Book Reviews

I went through eleven books to understand better how important the opening sequence of a story is. The opening lines and pages of a story set the tone for everything else. It give a reader insight into the writing style of the author, the plot of the story, and the type of content they can expect to read. Some of these stories I’m excited to keep reading and when I finish I’ll post the full reviews on my Goodreads page, and book review page.

If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Beyond the Sapphire Gates – R.V. Johnson

The opening pages of this book were rough. I consider myself a fairly literate individual with a high reading level. The author chose tons of unnecessary words that made it nearly impossible to translate what they were saying. On the first page: 

Crystalyn selected a symbol at random. Again she tested for the unnerving conduct it displayed by focusing on its beautiful circle pattern, concentrating her will on it. The symbol churned, slowly at first, and then spun into a maelstrom, its looped circles spiraling down into a dark hole of rotating turbulence at the center.

There is a big difference between writing a complex and thought provoking story, and writing complex sentences full of uncommon words. If that had been the only paragraph like that I could have pushed on, but the entire first two pages were written like this. I gave up and moved on rather quickly. 

War Begins – Odette C. Bell

The opening line of this book immediately raised a question in my mind.

“We’re getting closer every day,” Professor William Ray said.

We have some kind of scientist/professor figure that has been looking for something and he’s almost there. Unlike the last book, I didn’t have to dissect the writing to understand. I  quickly found myself 10 pages in. Characters were introduced in a logical way that made it easy to understand them and figure out their roles in the story as well. Overall I would consider reading this book, it’s not in my preferred Genre, but there weren’t any turnoffs and I looked forward to learning what was coming down the pipeline.

The Witch’s Awakening – Leigh Ann Edwards

I will start off by saying, this doesn’t necessarily fall under my preferred genre. The Witch’s awakening started off fine, the main character has a predicament, making me wondering how they got there, and how they will get out of it. However, there were a few aspects of the writing that turned me off and I don’t plan on reading more. 

The author included redundancies when describing things.

Darius was roughly jolted when his usually calm horse reared wildly.

Instead the sentence could read.

Darius was jolted when his usually calm horse reared.

Roughly/jolted and reared/wildly are redundant. Nobody is softly jolted and a horse doesn’t rear calmly, those feelings are implied already.

I also felt that they author overexplained in a classic tell not show. While the character is meandering through the forest he reflects on the night before and what he almost did, then what he did. Instead the author could have shown how his decision to skip the brother and drink all night was affecting him. He could have a headache, sensitivity to light, and feel regret about his actions. 

The Trials of the Core – Michael E Thies

Right away the plot presented has me intrigued which is great. The author started off the story with a letter. Being able to lock in your readers attention also helps them be more forgiving when it comes to issues with the writing. 

With this story it felt as if the author didn’t trust the reader to have an imagination. Instead of describing the personality of the wizard and giving an overview of the room where he sat, the author kept adding details throughout their writing which slowed down the pace of the story and not in a good way.

In the first pages they used Crimson envelopes, onyx desk, golden wax, obsidian band, moss-green aventurine floor, and jade pillars. 

One rule I’ve found is that you should describe things as your characters experience them. The character who works in the office sees the richness of the room daily, for them the onyx desk is just a desk. However, if a poor simpleton had been walking into that same room, they would have been making note of every single element. On the same note, would a poor simpleton know what onyx is, or would it be black, would they recognize aventurine? I know I wouldn’t. 

There were a few other scenes in the opening pages that didn’t flow very well, but I won’t dive too much into the rest.

The Stone of Knowing – Allan N. Packer

I liked this one and will continue reading it at some point. The character introduction was gradual and easy to follow. Unlike a few of the other stories I read. Right away the author pulls me into the story and get’s me interested in the outcome.

He found it on his way back toward the castle. 

What did he find, why is it important, what does he do with it? All things I want to know as the reader. The author fills in details and builds out their world in a natural way. The best time to build out a scene and give details on the world  is when the character is doing something mundane. This MC is walking down the road on his way to the castle, nothing is happening and the author fills the lull in action with description. Then when something happens, they pause their worldbuilding and allow the action to unfold.

I wouldn’t say the author of this novel is a master of the craft, but the story was engaging, and I’m interested enough to keep reading.

Kings of Ruin – Daniel Arenson

The author did several things to turn me off as a reader. First, they were so focused on their world building that they kept interrupting the character development with descriptions of other characters, and the introduction of various races/nations and people. 

One of the reasons that readers will not finish a book is because of a bait and switch, they were expecting one thing, based on the intro, and suddenly halfway through the book a flip is switched and everything changes. While the authors use of vulgar language is an immediate turn off for me, I do appreciate that they introduced this very early on. As a reader I was able to quickly determine that this book wasn’t for me. 

Forsaken Kingdom – J.R. Rasmussen

This book felt far ahead of the rest in terms of writing style, development, world building and overall quality. I quickly got a sense of the characters, their ages and personality in a way that I’ll easily be able to follow them. The next few pages increase the scope of the world by bringing in additional information about a greater conflict going on, but everything feels natural, keeping the pace of the story flowing.

The characters we are introduced to feel real and act according to their age. This is definitely a book I’ll continue reading after just these first few pages.

The Servant to the Crown – Paul J. Bennett

The prologue takes place years ahead of chapter one, which could potentially ruin some of the surprise, but at the same time I want to know what happened and how the MC got to where he was in the prologue. 

Once again with this book the characters are developed naturally, through their actions, dialogue, and thoughts. 

The writing quality was good and allowed me to get into the story and see what was taking place.

Wolves – C. Gockel

My initial thoughts on seeing the cover led me to believe this was a fantasy book set in medieval times. I was not paying enough attention though and from the first lines it’s clear the story takes place in a modern setting. I am curious as to how an armored knight/mage comes to be in our times, but in a way it felt like a broken promise. The promise might be fulfilled later in the book, but by now, I’m already lost as a reader.

The writing was also done in first person and while I don’t consider myself an expert on first person narrative writing, the quality of writing didn’t seem very good. The main character felt very cliché and not someone I’m very invested in. 

Dream of Empty Crowns – M.J. Sewall

One of the big no-no’s I see everywhere is that you shouldn’t start a novel with a dream for a variety of reasons. This story did start with a dream, but it kind of seemed like a vision of sorts. It was of something in the future and so I felt like it worked fine as an introduction. 

The characters are introduced in an easy to follow way, the world building takes place naturally. The premise of the story, every thirteen year old puts their name in for a choosing of the next king, is interesting. I’m not sure how that would work out favorably, but it’s clearly how it’s always been done in this world so it works. 

To Kill a Fae – Jamie A. Waters

I enjoyed the opening scene of the story. The writing was well done and gave me enough details while still letting me imagine the world on my own. The character and world introduction kept pace with the story. Unfortunately, the author threw in some language that for me makes it so I will not keep reading.

I love stories that create their own cursing, like Brandon Sanderson ‘stormfather’, JK Rowling ‘mudblood’, it shows a writer who understands what readers want. Especially with this main character being a unique race or something, her attackers could have used language that was offensive and derogatory without turning off the reader. 

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