Springtide Harvest by J.D. Mitchell


The old world is dead. Worse, it was a lie. Haskell wants to be a legend, a hero like his grandfather who broke the orcish hordes. Froba just wants to survive. She knows what Haskell doesn’t: that the deck is stacked against them, and there are no heroes in the world. After assembling a band of misfits, Haskell must face a labyrinthine dungeon, an exploitative, monster-hunting guild, and his own failings, while Froba must decide where her loyalties lie—with her naïve mark or corrupt master. If traitors and woodland monsters don’t murder them first.


Springtide Harvest starts out as a fun DnD-style adventure and evolves into an emotional coming-of-age story.

When I picked up this book I thought it would be a more comedic or satirical novel, but while it does have those elements, it is also much more than that. The story follows Haskell, a prideful and naive young man who runs away from home with a bag full of gold and his legendary grandfather’s sword. He joins the Questers Guild, hires a crew, and spends all his money on extravagancy. Which is fine because he is going to be rich after clearing out a dungeon and finding tons of loot. But of course things don’t turn out exactly how Haskell plans, and he spends much of the book learning some hard lessons.

Mitchell twists around both the classic quest trope and its common protagonist. Haskell is the picture of a DnD “hero” and comes off originally as arrogant and brash. What makes the first half of this book interesting is that Haskell makes the kind of decisions that I could see myself making in an RPG video game, or a TTRPG. Get all the cool armor, weapons, and crew you can afford and then raid a dungeon for loot, then come back and do it all over again. But obviously for Haskell much more realistic events occur, and he is brought low.

The first part of Springtide Harvest was a fun romp, but the second half turned it into a unique read. Haskell has to learn how the world really works and deal with the consequences of his own actions. We also get to see the dark, gritty, corrupt underbelly of the city and the political figures that drive it. And while it is true that Haskell made a lot of mistakes, he also learns that the system was rigged against him from the start. Watching Haskell’s character arc was truly compelling and was the star of the show for me.

The side characters were also enjoyable to follow, though there are quite a lot of them, and most play fairly minor roles so it can be difficult to keep track of them at times. There is a young urchin girl named Froba that can be seen as a secondary protagonist who also has an interesting arc in this book, though I feel like she would really come into her own in a sequel novel. The novel itself is fast paced while never feeling rushed, and the writing is accessible, making this a quick read that would serve well as a palate cleanser.

I expected a much different novel going into this one but I enjoyed it just as much as I thought I would. I definitely recommend this to readers of classic quest fantasy looking for a fresh spin, and surprising depth.