At last, we come to the last lot of free ebooks I originally marked to read back in January. It’s been an interesting ride, in turns energizing, frustrating, eye-opening and confusing, but I’ll save that for the Final Word.
The final lot, at last:
Why I chose it: It came high up in Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO, and sounded Epic.
Verdict: It is Epic, clearly, and starts in the time honoured way of weaving disparate threads that will eventually come together (so I hear). It also promises to be quite dark. Unfortunately, neither of these things is really my current cup of tea, but I will keep it in mind. The character introductions were very internalised, however (see below), and the world needed more flavour to really entice me.
On the plus side: Well written, and will find plenty of fans. I liked that the chapters did not each go on too long – good if you have so many threads.
Stormsinger – Stephanie A Cain – Finished! (novelette)
Why I picked it up: I like ships, and though it’s outside the range of a lot of the other Freebies (i.e. not medieval), I’ve included it because it’s not -punk.
Verdict: Well, it’s quite short, so I read all of it. It’s bright, bouncy and a bit…immature? Not in content, just in style. The story is intriguing, but serves more as a taster for something else. Notable that conflict is resolved without violence.
On the plus side: An intriguing set of diverse characters, nautical adventure and, well, it’s short!
Why I chose it: It was free, and the blurb sounded good.
Verdict: Starts too deep in the story for me, without giving the reader enough reason to care about the protagonist or what he’s doing (the only background is what’s in the blurb!). And then there was a tavern with buxom barmaids serving stew, so I bailed.
On the plus side: Didn’t start with a orphan boy in a village waiting for his destiny, and once I re-read the blurb I thought about giving it another chance.
A Dance of Dragons – Kaitlyn Davis – 31% (all of prequel novella)
Why I picked it up: Popular series, and I was trying to explore and combat my preconceptions about this style of fantasy. (NB: This is two books in one.)
Verdict: When the novella started, it didn’t seem likely to get me past my princess prejudices, but I soon found myself wanting to know what happened almost in spite of myself. The main novel sounded more to my taste, but wasn’t as polished (I assume the prequel was written later). The writing is punchy, uneven, and a bit raw, but it has something compelling about it that kept me turning pages. In the end, though, two “special snowflake” characters in a somewhat simplistic world didn’t do it for me. Wasn’t convinced by the horse, either.
On the plus side: Clearly a market for this, even if it’s not me.
Why I picked it up: It’s a pretty big seller, this one, so I wanted to see what the fuss was about.
Verdict: A somewhat vague, expository start and simplistic “eternal war” did not really whet my appetite, but the protagonist is more intriguing. The pace, however, is…methodical. You get the feeling this is going to be a long, slow burn, and I could have done with a bit more urgency.
On the plus side: Some people like long, slow burns, and it’s not badly written. Nice to meet a female lead character!
Why I picked it up: As with Deacon, it’s another popular, highly-rated indie series.
Verdict: Definitely well-written and therefore easy to read, the major problem for me was that a few chapters in, we still don’t know why the protagonist is trying to uncover these secrets. Who is he, how he can read, and why hasn’t the city any walls? These questions did not really constitute a hook, as they just seemed ignored rather than dangled.
On the plus side: Compelling nevertheless and easy to see why it’s well respected.
Why I picked it up: Another big name, who is associated with Ragnarok Pub.
Verdict: As you’d expect, gritty and violent so far, with a compelling returning exile (ahem), but fell into the “generic fantasy game world” trap for me. I’m not a fan of the nation/race trope, and though these are at least not the traditional ones, it does make for a lot of exposition and info-dumping.
On the plus side: You can see why it has found fans; the tension is building immediately and the writing is clear and readable.
I’ll save my overall conclusions for next, and final, update, because I think they need reflecting on. The main thing about this round was coming across some pretty heavy hitters, and, in the main, it was easy to see why they were. Much more professionally and competently produced than a lot of the books I’ve sampled here, it’s harder to spot the differences between them and traditionally-published books. None of them were really for me, but I live on the fringes – mainstream fans will find plenty to like.
One thing I did notice with quite a few of this round of books (and others, too), is that they start with long passages of internal thoughts and observations from the character’s point of view, including a fair bit of exposition. I found this was not as compelling as watching them act or interact, revealing themselves and their world through action rather than thought.
In some of these Epics, I suppose you have the time to build up gradually – but then, maybe that’s an illusion. They didn’t give me a reason to care quick enough, though some at least gave me a reason to be curious. If I was more patient (i.e. not doing this blog project) I probably would have given them each more time, and may well return to them.
On last thing: the dreaded fantasy stew popped up more than once!
Already read in Update 1 :
Enchantment’s Reach – Martin Ash – Finished!
Already read in Update 2 :
Fire & Ice – Patty Jansen – Finished!
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!
Already in Update 3/4:
Sorcerer’s Code – Christopher Kellen – FINISHED!
New World: A Frontier Fantasy Novel – Steven W White – still reading!