There and NEVER EVER BACK AGAIN: A Dark Lord’s Diary by Jeff Mach
Welcome to the week of All Hallows Eve, and for this spooktacular book time of year, I offer you a review on something a little different. Today I am reviewing “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN: A Dark Lord’s Diary:” (A Memoir and Manifest for Villains and Monsters) By Jeff Mach. For the sake of making sure you understand what I mean through this review, I’m going to at this moment refer to this as “A Dark Lord’s Diary” so that everyone is on the same page.
Now, you may be wondering where I found this little gem. I was not asked to review this, it’s not a request of the author, but I picked this up because of said author’s Twitter Avatar, “The Dark Lord.” If you aren’t following @darklordjournal on Twitter, you are missing out on some hilarity, my friends. The feed is terrific, and you find all sorts of great things.
So I picked this up on Kindle Unlimited for an unbiased Halloween time review. Starting with my first impressions, I find it very refreshing to read a first-person account that doesn’t bounce ever into the third person or past tense. I love how the format worked for this story. I found the initial chapters gripping and keeping me both laughing and engaged. Thus, I was impressed.
What we have here, without spoilers, is the literal diary of a Dark Lord as they are dealing with the fact that a chosen one has been found to get them. “Chosen one with a prophecy” is a trope that is used by many fantasy novels but is brought in such a refreshing and unique way through the memoir telling.
Allow me a moment to give a couple of critiques. My first critique is in the “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation” sense. Specifically, with the “Presentation,” the issue I had is that there is another diary layered in this one. The idea here is to prevent the diary from jumping to the third-person narrative, so it goes to a POV of someone else. That’s perfectly fine. The issue I have is that while the journal entries are straightforward to see when they split from the Dark Lord to the other party, what is a bit more difficult to remember is when you cut from the other party back to the dark lord. Now I think the idea here was that the chapter notations were more substantial font and bold to make the indication. Usually, that’d be fine, but if you read as I read, you may tend to become emersed in what you are reading and miss the initial visual queue. So, therefore, my critique is that there wasn’t a clear presentation of “Dark Lord Diary” and then “Other Party Diary” mutually. I feel this would have made it easier for me because at times they bled together and I was so confused why the other party was saying what they were, only to go back and go “Oh duh, I missed the big font again,” and have to re-read it.
My next critique is also under “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation,” and it’s under “Presentation” as well. In this case, there are some word choices that I felt like are there to bulk up the narrative. Let me give you an example. The example is not from the book because I do not want to spoil the book, but it is the same style of what I was reading.
“This is not fair. This is not right. This is most unjust.”
“This situation is not right, fair, or just.”
Now I realize I’m not an editor, but adding three sentences compared to one can be added bulk for the sake of quantity. It means the same thing basically, and if the idea is to add emphasis, I guess I can understand it, but it’s extra words to read that are unnecessary.
Let me go into the things I loved about “Dark Lord’s Diary,” and we will start with the “Lost in Translation” category. Nothing presented in this story was confusing or encouraged me to research it. Instead, I was following along well with the premise and tale. The magic system showed made sense; the tech (what little tech there was) made sense, cultures made sense, and the geopolitical situation also was easy to understand.
Next under the category of “Cliche Much,” I am pleased to let you know that the “Chosen One” and “Mary Sue” cliche were not dull and useless tropes. Yes, there is a Mary Sue character, but the good news is that character has a purpose and was designed in such a way to have life. The Chosen One and Prophecy cliche were well done here, had a full experience written out, were unique to this story, and was not boring or dull.
Next, with my category of “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation,” I am happy to report the “Foundation” work on the story of the premise, and character motivations reasonable. There is a lot of impacts here, the villain is a villain, but at the same time, this is an empathetic villain with clear understanding. Also, to be clear, the Villian is not who you think it is. Let that statement settle in your brain a bit while you chew it over. No, this specific white-clad villain is one that has precise desires and wants, but their motivations are intentionally vague by the story design. “Vague isn’t good, Mrs. Y,” you might say. Well, I counter that. In this case, vague makes sense for our antagonistic villain, and I’m glad to see used. I also found the foundation work for our two protagonists was terrific, and there was an actual changing character arch for both that was well-plotted and easy to follow along story arch.
My next category is “Whole Story,” and I am pleased as punch to state this is a full story. Everything in the story is excellent plotwise, and I understood it. The act structures of the story are robust and well thought out. We have a clear directional path for what is going on, and there is a very satisfying climax and ending to the story.
Overall, if you love heroes, anti-heroes, and those on the moral grey spectrum, this book is going to be a favorite. If you always wondered what “Lord of the Rings” could have looked like from a different angle or set of glass, consider this book even though it’s nothing like Tolkien’s style of writing nor anything along with the same narrative. No, my friends, “Dark Lord’s Diary,” is a story for the underdogs. The narrative is written for those who want to question authority and live outside of rigid lines of thinking.
Taking my scoring into consideration, I give “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN: A Dark Lord’s Diary:” (A Memoir and Manifest for Villains and Monsters) a score of 84/100 which is a Four Star review on Amazon and Goodreads. Pick this up today, and enjoy it! Happy Halloween, everyone!