Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on February 27, 2018
For those of you who prefer a review to be consice: Yes, I finished the entire book. It was not good at all. In fact, it was pretty terrible.

The longer version?

From a consumer standpoint, I feel mislead. This book has a large number of reviews, and a great many of them bear 4 and 5 star ratings. (I can't help but wonder if most of the high ratings and grand reviews were actually friends of the author, or people who were paid to say nice things.) Intrestingly enough, you'll notice that the few reviews that are lower rated actually have been marked as "helpful" far mopre frequently than those with higher ratings. If I had bothered to check for that first, I would not have bought this book. As it stands, I did buy, and I read it all the way through, and so I feel like I can capeably offer a complete review.

As a reader, I was first struck by Islington's bland narrative voice, and his desire to bludgeon his readers with what his characters are feeling. There is no subtlety here, just a lot of "telling" rather than "showing." From the start, there was no visual beauty or sense of atmosphere. As some of the other reviwers pointed out, there was a large cast of characters, as is always the case with fantasy, but I really didn't mind that. In fact,I think a hefty dose of named characters is a good thing. It can add depth, a sense of the world's scope, if the author takes the time to develop those characters. Islington did not.Throwing in scars, telling me someone's hair or eye color, or making note of their height and weght, is not going to make me remember someone. Characters should do and say things that bring them to life. We can even be told about these things second-hand from other characters, but unfortunately, even when Islington does these things, he does so poorly. When you're force fed what any given character is supposed to be "feeling," the emotion being expressed loses its impact.

The next big problem I had with this book was its repetition. Having read this on a Kindle, I decided to do a search for a few of the phrases I kept seeing, curious as to the number of instances: 33 separate uses of "bit his/her lip," 65 instances of "inclined his/her head," 36 instances of "rubbed his/her forehead." I get it, it's a big book and there are going to be a great many words that are repeated, but these are very specific phrases, not just the subconscious use of an author's favorite words. This is the sort of thing that should have been caught in the very early stages of editing.

Another problem that bothered me a bit was the magic system. My big problem here was with the author's eventual selective adherence to his own rules. A person's use of Essence, one of the sources of magic in this world, is bound by a set Tenets, which prohibit its use under certain conditions. For instance, one of these Tenets keeps those "Gifted" with the use of Essence from harming living humans. At one point, a character uses Essence to blast what he calls an"Echo," a once living person that has now been reanimated to act as an agent of evil. When asked how he knew the Echo was not actually a living human being, this same character simply explained that the Tenets would have prevented him from acting if the thing had in fact still been alive. In other words, he attempted to do harm, and uses the fact that he was able to as proof of Echoes no being human. Which means, the character himself did not know--the Tenets knew. Ok, I got it. Rule understood. Islington goes on to uses this and similar examples on multiple occasions, each time with the character attempting to use an ability in a way that they themselves were not sure would work, again using the end result as proof of something.Yet, at the climax of this story, one of the antagonists is able to violate the Tenets simply because he truly believed he was "putting them out of their misery," rather than doing harm. So now we're being told that belief and perspective make these Tenets subjective? Well, that certainly would have made the rest of the book different, because I am sure there would have been many cases where creative villians (or even good guys) would have used this loophole to their advantage. Doubtful no one would have noticed this in the entire history of the Tenets being in place. Unless everyone on this planet is a complete idiot. Unlikely.

The entire book felt like it was edited for grammar and spelling, but not for content, style, and story. It as if Islington finished a first draft and then refused to do a re-write. All good writing is re-writing. He should be proud of the work he did, it was a big undertaking, but it should not have ended there. The writing itself is not refined, the characters are not memorable--nor did I care at all about them--and so there was simply no sense of tension, excitement, or anticipation of any sort. The only reason I even bothered to give this book 2 stars is because of the decent grammar and spell checking.
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