So… I refuse to learn my own lessons. I concluded previously that free Kindle books have problems, and here I am again, about to complain about the shoddy quality of a free Kindle book. But if nothing else, it means others are aware of the dangers. I’m taking one for the team… honest.
But, in all fairness, this is in no way as much of an abomination as the subject of my last post. After that, all things appear reasonable. Well… almost.
The Awakened started off looking like it might be reasonable. The start was not too predictable, the building up of characters was fun and the setting, while not startlingly original, was working out ok. But as I got into it (which happened quickly; the book really isn’t very long) all the good work at the beginning sort of fell apart. It feels like a school assignment, where he started out all good intentions and then realised it was due in the morning and rushed the rest before bed. He obviously had a plan of what he was going to do, but the writing and general quality wanders rather downhill as we go further and further in. Some of this is because the characters split up and so we get separate sections with different perspectives, rather than a coherent bundle. I know lots of people do that perfectly pleasingly, but in this case, I feel it was a mistake. It feels… bitty and unco-cordinated, even though you can constantly feel that the author took some care about getting his plot straight before he wrote it all down.
There are other problems which run all the way through the book, but just become more noticeable as the writing deteriorates. Chief among them is the character-writing. At first, you barely notice, because much of the view-point is that of Adair, an adult man, and thus clearly something the author can relate to. But once you start seeing more and more through the eyes of Kael and Maeryn (yeah, don’t even start on the names, it’s not worth fussing over clichés here), a child and a woman, you notice how lacking the author is in the ability to see and think and feel as anything other than what he is. To some extent, I find the problem most evident with Maeryn because, well, I’m a woman, and can sympathise with some of what she gets saddled with, and the way she thinks is just… no. It’s an ill-informed guess at female thought. Even with Kael, a ten year old boy, I can see how wrong the author is. I would be willing to guess he doesn’t have kids himself, else he’d know that, at ten, Kael would be much more mature and advanced than he is. As we go on, his simplistic portrayals just become more and more painful.
The setting, too, becomes steadily more irritating. It’s an obvious Roman Empire rip-off (that’s never been done before in fantasy… oh no) and not even a good one. Some authors at least take the time to make their Roman-style setting one of richly described (well, you’ve got enough sources to draw on) or slightly off-the-mark (luring the reader into a false sense of security and then throwing in wizards or something). But Tesar doesn’t bother. We’ve got a bunch of militaristic dudes, many of whom are frightful sexists. Some swords, some machismo, vague references to polytheistic gods, an Empire and tunics and there we go. It’s not on. If you’re going to do the thing, do the thing well.
Basically, it’s another free Kindle book where the author had a good idea, but lacked the skill to pull it off like a paid and published author. They’re not all like that, I know – A Gift of Thought was pretty decent, after all – but it seems to be becoming a pattern. I am glad that people can self-publish for Kindle and make their books freely available to a wide market without all the faff of publishers and editors, but in so doing, they lose the benefits associated with all that faff – proof-readers and good, critical advice. And those are part, I think, of what makes a book really, really good.