So, sorry I’ve let this slide a few weeks, but a bit has been going on:
- I’ve been continuing books from the first two updates.
- Editing of two of my WIPs has been pushed up the agenda due to circumstances.
- I spent two weeks writing a non-fantasy novella as a Valentines gift, which was fun.
However, I’ve managed to have a peek around a few of these and now feel like I can cross them off the list and move on. Maybe it’s just a bit of fantasy fatigue, but with all the good books buzzing around me just now, I was looking for excuses to stop more than to keep going – though I did uncover a few surprises.
This week’s bunch, at last:
Why I picked it up: Sharp cover, neat blurb with plot evocative of Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven. Sold – at least, for free!
Verdict: The start focused on geography, which became slightly tedious until rescued by an ambush. However, the whole second chapter was a fight, the description of which some people might find detailed but which ended up boring me. And then it was geography again! Just not enough spark to get me to push past the start.
On the plus side: The concept is still solid, and those who like their fights chronicled blow-by-blow (and thought-by-thought) might be more forgiving. Stopped just as they reached the village, which is probably where it gets going…
Why I picked it up: Intriguing blurb promised something that didn’t take itself seriously while having a good time, tackling tropes with a knowing wink.
Verdict: Even taking into account its apparent intention to take tropes and (eventually?) play with them, it started slowly, not helped by somewhat stilted prose. It may improve, but it was just not gripping enough to overcome my trope-resistance.
On the plus side: Still a potentially interesting idea.
Sorcerer’s Code – Christopher Kellen – FINISHED!
Why I picked it up: I like a mistaken-identity fugitive mystery, though I’d probably prefer if it weren’t centered on a mage.
Verdict: Enthusiastic, bright voice, helped by the very personable first person narration, carried me past the more generic elements (it’s a very comfortable D&D/Ankh-Morporkian world) and my ambivalence towards sorcery. A fun read, if quite short, with a few neat twists.
On the down side: The only women mentioned are (off-stage) whores.
Why I picked it up: Prequel novella (it turns out) to a popular series, wanted to see what the fuss was about.
Verdict: Barely a novella, the books sets up an interesting world with echoes of our own, but not echoes that particularly appealed to me (“rifles” and chainmail?). The end result was too generic for me, and the names didn’t jive – who’s going to be scared of a big bad whose name sounds like a WW1 Punch caricature? – but you can see why it’s popular.
On the plus side: Fans of Warhammer should be right at home.
Why I picked it up: Liked the brazen feminist outlook, had doubts about the production values.
Verdict: First, I’m pretty sure it’s not actually fantasy, but an alternate history of dark age Britain with even more matriarchal societies. Still an interesting potential read, but it gave me an excuse to put it down. I also found the memoir style somewhat wistful, not immediate enough. Might pick it up again sometime.
On the plus side: Lovely, gentle prose, if that’s your thing, and not a man in sight, so far!
New World: A Frontier Fantasy Novel – Steven W White – still reading!
Why I picked it up: Novel new-world concept sounded interesting.
Verdict: It IS interesting, bringing some American frontier flavours to the genre (I know there’s a lot of Wild Western fantasy these days, but this is slightly different). There’s some dissonance there, for sure, especially as it’s hard to pin down exactly “when” this takes place. The bad guys have medieval armour and weapons, but the colonists have printing presses and firearms. The pace is pretty good, even with the flashbacks, and the language is handled expertly.
On the plus side: Bogg seems a very fun character, written well.
Why I picked it up: Kept seeing it here and there, possibly via Twitter.
Verdict: I did not expect it to be so wordy, full of tells and extraneous detail that really bog it down – even 1% was a chore. The wasn’t much in the setting or action to set it apart, either, and the main character seemed quite smug – and why not, he’s a smart, strong, tall, warrior AND hidden mage…
On the plus side: Didn’t stick around long enough, to be honest, but I’m sure others will (and have) got more out of it.
Why I picked it up: “Clockpunk” concept sounded interesting, though it’s a bit outside my normal genre boundaries (though it does say it’s Epic), and the cover was eye-catching. (Was a bit confused about the author’s identity, but apparently he used a female pseudonym at first for this series).
Verdict: Not really what I was looking for, as I expected. It started to flow more smoothly when there was dialogue and action, but the prologue and especially the first chapter seemed a disjointed sequence of sights (and sounds and smells) that tumble over each other too much to effectively set the scene. Uneven, but might yet press on – it’s short.
On the plus side: A few neat turns of phrase, the opening to Chapter One for example (and a few that fell flat, too). Had the feel of a Disney movie, if that’s what you’re after.
Well, maybe my enthusiasm is flagging, but until the very unique New World, nothing really grabbed me here. I realise that, for the sake of this exercise, I’m being harsh, especially on those that start slowly. But, in a lot of ways, this’s the game, folks. You aren’t going to get off a slush pile, and you will struggle to get a lot of readers hooked, if the book doesn’t start with some sort of bang.
Also, I realise that I’m looking for uniqueness a lot more than other readers. This one of my criteria – the overly-familiar does not excite me that much. On the other hand, I know a lot of popular series that I have avoided for this reason that many readers love. Clearly, originality is not the be-all-and-end-all for everyone, but it is one of the things that catches my eye.
Worth noting that quite a few of these were short, which is fine for free samples, but perhaps could have been made clearer beforehand. Even free, you feel slightly cheated.
On to the last seven!
Already read in Update 1 :
Enchantment’s Reach – Martin Ash – Finished!
Already read in Update 2 :
Fire & Ice – Patty Jansen – Still reading!
Red Axe, Black Sun – Michael Karner – 51% (a while ago, before this blog series)
The Dreamer and the Deceiver – Alex Villavasso – 21% (it’s short)
The Last Priestess – Elizabeth Baxter – still reading!
Still to read:
The Weight of the Crown – Tavish Kaeden (also in the SPFBO)
Stormsinger – Stephanie A Cain – not medieval but not punk, so ok.
The Kinshield Legacy – K C May
A Dance of Dragons – Kaitlyn Davis
The Book of Deacon – Joseph Lallo – big seller, this one
The White Tree – Edward W Robertson – another bigger indie name
Dawn of War – Tim Marquitz – and another, associated with Ragnarok Pub.