Page Count: 200
Release Date: May 1, 2019
Series: IMPOSSIBLE TIMES, Book 1
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Liked it!
Note: I was provided a free ARC of this book by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.
Fifteen-year-old Nick has been processing a lot lately. He’s just been told he has leukemia and may only have a few years to live at best. He’s trying to figure out how to tell his D&D group, a process made more complicated by the addition of new member Mia to a previously all-boys session. And a mysterious man has started appearing at random intervals, a man who knows far too much about Nick and his life to be a stranger – and he wants Nick to pull off a heist at one of the biggest tech companies in the city.
This is one of the harder reviews I’ve had to write, because while this story didn’t fully resonate with me, I know it is going to be (and has been) deeply moving and personal for others. And that’s okay! I appreciate a lot of the craft of storytelling that went into this tale. The problem for me was that I didn’t connect emotionally with the characters, the somewhat clinical tone distancing me from a story that has a lot to say about life, death and living.
Though ONE WORD KILL is a heavy love letter to Dungeons and Dragons and the community of people who play it, it is NOT a fantasy story, at least, not in the orcs and wizards kind of way. It’s a coming-of-age sci-fi story that shares at least some DNA with STRANGER THINGS. In the 1980s, a close-knit group of young friends is presented with a beyond weird situation. You’ll find monsters here, but of the neighborhood gang members variety. Behind it all, however, you will find an excellently wrought story of a boy trying to come to terms with the fact that his life may soon be over. He wrestles with that inevitably in his D&D sessions, in his interactions with bullies, and in this bizarre situation that has been handed to him. I did truly like how all the elements wove together in exploring these themes of death and fate. Moments at the gaming table force Nick to confront some truths he’s not ready to experience, and are there for a call back later in the story.
ONE WORD KILL is a tale of love and life. I appreciated the times that Nick saw his relationships in a new light, knowing how time is fleeting. I loved how much Mark Lawrence clearly cares about those who gather around the table for role-playing games. If I’d been able to relate a little better to band of teenage boys in the UK in the 1980s who occasionally have to worry about psychotic gang members, this would have likely ticked into a 4 star for me. If this scenario sounds like your cup of tea, I still recommend checking this tale out!