It’s that time AGAINNNNN *dun dun dun* – time for Esme and I to chop a few of our pile out to make room for semifinalists. Here are the cuts for this week:
Kristen’s Cut #1 – The Keeper and the Rulership by Emily Martha Sorensen – Status: DNF 30%
This is the story of Raneh, who is the oldest daughter of a family of landowners. In this world, owning land makes you something like nobility. There is a lot of weight put on the importance of land, and gardens, and plants. Those who have magical abilities can never be landowners, but only the vassals thereof. Same goes for mathematics, for some reason. Raneh does have magic, and desperately tries to hide that fact from her family and her possible suitors so that she doesn’t have to give up her status as a landowner.
It was a pretty well written book, and well edited.
I found it a bit confusing at times, specifically regarding a strange system of currency in their world known as status, which is both a currency and a literal display of status combined into one. It seemed a magical ability, despite the restriction on the use of magic, so that was odd. One of the girls at a ball takes a chunk of Raneh’s status by being jealous of her, and I will admit that I really soured on this idea of a world where people can take what is essentially your money/livelihood by hating you in your general direction. In a world where more than one person has shown pettiness and jealousy… yeah, no thank you at all. This is also a world where animals (in general, apparently) are nearly extinct, to the point where Raneh, a noblewoman and thus somewhat educated, had no idea what an animal was. I had a tough time imagining that one, considering that these people still have all kinds of fabrics and baked goods. Perhaps it’s explained. Perhaps not.
So, this one will certainly be up someone’s alley, but I mainly found it a little too slow to stay invested with characters I didn’t really care about in a setting I didn’t really care for. This would probably appeal to someone who is looking for a light magical YA noblebright fantasy. Not something I actively dislike, but I generally need a character to like in a book like this and just didn’t really click with Raneh. C’est la vie!~
Esme’s Cut #1 – The Knight With Two Swords by Edward M Erdelac – Status: DNF 18%
I knew this was based on the Arthurian legends going into it, I haven’t read too many of those so I went into it pretty open-minded and hoping for something fresh. The first thing that stuck out to me was the “first this happened, then this happened” approach to the plotline which made it feel more like a biography/history than a narrative. This issue was made a little more noticeable since the plotline advances incredibly fast and moves from one event to the next in just a few pages. By 9% there were already two time skips and the characters went from children to adults. Because the characters motivations, personalities, and beliefs were all presented via info dump they felt distant to me and it was difficult to invest in their success or failure. The world-building also had a bunch of info dumps which added to a textbook-like feel to it. Unfortunately, the dialogue just wasn’t working for me either, it’s an old school style with dialogue like: “This night I have seen, in the mettle of my enemy, the spirit of the father, King Uther, which I cannot deny!” or “Do ye, do ye. Well, ye may as well ride along with us then… for we’re headed to the king’s camp. Come and protect an old woodcutter’s precious cargo”. If this were done just during ceremonies or rituals that may have gone over with me a bit better, but that’s a fairly good representation of what to expect throughout. I’ve read some reviews for this book and other people find the writing style both impressive and a highlight of their reading experience – so this is a personal thing that just didn’t work for me. I’ve also gathered from other people’s reviews that this is an accurate representation of the Arthurian legends and would appeal to those who really enjoy the lore and myth surrounding that time period and place. If you’re looking for a different sort of reading and really enjoy Arthurian legends this could be for you!
Esme’s Cut #2 – Lake of Sins: Escape by L.S. O’Dea – Status: DNF 31%
This is advertised as a unique dystopian YA. I don’t usually reach for YA when I’m looking for something to read, but they can be fun, and there’s more than a few I’ve really enjoyed. If you market your books as something “different” I’ll typically take a look at it. So, I went in with high hopes for this book.
Trinity is the first POV introduced, she’s an older teen growing up in a dystopian sort of world – long ago the Earth suffered a catastrophe where most animals over 20 lbs went extinct, and most humans/civilizations died out. People’s stature in society depend on their working class, it’s a pretty strict caste system that’s made even more iron-fisted with a cull of the population at 17 years old known as “The Harvest”. Trinity belongs to a caste known as the Producers, and they aren’t that high on the totem pole. As Trinity’s day of reckoning comes closer, where she will learn whether she gets to stay or if she’s going to be put on the Harvest list, she goes out into the woods to try and find out what happens to those who are Harvested. As you can imagine, things don’t go as planned, she ends up in a bit of trouble, and what she finds out about the Harvest is obviously not anything good. In this way I did find the plot and character a bit predictable, I’ve seen many versions of this kind of story. There are other cliches as well, like the childhood bully, the awkward crush, feeling like an outcast etc.
