Stephen's Reviews > Farmers & Mercenaries

Farmers & Mercenaries by Maxwell Alexander Drake
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Sep 13, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: ebooks, audiobook, fantasy, 2006-2010, tolkienesque
Read from August 08 to 12, 2011 — I own a copy

There’s nothing wrong with this book other than that I have read this story so many, SO many, SO SO SO MANY times before that I am just exhausted with it.
It’s just another identical clone soldier in the massively bloated, ever expanding Army of the Republic of Conventional Epic Fantasy. What might have been cutting-edge and trail blazing back when Frodo and Samwise were holding hands and skipping towards Mount Doom has become cookie-cutter and tiresomely blasé. Wow has become WOE and awesome has become AHH..SAME. It just frustrates me.

Now, I’m not giving this book one star because there’s no glaring flaws in its production and it didn't stoke my rage meter sufficiently for full scale melt-down (though it was close at times). The writing is okay (though not overly engaging), the story-telling was competent (though not overly engaging)and it certainly is not a failed attempt at producing a fantasy novel (just not overly engaging). It was just not overly...well, you understand. I found the whole thing underwhelming, uninspiring and UNNECESSARY and felt like the 17 hours+ I spent listening to 463 pages of this story would have been better spent watching the U.S. debt clock tick past “we’re screwed” on our way to becoming the newest 3rd world country called the Unfunded States of America.


Do I really need to do this for this one? Fine...but please stop me if you’ve heard this before...
--You’ve got your standard fantasy world (pick one, they’re basically the same).
--You’ve got your standard human race of which a select few have magical ability (feeling sleepy yet?)
--You’ve got your standard, non-human race, small in number, but much more powerful than humans in the use of magic who hold themselves aloof from the humans who they see as inferior…*cough*…ELVES….*cough*
--You’ve got your standard other non-human race of animal like-warriors who are non-magical but handy ass-kickers who like to growl and refer to boys as man-cubs.
-- You’ve got your “shoot me in the head its so” standard coming of age story about a human teenager who is disappointed in his lack of “magical” ability only to find out he may have “ultra secret special” magic that makes him “super duper.”
-- You’ve got your ancient prophecy tying in our main characters. UGGGGGGHHHHHH
-- You’ve got your “factory installed” set of standard fantasy creatures given some less than original names to “disguise” their old tired lameness (e.g., O’Arkin instead of Orc; Drakon instead of dragon, Elmorr’Antiens instead of elf; mermidians instead of mermaids);
-- You’ve got a STOCK, STOCK, STOCKETY cast of standard fantasy characters from merchants, farmers, soldiers, guard captains, body guards, magic councils, secret societies, et cetera ad nauseam;
-- You’ve got your “lame ass” fantasy vocabulary designed to give your story that “OMG, this is really a different world” vibe (e.g., aurn, tenday and moon instead of hour, week and month; first meal, half meal and last meal instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner; eastron and westron instead of east and west…..

Take the above, add water, stir and serve up a completely milquetoasty borefest of EPIC FANTASY proportions.


I wasn’t thrilled and I would like my 17 hours back please.
39 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Farmers & Mercenaries.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie LOL That pink poodle is so fitting. Best pictures.

message 2: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Those noun variants for the Tolkien pantheon of fantastic creatures are awesome.

message 3: by Trudi (new)

Trudi That last pic SLAYS me ... OMG!!!! Thanks for that, and great review.

Stephen Trudi wrote: "That last pic SLAYS me ... OMG!!!! Thanks for that, and great review."

You are very welcome...I had the same feeling when I first saw that pic.

Stephen Daniel wrote: "Those noun variants for the Tolkien pantheon of fantastic creatures are awesome."

Stunning aren't they.

message 6: by Maxwell (last edited Aug 17, 2011 10:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maxwell Drake As the author of this book, it is probably not the best idea to comment on a negative review. Unfortunately, I feel compelled to do so with this one.

First off, of the tons of professional and fan reviews on the Internet about this book since it was published in 2009, Stephen’s review is my very first negative review. And that is fine. The one thing about this industry is that the enjoyment of books is subjective. You can have two people read the same book and end up with one saying it is the best book they have ever read, and the other saying it is the worst. And both will be correct.

As a professional writer, I am well aware that I will never please everyone.

However, while I agree with some of what Stephen says about my work (it was my first ever professionally published piece and I have learned a great deal about writing and continue to improve as I put out more and more products) there are some things he says that I disagree with.

Again, however, I am not here to argue Stephen’s opinions. I would like to say that this book has won several awards and until Stephen’s review has received nothing but positive reviews.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. So, for those who are interested, the first five chapters of this book are free on the official sage website, In reading the free sample, the worst you will be out is 15 minutes of your time. The best would be finding a fantasy series that you might enjoy.

Stephen Maxwell...I appreciate your civil and gracious response to my review. I do hope others decide to check the book out for themselves. I've been feeling a tad burned out on the epic fantasy genre in general and that likely contributed to my response to the book.

