Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Tale of Two Reviews

I imagine authors don't typically like to show brutal reviews of their books but I'm going to show one anyway. I'm going to show you a recent 1-star review for Legends Reborn as well as a 5-star review, because I think it demonstrates the point I'd like to make for this blog. Everyone who has ever put something creative into the world will already know what I'm about to say. Art is created with the best of intentions and whether someone likes that art can go any way imaginable. One person might enjoy short chapters while another person may despise them. One person might like deep character descriptions down to the chipped front tooth, while others quickly scan those long, descriptive paragraphs just to get to the action. If an author spends too much time world building, he/she might be criticized while an author who doesn't build the world enough might be equally trashed by someone else. That's what makes art great. For instance, I watched the movie World War Z this week and loved it. Some of the reviews I've read haven't been so kind.

These opinions can often emote a visceral response. If that response is, "This is the greatest thing ever and I need to tell the world," that's what the artist had hoped for. On the other hand, if the response is, "This is the crappiest piece of crap I've ever read and I need to tell the world," well, you understand how disappointing that would be. I once heard someone a lot smarter than me say, "If you believe the great reviews, then you must believe the bad ones." (That might not be the exact quote but you get the point.) I believe that quote but it doesn't dull the edge of the bad ones.

Let's look at my most recent 1-star shellacking.
There are spoilers in this review so be warned. Also, I'm not going to defend my book after this review, nor will I boast about how great my book is after the positive review either. (Personally, I'm right in the middle with my own view of Legends Reborn and I think there are relevant points in each review.)

In Legends Reborn Rasi witnesses soon to be King Elijah rape and murder a woman; after removing his tongue to keep him silent, Rasi is sentenced to death by combat. After escaping from prison by defeating a tentacled creature (whose tentacles have now attached themselves to Rasi) Rasi claims he will exact his revenge on Prince Elijah and then ……………….. nothing. Seriously, nothing happens for 100 pages. Rasi lives in a cave, it snows, he kills some animals, he lights a fire, and it snows again. He does this for seven years. Then he meets and falls in love with Prince Elijah’s daughter who is not only NOT frightened of the killing, mindless tentacles on Rasi’ s back she somehow manages to calm them. Then its four more years of Rasi living in a cave with occasional visits from the princess and lots of “woe is me” when the princess is not there. Then the princess is kidnapped (of course she is) by her father who doesn’t want to give up the Light/Power of the throne and Rasi goes out to find her.  Meanwhile a mindless killing enemy called Teks are approaching from the sea and threaten to wipe out the entire empire with their new mechanical army of machines. This novel is filled with every bad fantasy trope out there: beautiful princess falls in love with the rebel who threatened to kill her father; corrupt king; wrongfully imprisoned warrior who will fight to save the empire; and a unknown enemy who threatens to destroy the world. The plot moved at glacial speed, the writing was overly simplistic, the characters flat and without dimension (really, why are the Teks attacking), and there were random point of view chapters thrown in that did not advance plot or character development. This was not a well crafted story and I had to force myself to finish.(

And here is a 5-star review.

Douglas R. Brown expertly crafts a complex and fascinating epic fantasy in LEGENDS REBORN.

Rasi is tired of war, even though he’s up for the captain’s position of the Epertasean army. On the night he decides to reject the position, he witnesses a horrific attack upon a young woman. Now sentenced to die for her death, he must find a way to survive because Epertase doesn’t know that it needs him to survive the growing threat upon the horizon.

LEGENDS REBORN drew me into the rich fantasy world of Epertase. The characters are well-developed and aren’t always quite what they seem with their agendas. The complexity of the worldbuilding felt realistic and reminded me of how the Native Americans (Epertase) must’ve viewed the Europeans (Teks). Yet Brown does a fantastic job to keep the reader in the moment and not bogging the reader down with the backstory and worldbuilding. I cared about these characters and what would happen to them.

LEGENDS REBORN by Douglas R. Brown is epic fantasy at its best. I look forward to reading book two, A KINGDOM’S FALL.

And because I'm having such fun, here's one more review.

I understand I'm in the minority here but this is the worst book I've ever had the displeasure of finishing (though I've read worse books that I haven't finished). It's everything a fantasy book shouldn't be: slow, plodding, boring characters, and an uninteresting and poorly described world. A grand total of about five things happen during this book only one of which is actually interesting and, even then, only because it comes out of nowhere. I finished this book in the expectation that there would be something by the end to hook me into reading the rest of the series so many people have recommended to me. There wasn't. Don't waste your time with this crap and read Zelanzy's Chronicles of Amber series instead. It's a time/dimension travelling series where things actually happen, a big departure of this waste of paper and ink.

OK, I cheated a little on that last one. It's not actually a review of Legends Reborn. It's a review for Stephen King's The Gunslinger. You know, from The Dark Tower series.

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