Review: Watcher of the Dead

Posted: May 25, 2010 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: J.V. Jones, Epic Fantasy

New J.V. Jones? Yes please. WATCHER OF THE DEAD (Amazon) made us want to sing the “we love J.V.” song over and over. Yes, we wrote a song about her. We are Gods to you, our loyal reader-slaves, who are you to judge us!?

There are very few authors we like as much as J.V. Jones, and even fewer with the attention for detail that she has. If you couldn’t tell from our previous mention of her, we just might have a little (OK, huge) crush on her. But it is with good reason!

As we flipped open the cover to the first page and began reading, we were blasted by the cold of her setting. The world she has created is so real and believable that it was hard for us not to go to the closet and put on a jacket for our read-through of WATCHER OF THE DEAD. Jones’ writing, while sometimes getting lost in descriptions, gives such a tangible realization of the world and its inhabitants. In addition, we were immediately struck by the bleakness that inhabits this world. Jones has an uncanny ability to strike such a dark tone in her work. It is easily one of the things she does better than nearly everyone in the genre.

While we got the chills on the outside, we felt warm fuzzies on the inside reading about the characters Jones has created. We are attached to all of them. Jones is a master of characterization. She is also equally a master at making awful things happen to the main characters, and we definitely appreciate it when authors don’t coddle their characters. We especially loved Raif in this book, which should be obvious since WATCHER OF THE DEAD is primarily about him. He has gone through some cool transformations, and the tolls exacted on him have been costly to say the least. However, there were, without giving spoilers, a few characters we wished Jones had spent a lot more time on. This is a common occurrence in multi-volume epic fantasies like this, but we were still disappointed when a few characters had limited screen-time.

Now, we realize we are mostly just gushing with praise for Jones, so to be fair, and so this doesn’t just read like a fanboy review, there were things we took some issue with. Namely the plot thread with Angus. The first book put such an emphasis on his family and the events surrounding them, that we expected what followed in the next books to be big and exciting. Yet in book 2 and 3 Angus didn’t do much but stand around (To be fair, most of the characters didn’t get too much done in Book 3). In WATCHER, that storyline is largely resolved, but it was done in such quick and anticlimactic fashion that we wondered why it couldn’t have happened way earlier. We felt pretty cheated there. There were also some plot threads that simply went missing, and some editing errors which bugged. Nothing worth crying too foul though.

We were huge fans of J.V. Jones before WATCHER OF THE DEAD, and this book improved on Book 3 and completely cemented her in our Hall of Fame.

The story is definitely not resolved by the end of WATCHER, but things are clearly coming to a head and we can’t wait for the next installment. Until then we will continue singing praises of her and her series, and praying she is faster about getting Book 5 done, that she was with Book 4. We should address here what is seen as a double standard. We were once asked why we give Martin so much crap about the time between novels, but saying nothing of Jones. Well, simply, we just started her series a relatively short time ago. So it hasn’t been that long for us. So there.

It should go without saying, but we will say anyway. If you are new to J.V.’s stuff, don’t start here. You will be lost. The series is heading down the Jordan and Martin path of plots, sub-plots, and characters. Start at the beginning.

If you are looking for something in the vein of Bakker, Martin, Abercrombie, and Erikson, look no further than Jones. We were huge fans of J.V. Jones before WATCHER OF THE DEAD, and this book improved on Book 3 and completely cemented her in our Hall of Fame.

  • Recommended Age: We think we can safely stick to the 16+ despite the fact things are getting darker
  • Language: Everything here is tame
  • Violence: In strong Jones' style, there was fantastically clear and destructive violence
  • Sex: An act or two. Nothing sticks out in memory as being too racy or graphic.

Go take a peek at Jones’ site, and let her know how awesome she is.


  • Jim says:

    Hey guys, I know this is ultra late to the party, but I only just finished reading Watcher of the Dead. And I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much (and for much the same reasons as you guys) that I'm already wondering how long I need to wait before I can read the series again.

    I'm also desperately waiting for the fifth (and probably, but hopefully not, last) book to be released 😀

    One question: When you say “There are very few authors we like as much as J.V. Jones, and even fewer with the attention for detail that she has.” are there any specific authors you can mention in this calibre? Or are they mostly already in university 301?

    • It's never to late to enjoy an awesome book or an awesome review!

      I haven't seen any updates for Jones' next novel, but she seems to follow an every other year (maybe plus a tad) pattern.

      As for other authors that are as good as Jones, you could check the University 301 post, or check our best of 2009, 2010, & 2011 posts for other authors we have been loving lately.

      • Jim says:

        Thanks for the speedy reply 😀

        Just wanted to add that I missed Marafice Eye in Watcher of the Dead a lot. I reckon he would be my second or third favourite main (or at least I thought main) character.

        Anyway, good to see some people who love J.V. Jones as much as I do. Keep up the good work.

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