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The Godborn: A Review

It struck me as surprising that Wizards of the Coast would have various authors write the different installments of The Sundering. In rose in my mind questions of plot continuity, character development, tone, and various other aspects that are often honed by an individual writer’s style. After reading the first book in the trilogy; however, I was hopefully. Salvatore did an amazing job setting up the sense of conflict, characters, and progression of the plot.

I started this second book, The Godborn, therefore with hopeful anticipation. In this book’s favor were its description and sense of atmosphere. Paul Kemp does an excellent job of setting up and describing a scene. He has a gift for juxtaposing surprising, visual elements to give the reader snapshots of the characters and the scene. Additionally, he incorporates a strong vocabulary into his description that is uncommon is much of fantasy genre today. This gives him a sophistication and makes him an enjoyable read.

Unfortunately, I have not read any of the Erevis Cale books that he is evidently so famous for. In addition to this, Kemp did not go into too much backstory and therefore the constantly shifting characters and setting was baffling. I’m sure that if I had read his other books this problem would have diminished; however, it is not the new reader’s job to catch up with the author. A second element that I didn’t care for was the over-the-top characters. It seemed that, in contrast to the Salvatore installment, that every character was a super-human with god-like abilities and possessions. Now this may not have been the author’s choice, but from what I read it seems consistent with his previous writing. The problem with this is this choice puts the focus not on the character but instead to cool stuff he can do.

My hope is that Kemp was simply setting up some story line elements that are necessary for later books in the series. The problem is that 336 pages of set-up is far too much. A more complete fleshing out of the story arc, far more character development, and some resolvable conflict carried out by a cathartic protagonist and antagonist would do wonders for this book. Ultimately, the work felt rushed. A few more drafts and a couple more months of narrative expansion might have produced a truly epic work. As it is, the book is lackluster and a potential stumbling block for The Sundering.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. For more reviews or information, visit  Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by Wizards of the Coast through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not NetGalley.com or the publisher.

 

 

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The Companions by R.A. Salvatore: A Review

DragonCon

DragonCon (Photo credit: Anna Fischer)

I was excited when I was approached by Wizards of the Coast to read and review The Companions by R.A. Salvatore. I haven’t read one of his books since college in the early 90s. I fondly remembered the stories of Drizzt Do’Urden and looked forward to being taken down memory lane by his adventures with his four friends. I wasn’t disappointed.

Salvatore’s gift of characterization has only grown over the decades. Using the unique approach of this particular book to develop characters, he takes the time to slowly build the characters independently. In a genre where too many characters all act and sound alike, Salvatore is able to create characters with distinctive values, motivations, skills, and even language traits. This makes the diverse characters in the numerous settings seem both realistic and interesting.

This particular book has a unique structure that lends greatly to its readability. The main characters are each discussed in their own chapters allowing them to develop independently. Where a less dynamic character might normally blend into the background, this format allows all of the characters equal time to be rounded out in a setting that places them in their best light. This clever technique not only allows readers to have a greater appreciation for each character, but also makes the book a quick and energetic read.

Finally, the action in this book is everything I remember a Salvatore writing being. Not only does the plot move along at a rapid pace, but the spell-casting and fighting sequences are filled with imagery that allows the reader to easily visualize the scene. This tableaux vivant effect draws readers in creating something similar to a movie playing in their heads. This sense of action is balanced nicely against the character’s relationships allowing both positive and negative conflicts to form between characters without weighing down the prose with long, unneeded romantic sequences. Across-the-board, this is a well-written, well thought-out book by R.A. Salvatore.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by Wizards of the Coast through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not NetGalley.com or the publisher.

Game by Anders de la Motte: A Review

In recent months, I have read a number for fiction/thriller books that were translated from another language and were outstanding. For instance, Dark Days (as well as the other books in this series) by Manel Loureiro are some of the best examples of imagery and character development that I have seen in the post-apocalyptic genre over the course of the last several years. Game, by Anders de la Motte, however is slow, stylistically uneven, and literarily clumsy

I am not sure if this is due to a bad translator or a bad writer, but the book is desperately in need of a revision before being read by American audiences. For instance, the narrative pops in and out of colloquialisms and cultural references that would confuse the average reader. Either being consistently European or consistently American would offer a balance but the terminology seems to shift back and forth. The dialogue is most places is stiff and seems to rely heavily on vernacular and the profane language to get across the simplest of ideas.

While the foreign setting is interesting and potentially fresh to an American reader, the author’s use of detail is stark. This minimalistic approach might be engaging if the description in the prose connected with the reader’s senses or more. Perhaps the author could even try to incorporate analogies that would incorporate more western audiences.  Unfortunately, the lack of imagery, analogy, and foreground makes it hard to connect with either the protagonist or the setting.

What the author does seem to have a penchant for is conflict. Much of both the story and character development comes about in the shifting internal and external conflicts the character has with society, other people, and himself. This helps to make the character and situation more realistic; however, it does not create any sense of cathartic connection between the characters and the reader. In short, the characters are realistic but not likeable.

The overall structure and style seems to be overtly simplistic. It has an inordinate amount of short, choppy sentences that become intrusive and counter-productive to the flow of the book.  The overall idea is interesting and my hope is that the only problem with the book is that they took the lowest bidder for the translation contract: A problem that could be rectified in later books. If you can wade through the language difficulties you may be able to enjoy an inventive storyline with some interesting twists; however, if prose and style are important to you there are better choices out there.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

The book for this review was provided free of charge by Atria Books through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and notNetGalley.com or the publisher.