The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree is the first book in the Outlaw King series by S.A. Hunt. It follows the main character, Ross as returns from deployment abroad and eventually ends up in the world that his father wrote some cult classics about before dying at the start of the book. So where do I begin with this? I read it fast. Not the fastest I’ve ever read a novel, but faster than most novels usually take me. This only took me about a week from start to finish. While I was reading it before bed, I would consistently find myself saying, “I have time for just one more chapter…” In other words, the pacing on this is amazing. There was only one portion where it flagged a bit about midway through the book, but it immediately picked back up.
Ross as a character is fully realized. He’s likable. We start off seeing him at a low point. Then it gets a little bit lower. Then he gets sucked into the world of his father’s fantasy novel and he begins his slow upward climb. The first portion of the book reads almost like a modern day thriller while the last portion reads like a fantasy with some elements of New Weird. Interspersing the chapters are little one page excerpts of the fictional novels that Ross’s father wrote that give you a bit of back story on the world. S.A. Hunt manages to avoid massive info dumps like this, which is something I can appreciate.
It’s like a less rambling The Dark Tower with a supporting cast that you root for. Not all of the imagery was spectacular, but none of it was mediocre, and the descriptions contained in the climax of the novel served the book well. So now we’re getting to the point where I give the bottom line.
Who should read this book? If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, you’ll probably enjoy this book. They share enough in common without The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree feeling derivative. If you like portal fantasies you should definitely read this book, as it fulfills that type of narrative in spades. If you’re a fan of imaginative fantasy with a slight surreal tint, read this book. Hell, if you trust my judgment in books- Read. This. Book.
Who shouldn’t read this book? If you’re looking for a weird west or fantasy wild west, this probably won’t fit your need exactly. Sure, it’s got elements of it, but it’s like putting a circle peg in an octagonal slot, it’ll fit inside, but it’s going to rattle around annoying without the proper edges. But you should probably still read this book. I mean, it is good.