The Yewberry Way

Book I: Prayer

Fiction - Dystopia
294 Pages
Reviewed on 05/24/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Yewberry Way: Book I – Prayer is a work of fiction in the dystopia, interpersonal drama, and science fiction subgenres. It is best suited to the mature adult reading audience owing to scenes of violence and dark themes. Penned by author Jack Gist, this series-opener novel introduces us to a highly atmospheric dystopian world where The System rules all with a cool, emotionless touch. The powerful base human desires have all been swept under the rug, left to run riot in the hazardous Wastelands. When Dr. Yew Uket finds herself on the trail of a mysterious stranger, she gathers a group of rebellious outcasts to track down a prophecy that may change the world as they know it.

Author Jack Gist has a deep commitment to creating a unique, immersive, and detailed world in this stellar sci-fi and fantasy series. Mashing together popular mythologies with a gritty dystopian setting is a tall order, but the longer you spend in Gist’s world of mechanical beasts and feral fae folk, the more fascinating it all becomes. I loved the rag-tag approach to the central ensemble cast, who each have their moments to shine in well-crafted, distinct dialogue and cinematic description of their heroics and occasional theatrics. The drama is high, shifting gears between romantic subplots, tests of character, and vistas of post-apocalyptic action that keep the suspense rolling right up to the novel’s harrowing and thought-provoking climax. Overall, The Yewberry Way: Book I – Prayer is a recommended read for dystopian, sci-fi, and fantasy fans looking for something that turns all those genres upside down.

Asher Syed

In the post-apocalyptic fantasy novel The Yewberry Way: Prayer by Jack Gist, an isolated Outpost Keeper happens upon a man in deep supplication. The arrival of this enigmatic figure creates an ambiguous space between the known and the unknown, casting “the System” into disarray. The Praying Man disappears and it is blamed on the Outpost Keeper, who is now amnesiac, prompting accusations of treason. Enter Dr. Yew Uket, who has the ability to retrieve buried memories and is startled to discover what is held within the Keeper's memory. This leads to a quest for an ancient prophecy for Uket and a band of System castaways who embark on a dangerous expedition across the Wastelands, with the unconscious Outpost Keeper in tow. Between the dangers of all manner of creatures they come across and the System soldiers clipping at their heels, the breakdown of the group has its members hunting for the Praying Man by themselves.

I absolutely love a creative twist on the dystopian front, so the hybrid fantasy elements of Prayer by Jack Gist ticked a lot of boxes for me. The System is everything that a nefarious power structure needs to be for the fear and sense of urgency in the characters who are opposed to it to feel authentic, and when this is mixed with the gaslighting of all things regarding faith, fantasy, and myth by the System, a simple one-for-all hero journey becomes so much more. There are subplots that include love and the full gamut of trust, as well as a genuine fear of the unknown that is eerily relatable. There are political undertones, as any story about subjugation will have, and the book is what I would politely call a slow-burn starter, but the writing is fantastic and the world built is fully engrossing. This is a worthy start to the ambitious The Yewberry Way series and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

Jamie Michele

The inaugural book of The Yewberry Way series, Prayer by Jack Gist, begins in a dystopian future where civilization is held tightly together by the System. After years of being compliant and proving himself to be a simple servant of the System, as well as some incredible strokes of luck, the assignment of a remote post where he can be alone is assigned to an Outpost Keeper, who narrates in the first person. He comes across a persona non grata called the Praying Man, an enemy of the System. The Outpost Keeper pays dearly for the Praying Man's departure and is subjected to torture so the System can find what the Praying Man may have implanted in his brain. Something dangerous. Something seditious. A neuroscientist named Dr. Yew Uket is able to enter into the lost memory bank of the Outpost Keeper and finds what the System would kill to suppress. Yew understands the significance of this ancient prophecy, and the journey to unlocking it begins.

“The shamans sang of a woman who would arrive with strangers. One of the strangers would be a wounded man... And she, the lone female, would be the Weaver of Songs.” What a world Jack Gist has created in Prayer! Initially, I was concerned because the first quarter of the story happens primarily in the Outpost Keeper's head. It's a first-person stream of consciousness that dances back and forth from lucid torture to hypnotic brain invasions that read like a horrible violation of the mind, even if the person doing it turns out to be cool. The rest of the book utilizes this writing style also and readers who struggle with paragraphs stretching in italics and stories within stories within subplots will struggle here too, but once the story ventured into the Wastelands, I was comfortable with it. Gist has a gift for clever prose and wordplay. In one scene a faerie is creating another being and proclaims, “Let there be mud.” The faerie has literally created a being with the name Mud. Not mud. Mud. As a science fiction-fantasy hybrid, Prayer is a shining light in a world made dark by oppression. Very highly recommended.

Alma Boucher

The Yewberry Way: Prayer is a dystopian, sci-fi fantasy written by Jack Gist. An Outpost Keeper comes across a praying man in the wasteland and gets a glimpse of a reality beyond The System. Citizens must obey the rules of the System and any individual who still has free will must be erased. The Outpost Keeper is charged with sedition and is drugged and interrogated. The System needs to know what the Praying Man told the Outpost Keeper. A neuro-consciousness specialist is called in to extract memories from the Outpost Keeper’s mind and finds the key that will unlock an ancient prophecy. The Outpost Keeper escapes with the help of the specialist and the rebels. The specialist hopes the Outpost Keeper will lead her to the Praying Man. Will the specialist be able to unlock the prophecy when she finds the Praying Man?

The Yewberry Way was awesome and intriguing. Jack Gist kept me on my toes with the development of the characters and the timelines. I was intrigued by the world of fantasy creatures. The events were descriptive and gave me a clear picture of this fictional world. The themes of gender identity and religion were handled with great care. There were many mystical characters that were exciting, and I was drawn into a world of pain and fear. I could relate to the emotions of the characters. The story was excellently written, and I could see there was a much deeper meaning to this than just the written words. It was an awesome book and had me thinking long after I had finished reading.

Pikasho Deka

The Yewberry Way: Prayer is a surreal dystopian thriller by Jack Gist. An Outpost Man wakes to find himself interrogated by officials working for the System – an authoritarian regime run by Synthetic Intelligence (SI) that has erased human history from society. But the man suffers from severe amnesia and can only remember bits and pieces of his past. After the neuro-consciousness specialist, Dr. Yew Uket, meets the Outpost Man, she and a few other rebels break him out and flee Outside to unlock an ancient prophecy with System officials on their trail. But a brutal encounter with the Cactus Eaters leaves one of them dead, and the group splits. While the mysterious Bav Catha holds the Outpost Man captive, Yew has her journey of self-discovery with the Cactus Eaters.

With a potent mix of sci-fi and fantasy, Jack Gist delivers a gripping dystopian thriller that is immersive and makes you ponder long after you've finished reading the book. The Yewberry Way: Prayer isn't for everyone, but if you like surreal stories with an experimental narrative soaked in magical realism, this is exactly what you're looking for. There are multiple timeline switches as well as POVs, which gives you an indication of the broad canvas used by Gist to paint the portrait of the story. In the novel, books have been banned by the System to erase history, which mirrors the real-world banning of books in some American states in recent years. Overall, this is an ambitious start to what promises to be an epic series.