Apr 28 2012

Review: Theft of Swords by: Michael J. Sullivan

Posted by Mathias

Warning! May contain spoilers!

Michael J. Sullivan creates a set of superb characters in Royce and Hadrian, a pair of thieves who get a little too greedy at times. Or at least Hadrian does, and he then drags Royce along with him. I don’t think I can stop saying enough good things about the way the two main characters are constructed, how they maintain character all the way through the novel and are delightful to follow. Royce and Hadrian are surrounded by a cadre of supporting characters that by the end of this first volume have various levels of depth and are used to develop the level of political intrigue that is going on within the story’s world. Some of the other characters appear cartoonish. But this is not because of poor writing. It is merely, in my opinion, because of trying to cram so much into the novel and delve into so many of the side relationships that affect what Royce and Hadrian are involved in. Perhaps in some places these departures from the story as seen from the viewpoint of the main characters could have been done without. Without these side trips I think the story would have flowed better.

While the story opens in an excellent fashion, I love the interaction between Royce and Hadrian and the hapless highwaymen they encounter, the first half of the book does slog along at times as huge boulders of back-story are dropped with a plop into the narrative. And there are points of droning dialogue recited by characters who just seemed to be waiting for an opportunity to expound upon what they know of a situation. There were points in the story where I kept thinking of Syndrome from the animated film The Incredibles who humorously quipped, “You sly dog! You got me monologuing!” because it seems so silly at times. But as the story unwinds, things get significantly better. The second half of the story is tighter and much more captivating thanks in large part to the back-story having been over and done with mostly in the first half. Back-story dropped in the second half of the book flows much smoother with the narrative. If you are struggling through the opening half I assure you it gets better towards the end of the opening act. I will not say that the story was not without points where I had to stop and forcibly make myself resuspend disbelief before continuing, but those moments are minor enough to be overlooked. They happen in every novel I have ever read.

I was however a little disappointed in the ending of the first book. The first book in the Riyria Revelations series is prime example of what is common today among epic fantasy series. It is a book that at the end of it really has no end. There is just the cliffhanger for book two to pick up from and you feel like you have fallen off a cliff between chapters. Major plot points remain unresolved. The final battle with the supposedly mighty beast is light, quick and seems to be more of an anti-climax than a true climax. It was just another point on a slow journey through the story and an invitation to buy the next book of the series. My personal preference is for a more solid resolution at the end of a book, even if it is part of a planned series. I understand however that this is the current trend of the industry.

At the half-way point of the book I was not sure if I would be interested in the continuing adventures of Royce and Hadrian. By the end of the book I was much more interested in what these two thieves would be up to in the future. But not right away. I have put book two of the Riyria Revelations on my “to read list” but have opted to take a break and read some other stories before picking it up. The first book was just too long for me to want to delve right in to another tome on the same subject and I need some time to unwind from it.

I give Theft of Swords an over all rating of three and three quarters stars out of five placing it solidly above your typical fantasy story but not quite in the level of the more elite books of the genre. It was oh so close to getting four stars at times but the issues I discussed drew it back down from that level.

Apr 26 2012

Some Advice I Got Long Ago

Posted by Mathias

I don’t remember who told me this but it was good advice that I have always tried to remember and incorporate.

Never take too much control of your fantasy world to the point where you drown the reader in descriptions of the insignificant minutiae. Do not smother the reader with irrelevancies. Let them have freedom to imagine the less important things for themselves and they will have a more enjoyable time reading what you have written.

Apr 25 2012

Following Me On Twitter

Posted by Mathias

Let me just say this. If you opt to follow me on twitter don’t get upset with me if I don’t follow you back. Don’t send me nastygrams complaining. If your entire reason for following me is to get another follower for yourself then spare us all the hassle and follow someone else instead.

Apr 22 2012

Fantasy Cliches I Really Hate

Posted by Mathias

There are just some fantasy cliches that, no matter how well the story they are written around is, just drive me batty.  This is my list:

1. Dwarves who are masters of mechanical things.

2. Elves that live a really, really, really long time.

3. Elves that are the best users of magic in the realm.

4. Elves that are haute and stuck up.

5. Ancient evil that can only be defeated by a single, chosen person and no one else.

6. An overpowering hand of fate element that makes it clear early on that the main character has no real control over his/her life

7. Worlds where all the races hate each other simply because of xenophobia.

8. When only a magic sword lost for ages can save the world and must be found.

9. The gray bearded wizard mentor.

10. Dwarves with Scottish accents.

 

Apr 22 2012

Book Review: Dragons of the Dwarven Depths by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Posted by Mathias

Warning!  May contain spoilers!

