This book is known to me as "The book with the name I can't pronounce."
I read half of the preview of this book available on Smashwords to decide if IThis book is known to me as "The book with the name I can't pronounce."
I read half of the preview of this book available on Smashwords to decide if I wanted to read the rest or not. It is a Young Adult high fantasy, the genre I feel most at home in, so I was interested to see how it was handled by a vanity publisher as opposed to a self-publisher or a traditionally published author.
I hesitated when I read the Preface. There was a distinct line of defensiveness I was forced to read before I'd even read a word of the story. The following quotes are lifted from the Preface:
"It is a novel with both a storyline and a background theme."
All books I know have both a storyline and a background theme. Where would English teachers be if a book had neither? Can one exist without the other? In my opinion, no. It's impossible to write a story without a theme. Every single story ever written tells of a central conflict, and that conflict revolves around the theme, whether it is Tangled's selflessness, Mulan's bravery, or Beauty and the Beast's compassion. Yes, I am using Disney films as examples. Bite me. You literally cannot write a story without some kind of conflict. Let me reiterate: without conflict there would be no story, and every conflict leads to a theme.
"As you read, you may come across language, names, or terminology in the text that appear out of place or anachronistic. They are not. There is a reason for them that will become more clear as the story progresses. In fact, almost every detail in the novel has a purpose, from the intricately-drawn scenery in the beginning to the hair color (sp) of the heroine of the story. Again, those purposes will become clear later on."
It seems this Preface is written for people who do not normally read, and especially people who do not normally read fantasy. This Preface is written to defend the story simply for being. I find this tragic and incredibly sad. It's like writing "This is a work of fiction" at the beginning of Twilight, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, or anything by Terry Pratchett. It's superfluous; especially as this book is a high fantasy. High fantasy readers are used to those really hard to grasp concepts such as different languages, names, and terminologies. We certainly don't need to be told that it will all make sense later on. Only someone extremely uncertain of their ability will write at the beginning of the book, "I swear it all makes sense if you'll only keep reading!"
See, the point of an author is to convince people to keep reading, even if it doesn't make sense (Fallen, anyone?).
As for the actual writing itself, I found it littered with poorly-placed telling-not-showing and passive voice - which admittedly can be a stylistic choice, but along with the excessive use of 'that', it's not my cup of tea. The writing is also not very tight, a skill that often comes from experience, a skilled editor, or a very good mentor; but I can forgive this loose writing seeing as how the author very self-depreciatingly says in the Preface, "I never thought I could be a writer given that my talents lie in other areas, mostly in mathematics and science."
There is an over-abundance of unnecessary commas that seem to be randomly dropped in:
This was a little too suspicious, as anyone who was studied in the botanical nature of the Trui’Quirre, knew that sage did not grow near oaden trees
Half her height, a small, brown, furry creature, wearing a light brown, hooded cloak and carrying a small rucksack, brandished a tree branch at her and growled malignantly.
She told herself, however, that the house was, more likely, just abandoned, like the village had been, so she plucked up her courage and proceeded to enter.
The overuse of commas annoys me. I don't think it's a classy or elegant stylistic choice. It serves to slow the book right down, and if there’s one thing high fantasy doesn’t need, it’s a drop in pace.
I found the dialogue forced and unnatural. The dialogue tags were also poorly chosen and inelegant. Tagging is supposed to happen at the first appropriate pause, so you know who’s speaking: not after several sentences.
And then, amongst all this simple descriptive language, the thesaurus was suddenly flung open and I was assaulted by words such as unctuous and obsequious, which, no I am not ashamed to admit, I have no idea what they mean. I don’t even think they are in The Mellifluous Book of Hard Words: Read It, Know It, Use It. I’d check, but I’ve already packed it away in preparation for moving house. But luckily Google is my friend – lucky that this is an ebook and I can quickly flick to another tab – and tell me ‘unctuous’ means “Excessively or ingratiatingly flattering; oily” and ‘obsequious’ means “Obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree.”
And now, because I’ve had to set the book aside to figure out what the hell those words mean, I’m going to go play on Twitter and Tumblr for a bit because this isn’t interesting enough to hold my attention.
Note to authors: don’t deliberately use obscure words to try to prove your intelligence because if the reader doesn’t know what they mean and have to look it up, then they’re putting your book down and are no longer reading. Kinda defeats the purpose.
an hour later…
Where was I?
There is an over-abundance of double letters in proper nouns. I’m not against this. Holly Lisle uses double vowels really well in Talyn (Korre, #1). ‘Taak’, the word used for house or village or gathering place (I left my copy in another country, cut me some slack!) is pronounced with a long A (hay) and then a short A (cat) so that the double A sounds like TAY-ack. Instead of the Preface warning that there will be unusual words, perhaps a pronunciation guide could have been included instead. While some words, such as Darrenfell are obvious, it certainly would have helped me be able to decipher Vaassa, Vlaad, Lucce, Draaquan, and Trui’Quirre.
The double and triple use of punctuation marks is simply childish and unimaginable. There should never be ‘?!?’ ever. It’s ugly and shows no skill or talent whatsoever. I often do accept ‘?!’ in dialogue only and then very sporadically, and there must also be a reason for daring to use two punctuation marks together like that – i.e. in extreme circumstances only. And what’s worse, the ‘?!?’ didn’t only happen once, but several times in the first thirty odd pages. I also found ‘?!’ in two neighbouring sentences. What’s with all the exclamation points? LESS IS MORE.
Also, it’s pretty important when characters are speaking that you introduce a new paragraph for them with each new entry. That’s an incredibly basic rule of writing that I learned when I was ten years old. The dialogue tags and indications are so painful it hurts to subject my eyes to this torture. I’m pretty sure I’d rather read the incredibly boring descriptions rather than the incredibly painful dialogue.
As for the plot: admittedly I gave up at around page 40 but from what I did read I found an awful lot of description and hardly anything that was actually interesting. Even the dialogue between main character Chalice and her childhood friend is boring, info-dumping, talking about things I have not been convinced to care about yet, and I’m skipping over it waiting for something disguising itself as conflict to enter.
Considering this book is vanity-published, I'm surprised that the quality is so low. If I was going to pay someone to edit I'd at least want them to do a good job and pay them accordingly. Otherwise, at these rates, you may as well self-publish. Thoughts are inconsistently italicized, commas seem randomly added, and on several occasions I found typos that should have been caught: ‘shown’ instead of ‘showed’ and a name that wasn’t capitalised. If this was self-published I probably wouldn’t be so harsh, but that’s what copy editors are for, right? Oh, I see. The vanity publishers, Lucky Bat Books, charge line-editing and plain editing at $55 an hour. Yeah, no wonder all this was missed. It's kind of long....more