Dead Man’s Rapids Review by William Durbin and Barbara Durbin


I was fortunate to win an ARC of this book in a goodreads giveaway.

   Dead Man’s Rapids follows 13-year old Ben Ward as he and a crew of men take on the challenging task of a log drive in 1899. I’m not a big fan of historical fiction. More often than not they are boring. But in this case, this was no exception. This is the sequel to a book called Blackwater Ben, so maybe I need to read it to better like this one. But as it stands, this is my review.

   I did not like Dead Man’s Rapids at all. Ben and the rest of the crew are paper thin characters. You never ever connect with them and that would be fine if the plot or setting was nice. Well, while the historical detail is nice, there really is no plot. There’s no main conflict and no antagonist. There is kind of an antagonist, but Ben never seemed to hate him, just irked by him. Ok, maybe that’s not what the book is supposed to be. Maybe it wants to focus on the characters and their experiences. In that case, the book fails on that too. Like I said before, the characters are paper thin. You don’t know anything about them besides a few characteristics. I know the point of the book is to highlight the difficulties of a log drive, but at least give me a character that is compelling. There is one kinda interesting character, the cook Sard. Unfortunately, whenever something remotely interesting is revealed about him it gets brushed off and never brought up again. The interactions between the cast can be, at times, funny and meaningful, but there is too many moments when it is boring and cringey.

   With a title like Dead Man’s Rapids, you would think there would be some exciting and dangerous moments. Nope. This is the book’s biggest flaw. It’s just bland and boring. There seemed to be a pattern throughout the book that whenever a dangerous event occured, it would be resolved within the next few paragraphs. Little to no build up and it would just be solved. And it plays out exactly like you think it would. The writing is so generic and bland. There is little to no variety. The humor misses most of the time and sometimes, you just end up rolling your eyes.

   Dead Man’s Rapids was not a good book. It was bland, nothing seemed to happen, the ending was abrupt, the characters were boring, and the humor missed most of the time. I know the book was meant to show the difficulties of a log drive and the camaraderie between the crew, but it could have been done a lot better. There is a charming little book hidden underneath everything and I chuckled a few times as well. But there is too much slog to go through to find those small moments. You might like it if you’re a history buff, other than that stay away.

Rating: 2/5 stars


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