I am glad I am in the minority on the book (as the ratings certainly reflect) and I wish you continued success with it.

Maxwell Drake Yes, I sweated responding to this for several days. And, I have been a wreck ever since I posted my response earlier today. I have come back to this page at least three different times today with the intent of deleting my post.

It was not my intent to say you are wrong. Because you are not. For your literary taste, (you have read way more than most humans on this planet, I think) my literary style and skill level of writing when I wrote this book is most definitely a 2 out of 5 stars. I agree with many of your issues, and have worked to grow past them with my later efforts.

However, I will also agree that some of your complaints are more about the fantasy genre in general. I just happened to be the unlucky schmuck that was the book you were reading when you came to these revelations. Which is fine. Again, many of the issues you have with Farmers & Mercenaries I would love to have done differently, hind-sight being 20/20. I started writing that book some 6 years ago. I am a stronger writer now.

But, I am still a fledgling writer, at the beginning of my career. A review like yours can stop a potential reader from ever picking up my book to begin with. It could potentially kill my career. Which I do not think was your intent, as the first line of your review was, “There’s nothing wrong with this book…” And, the death of my career as a writer would be well deserved if the majority of my reviews fell in line with your review. But, thankfully, they don’t. In all of my other reviews, the reviewer complains about at least one thing (again, hindsight) but each go on to state that their complaint is easily overlooked as there is a lot of good in the book. Each also went on to read and review the second book in this series, stating it was improved from the first.

All that being said, I simply wanted to balance out your review with the fact that many other reviewers have thoroughly enjoyed my work – not to argue or say you are wrong. And to state that I have no issue with giving a free sample to folks who wish to try me out for themselves.

I am a big boy. I appreciate any and all reviews. “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” And I do wish to become a much stronger writer than I am today. So, thank you, Stephen, for making me just a bit stronger than I was yesterday.

And, thank you for not roasting me for responding to your review. Even though I am the butt of the joke, I found your review very funny! :)

Stephen Thanks, Maxwell. My "review ribbing" was certainly not done to offend and I am glad you were able to see the humor. I may not have loved the book, but I have become a fan of you personally.

Maxwell Drake I'll take a fan any way I can get 'em!

Keep up the good reviews. You have earned a fan in me as well.

message 11: by Jake (new)

Jake Hi Stephen,

What an entertaining review. It was engaging and fun to read. I get the feeling you don't really like Fantasy Fiction. Similar to Maxwell Drake, I also write Fantasy, but with a darker edge than the standard. I realize by your review that you dislike the repetition of fantasy creatures. I tip my hat at Maxwell Drake for altering the standard, even if it seems only in name.

I write fantasy because I hated Robert Jordan, I wasn't moved by Terry Brooks, and found R.A. Salvatore a little soft. But like most fantasy readers, I enjoy elves, dragons and orcs. Sure, it gets a little repetitious, but when it is spot-on, it rocks. ie- Robert E. Howard, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman.

Also, the end goal of every author is to get published, and publishers with big names don't take chances on new ideas. We are all in a pickle of trying to find the new way to write the same old story for our big chance at fame. (This is why I went with a smaller press, less exposure, greater creative freedom.)

I loved your review style, and if I wasn't so afraid of you tearing me a new one, I'd ask you to review mine, but my ego is far too sensitive to be a great sport like Mr. Drake. :)

Martin Thanks for the great review Stephen and thanks Drake for your excellent poise and understanding in response. It's good to see.

Stephen Thanks, Martin. I'm glad you liked it and I completely agree that Mr. Drake was a class act in how he dealt with my less than positive review.

message 14: by Diane (new)

Diane Stephen, I can totally recognize your plight. I just finished a book (Call of the Herald) that I essentially reviewed the same way, for essentially the same reasons (although without the depth or humor of your review!). And I had some qualms about my rating because for *me* it was a 2.5 but I could clearly see (even while reading the book) that it was because I had read 'the same book' before, and better done. Had I *not* read other books in the genre, how would I feel about this? is something I kept trying to ask myself.

And ultimately it is not something I could totally separate and not something I even think I should try to hard to do. It is always my hope that if someone who is not my friend reads my review on a book and it affects them (either way) that they also then check out my shelves and get a taste of my reading style and history. *I* do that. But it seems sometimes to me a fine line whether I am just reviewing a book for myself or for every potential reader it could have. For that reason, even when I don't like a book, I try to point out the things I did like so that someone else has the opportunity to think "well, I prioritize this more than she does so it wouldn't bother me as much" or whatever.

Also, for whatever it is worth, it is rare for 1- or 2- star reviews to put me off a book I think I want to read. It might make me say "oh! I should have listened!" after the fact but I've found it doesn't seem to stick the next time I am faced with the same situation! :)

Moriah Writes-a-lot I enjoyed your review and the back and forth between you and Drake was wonderfully civilized and kind of an eye opener.

back to top