I did start to become a little more invested as the world building expanded a bit, I was interested in this lost race of creatures known as Trackers came into the picture. I’m a fan of lost races, non human species, and original fantasy creatures. The Tracker that Trinity gets to know, Mirra, is probably my favorite character of the book. There’s another race called the Handler’s who, at one point, were paired up with the Trackers as a duo symbiotic relationship. The River-men are part fish and part human and typically aggressive, it’s best not to get too close to certain rivers unless you want to be drowned.
The writing could be awkward or me at times, the dialogue in particular was a bit off putting because it sounded a tad juvenile/YA to me. The writing was also very clinical with certain topics, likely because of the strict control of marriage/breeding. The Almighty’s control who has kids with who and so “offspring” is used instead of “children”, and “mate” instead of “husband/wife”. This isn’t so much as a complaint as it is a note on style. Outside of this, the prose was utilitarian and very quick, there’s not a lot of time spent on turns of phrase or lyrical writing which is typical for the genre and speeds the story along.
Around 16% into the book there’s a second POV introduced, there had already been scenes with Troy in Trinity’s chapter so I jumped into his head pretty easily. Since it took almost a fifth of the book to change characters I felt like I had a really good handle on Trinity before it switched, I tend to prefer that over head hopping early on. All in all the pacing was pretty smooth and consistent.
There is LGBT representation, this world’s society is very anti-LGBT so the characters are in danger if they were ever caught as public execution is the most common response to gay people, it’s a m/m romance.
If you want a fast YA read with interesting world building this one could be for you, especially if you’re into dystopian worlds. Although I DNF’d, there’s nothing wrong with this book, it just didn’t stand out enough to be a semi finalist.
Esme’s Cut #3 – Adventurer Academy: Greyblood by Daniel Prince – Status: Read 100%
I’ve read a bunch of LitRPG’s over the last few years, some of them have been great and others have been rather lackluster. When I saw we had a LitRPG on our list I instantly put that one into my grouping hoping for something fun.
This is a story about a half-orc trying to make it in a world where the “greybloods” are hated, feared, and executed. He’s been living undercover for 20 years with his adoptive mother. She found him abandoned in the woods and gave up her own family to try and raise him (her father wanted to kill the kid). Things have been going smoothly over the past two decades, he and his mom have a good and healthy relationship with only one real stress point – his future career. Lugor wants to be an Adventurer and help clear out dungeons and kill monsters – his mom wants him in the much less dangerous field of Blacksmithing. At the start of the book he’s an apprentice blacksmith working for a gruff middle-aged dude, and things are set up so he’ll inherit the smithy once his master retires. Lugor is struggling with his temper more and more often, and his tusks are coming in faster than they had before which is proving to be a real problem. He has to file down his tusks to hide his true identity. He acts a little young for his age, and the relationship with him and his mom also seems to be a bit immature. There’s a scene where he hops into bed when the sun comes up to hide the fact he’s been out all night, which feels more like a teenager move than someone who’s twenty.
As can be predicted via the title of the book, Lugor finally makes the decision to become an Adventurer even if his mom isn’t fully behind the idea and he sets off to join the Adventurer’s Academy about a third of the way through the book. It takes until a little over half the book to actually arrive at said Academy, so for me the pacing dragged a bit during his travels. Even with the slow down, the writing was very utilitarian straight which made for super quick reading, I was finished within a day and a half. I’m pretty sure there was a Skyrim reference about sweet rolls being stolen.
The world works like a video game, if you kill a goblin you get a certain amount of XP, it pops up in your vision and it’s just part of daily living. I’d say this is actually rather low key with the stats when compared to other LitRPG’s, but it’s definitely there. Monsters essentially respawn, their souls go to the monster plane where they can be summoned back to fight again. There’s neat shit like necromancers, skeleton cats, and Treants.
This is another instance where there was nothing wrong with the book, I read this one all the way through to the end – I just don’t see it being semifinalist material. Kristen and I are only nominating two or three semi-finalists each, with a preference on just two each. I do think the target audience would enjoy this quite a bit, so if you know a teen into LitRPG this would probably appeal to them. Since I did finish this instead of DNF’ing, I’ve also provided ratings for this one.
- Plot: 10/15
- Characters: 10.5/15
- World-Building: 11/15
- Writing: 11/15
- Pacing: 10/15
- Originality: 9/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 6/10
Final Score: 67.5 –> 6.8/10 SPFBO –> 3.4/5 GR stars
And so then there were 20! Commiserations to the cut, and best of luck to those who remain!
Feel free to check out our Progress Report for a better look at what we’ve got going on. ^_^