t have the best relationship. There were a few marital problems, but they don’t seem to affect Ben’s desire to rescue Anne or Anne’s desire to be rescued at all. They were, in fact, only brought to our attention twice in the story, and while they COULD have been explored a bit more (to really flesh out the characters), they were left feeling kind of unnecessary. Of course, I expect they will be either highlighted or resolved in the next books.
Another interesting (lesser) element was the hint of racism. Claude, a guy that is destined to help Ben find Anne, is introduced working for a guy at a gas station. His backstory definitely has some white vs. black mentality. The guy he works for is a jerk to him, and I suspect racism. But this is important because Claude is able to overcome that and prove himself by helping Ben. The story isn’t at all about racism, but it adds an interesting layer to Claude’s character.
On a more positive note, there were a few points where I got chills. It was pretty sinister and dark at times. That was a plus. Added a bit of interest to the story.
Ben: While he was likeable, for a good part of the book I wondered if he was really main character material. He seemed to have a lot of self-doubt and was ready to give up on a number of occasions. But once he finally accepted his role he got considerably better (and earned my respect).
Taylor: He was the strong one (emotionally) but I did think one thing he said was a bit odd. When he was pushing for his dad to save his mom, he said that he’d rather have either both parents or neither, but not only one. He was pushing for his dad to possibly sacrifice himself. At first I wasn’t so sure this was a good thing, but later I realized that Taylor was just doing what he had to to get his dad moving. And goodness knows, his dad needed the motivation. Besides, Taylor’s old enough to take care of himself. By removing the possibility of guilt from his father’s mind, he gave him the encouragement he needed.
Claude: Poor guy. Nothing seemed to go right for him, and then he only served as a helper in someone else’s story. He should have quit working for that racist jerk years ago. But at least he lives in the end.
Anne: I felt like we didn’t really see enough of her to make her a 3D character. That will likely be resolved in future books.
Satan/Lucifer: Eh. I felt like he wasn’t as powerful as he was made out to be. He proved kind of easy to defeat. But then again, is he really gone? Of course not. He’s Satan. He’s evil. Evil is impossible to truly defeat. Still, there wasn’t much of a fight scene. There was buildup, but it was a bit anticlimactic. However, that may have been the point. Satan has no real power, so he is not a truly formidable enemy. Still, he seems quite good at mental manipulation. He’s still a threat.
The real world-building happens in the ‘other dimension,’ as it says in the synopsis. I have to say, it was a bit confusing. I was having trouble visualizing exactly where things were. (Or perhaps I didn’t want to have to think too hard about it. But it shouldn’t make you think too hard to visualize a setting.) Anyway, most of the descriptions were there. The Underworld was a lot more complex, and…like Earth, I guess, than I thought it would be. But we really only saw a glimpse.
This book was average but enjoyable. The story was interesting, if the writing was a bit lacking. The characters were well-developed and the ending was satisfying. Would I read more by this author? Yes, but it wouldn’t be top of my list. Would I recommend this to others? Yes. In fact, I already have.
*Note: I have adjusted my review a bit since discussing the book with the author. Most of my initial impressions are intact. I just cleared up a few things. This was all of my own initiative (I was not asked to do so by the author) and I have left the ratings intact.