I received a free copy for review of this soon-to-be-released book. It is fantasy, not a genre I usually read, although I have enjoyed a number of short stories in the genre over the last couple of years.
The basic plot is a young man, a successful author of a fantasy series set in a more-or-less medieval land, complete with castle, sorceress, fire breathing dragon, and all the inconveniences of the medieval life, is mucking around with the fifth and final book in the series, having lost his mojo and ideas of where to take the story. Then suddenly, BAM, he wakes up to find himself smack in the middle of his story. Yep. He is in Medieval Land.
He has been brought there by a spell because things are going so badly for the folks there. A drought, that dragon I mentioned, people just disappearing without a trace, hunger because of the drought, and so forth and so on. They want him to make things better.
(OK, this is why I don’t read fantasy. First of all, why are so many of them set in quasi-medieval settings? Do cold and drafty castles, outdoor plumbing and having to walk everywhere seem so romantic?)
Well, no matter. To continue: if this is a story, how did these people get the idea there was an author, one who concocted their world and their lives? This was never satisfactorily explained, rather glossed over, in fact. Next, he agrees to improve things by going back and rewriting and changing his plot ideas. Except now the nice lady sorceress cannot work out a spell to send him back. But she has been working on sending back his toothbrush. And calls it that. How can she even know what a toothbrush is? I don’t even remember how the toothbrush came to be with him.
So if we readers could be given some coherent explanation of how these storyland people knew he existed and existed in another dimension or whatever, it would make the whole plot line more interesting. Because here’s where it does get interesting. These people have a whole backstory, a history, that the author knows nothing about and didn’t create. There are locations in the region he knows nothing about, and lots of other people that he didn’t write. Some of his flatter characters are actually quite intriguing when met in person. But he never gave them those depths and personalities. OK, so you can see how interesting this could be if handled right.
But here’s what happens. As he is wandering around the castle trying to find his room, he is vamped on by some oversexed sweetie. There is almost a sex scene. Sigh. The requisite sex scene. And totally unnecessary to move the story along because this woman never appears again. Nor does any sex. But it does create a scene where one of the main characters can burst into the room (without knocking, of course), to find them in a compromising situation.
Which brings me to my next cavil — people are always coming into rooms and overhearing something which they take wrong and makes things harder for the beleaguered author. It happened four times when I stopped counting. Once is a plot device, four times is just laziness and not knowing how to kick the action into the next scenario.
The voice of the writing tends to be upbeat and kicky. In fact, I originally thought it was a YA book … until the sex scene. But the action becomes violent, bloody, and gratuitous, not in keeping at all with the writing style. Rather disconcerting.
There is a villain, of course, who is really over-the-top evil, and who in fact somehow knows about the dimension in which the protagonist author lives, makes a spell which hauls a young woman from the author’s world to whom the author is attracted to, back into the story to be held as hostage.
Probably three quarters of the book consists of violence and bloody battle scenes. I found it incomprehensible and tedious, the characters trite and rather stereotypical, and the protagonist author something of a dim bulb, and not one which the reader can work up a lot of enthusiasm for.
One thing that kept running through my mind as I read was if the author couldn’t get back to his world to do a rewrite, why didn’t he just do it there, with paper and quill? Or at least try? That was never addressed and to my mind a glaring hole in the plot.
The final thing as this book dragged on through battle after battle, was: this is a story. Even though they think they have a life and a backstory, they are fictitious characters. They are not real. Much as the protagonist author gets to thinking they are, they aren’t. They are a story.
Final verdict: Tedious story that starts out good, but devolves into a lot of negative crap. Very interesting trope of an author getting transported into his own work, not new, but definitely something to work with, with the added conundrum of just what constitutes ‘real’, and the deeper question about unreality actually having a future. If a writer doesn’t write it, can it exist?
This is the first volume of a planned trilogy.