The companions return!  After slaying Dragon Highlord Verminaard and freeing the slaves of Pax Tharkas, Sturm, Tanis, Raistlin, Caramon, Flint, Tasslehoff et al, deal with the trials and tribulations that go along with leading a rag tag group out of captivity while still being hunted by the forces of evil.  Dragons of the Dwarven depths tells a story that takes place within the original Dragonlance Saga.  I enjoyed thoroughly how Weis and Hickman brought the original cast of characters back to life with their typical flair and prose.  There were not any sort of surprises as characters are attempted to be reinvented which is something that sometimes happens with series that are as long as Dragonlance is.

While the story was not bad however, it certainly does not live up to the original series.  Honestly, the whole series has been so over expanded with books upon books upon books now set in the world of Krynn that maybe it is just burn out for me to read another Dragonlance novel.  You don’t really learn anything new about already well flushed out characters themselves and the interactions between each of them is almost too well defined and leads to expectations that simply cannot help but coming true.  You learn about what happened after Pax Tharkas, but there are reasons why certain parts of a story are not told the first time around.

Sure, if you are existing fan of the original Dragonlance Saga you will get some enjoyment from reading this book and it is not poorly written. But, if like me, you are potentially Dragonlanced out it could be a painful slog at several points.

I give Dragons of the Dwarven Depths 3.5 stars out of five.

Apr 17 2012

Advice On Writing

Posted by Mathias

Some people tell you to be successful as an author you must read, read, read, read. The reality however is that you must write, write, write, read, be rejected, write, write, be rejected, read, write, write, be rejected, read, write … If you spend too much time reading you will never write and you will never get better at your craft.

Apr 16 2012

Weeding Down My Review Group

Posted by Mathias

I admit it. When I gathered up people to review my work and give me feedback on my stories that I accepted all comers. I was just thrilled that friends and acquaintances were interested. But as time goes on, it is clear that I need to prune back the group which is like an overgrown tree.

As I have recently tweeted, I let one woman go because she never had anything nice to say about anything. Every comment was snarky and unhelpful to the point of nitpicking. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when she started complaining that I was “showing” where she thought I should be “telling” and visa versa. Not one passage was right to her. She also complained about me having a scene at night when she felt certain it should be during the day. Nothing pleased her and, after conferring with several others reviewing my work, I decided that she was just a bitter person who might know how to write, but who did not know how to deal with other authors.

On the opposite end of the spectrum I have today told another reviewer who “loves” everything and never has a critical thing to say about my work that if she does not start actually critiquing and start giving more than 100% kudos that I will have to drop her from the group as well. I don’t need a “yes man/woman”. I need real opinions.

I will be looking at other people in the review group over the coming weeks as well to try and make the group stronger. I want to produce a good product. The only way to do that is to have serious opinions I can trust.

Apr 13 2012

Post from Audible for Android

Posted by Mathias

I’m listening to Theft of Swords: Riyria Revelations, Book 1 (Unabridged) Part 2 on #Audible for #Android. Get the app free: http://audible.com/wireless @audible_com

Apr 13 2012

It Seems To Me …

Posted by Mathias

It seems to me that when a series of books hits around volume four or five that more often than not the series really starts to suffer and go down hill. By book six or seven the shark is usually and quite officially jumped. There have always been exceptions but I find this rule to be true for me personally.

I understand the incentive to stick with familiar, successful and even profitable thinks and milk that cow until it kicks, but eventually one must move on.

Apr 12 2012

Never Say Never

Posted by Mathias

So many people say never do this and never do that when going about and giving advice to authors. But, except for extreme examples of stupidity (disjointed plots, rampant spelling errors, glaring contradictions, etc.), for every one of these “don’ts” which supposedly make stories unpublishable I can find examples of these “don’ts” being used in published works by both established and new authors all the time.

So how did these “don’ts” come to be “don’ts” then? Who knows. Maybe it is just another example of a lie being told often enough that it becomes truth.