Saturday, May 25, 2024

Dreadful by Caitlin Rozakis: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Dreadful by Caitlin Rozakis

Dreadful is a delightful debut novel by Caitlin Rozakis. It’s set in a rather embarrassing castle of Dread Lord Gavrax, an evil wizard who has lost his memory. He has no recollection of his past, let alone that morning, which turns out to be very problematic. Because his past self has made some plans.

Gav, as he decides to call himself, is middle-aged and not very successful dark wizard or respected among his peers, as he soon discovers. But he’s feared by his goblin staff, which embarrasses him greatly. He’s also embarrassed by his choice in d├ęcor and clothing. But he soon finds out Dread Lord is only as dreaded as he appears.

He seems to have some anger management issues he doesn’t know the roots of, but which make him want to burn people around him to death, something he struggles to overcome. He also has a village to manage that is very poor thanks to his past self’s lousy decisions, which he decides to rectify. And worst of all, he has a princess in his dungeon.

His past self has teamed with other dark wizards for something nefarious he doesn’t remember. It involves the princess that his current self has come to like and respect quite a lot. So, it’s up to him to rescue her or failing that, she’ll have to rescue herself. Easier said than done when heroes from all over the kingdom are rushing to her rescue by trying to kill him, and dark wizards more powerful than him are determined to stop him.

This was a fun story with all sorts of shenanigans that kept me guessing to the end. Gav stumbles in and out of problems that are mostly his past self’s making, with rather surprising results. Along the way, he comes to learn a lot about his goblin staff and women, whom he suspects his old self had no respect for. He’s earnest about his desire to change for the better, but it’s not easy. And all the while he fears that if he gets his memories back, he’ll revert to his old evil self.

Gav is rather endearing in his quest for redemption. It isn’t easy and involves a lot of soul searching and some hard conversations with the princess who holds him accountable for his past self. His constant commentary about women’s looks and bodies became a bit off-putting at some point though, as if they only exist to be looked at despite his attempts to see them as people with agency. His friendship with the princess is fairly one-sided, it seemed, and she never quite becomes what she could be. The goblin staff, on the other hand, is delightful in their earnest willingness to help him change.

The ending is good and, since this appears to be a stand-alone, conclusive. Gav rises to the occasion in a manner I didn’t see happening at the beginning of the book, and the story leaves everyone in a better place. All in all, a good story of friendship and redemption that will delight me for a long time.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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