Adding Art to Your Book

Most authors plan to have an elaborate cover for their book.  We’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but…. we all judge books by their covers, so making sure we have a good one for our own is at the top of our pre-publishing checklist.

What about art throughout the book though?

Children’s books, comics, graphic novels, etc will always have lots of art, but for all other categories of books, the art content varies and is usually optional.

Artwork in the book can add to the reader’s experience, or it can take away from it if done poorly.  Choosing to include art really depends on the experience you want the reader to have, just know that whichever you decide it will have a huge impact.

For Isle of Elandia, I’m mulling around the idea of breaking it down into episodes instead of one huge novel.  One of the things I’m considering is adding artwork to each episode.  To test it out, I commissioned UnknownArtist20 from Deviantart to create a character art of Farwen and her horse Inan.  She also recorded a speedpaint which you can view on her youtube channel here.

I’m in love with this image she created, and I’m excited to commission her again for more character drawings in the future.

farwen_and_inan__commission_by_unknownartist20_de2b4cs

Review – The King’s Own, by W. Marshall

A colleague recommended the The King’s Own to me because his friend is the author, so I bought it and gave it a shot.  The first critique I have is that there is no synopsis on the back cover, which makes it look a little amateur and provides a potential reader no clue as to what they will encounter inside.  The front cover, while it’s not plain, doesn’t offer many more clues either except that it takes place in an age of swordplay.  That said, this book has quite a few good reviews on Amazon.com, 27 to be exact, which is no small feat for a self-published author.  This is a prime example of not judging a book by it’s cover.

The short review is this:

A mysterious story with multiple layers of intrigue, filled with unexpected twists and turns and a shocking twist ending.

Long version:

The King’s Own is the story of a man who goes from village farm boy to an elite assassin/guard of the king, and eventually to king himself.  The story begins with the murder of the king and the main character going on the run as the primary suspect, and then continues on, switching back and forth between backstory and present.  The author has done a really great job accomplishing a smooth flow and his ability to keep it interesting is impeccable, and he does it without confusing the hell of the reader.  The transitions from backstory to present and vice versa were seamless, and I was constantly intrigued to learn about the world and unfold the mystery surrounding the king’s death, which is far more intricate than you would ever expect.

This story is the closest thing to the third person objective that I’ve read.  We follow the main character, but we don’t really know what he knows or is thinking like more familiar third person stories.  Instead, we’re just watching, gathering clues, and trying to figure out what is actually going on.  Every scene is written so that we learn more about the character and his motives alongside the overarching plot of whodunit.  I’ve never read a book like this before, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well the author executes this.

Along with the main character, we also get to know his mentor and his sidekick who also have interesting backstories and unique parts to play in the book as well, culminating in a very shocking twist at the very end with his mentor which I didn’t see coming, and I was very happy in my surprise, and totally stunned.

There were a few grammatical errors that I saw, nothing really major that took away from the story or my enjoyment.

One major criticism I have is actually the first four pages of the book.  It begins with a fight scene which is meant to pull me in but it is way over-choreographed and confusing to follow, and it drags on far too long.  The scene is virtually impossible to visualize and I totally gave up doing it three paragraphs in.  Had I not committed to reading the whole thing to write a review I probably would have put the book down on page 2.  That said, once you get through those first four pages it picks up tremendous speed, so push through it, you won’t be sorry.

The other major critique I have for this book is the sex scenes.  They’re not written poorly, there are just a lot of them, and the majority of them do not do anything to move the plot along.  Every female (almost) that the main encounters in the book literally throws herself at him, and it just slows down the story, there’s no real reason for having the scene in there except just to have a sex scene, and I found it more bothersome than exciting.

Another minor thing that I took issue with is one scene where they’re swimming through a moat to break into a castle at midnight, but somehow the main character sees a comrade get snagged, and goes back to free him.  I find it very unrealistic that he’d be able to see anything underwater in the daytime in a mucky moat, nevermind at midnight, but maybe I’m being too nitpicky on that point.

Overall though, I really did enjoy it, I finished it within a couple of days and was blown away at the twist ending.  Every new scene revealed something important about the character and the death of the king.  For swordplay lovers and mystery fans, I highly recommend this book.  I think this author is very talented and I’ll be watching for more novels in the future.

His book is available on amazon through this link here.

 

Soul Searching for Character Development

One thing I’ve learned over the past several weeks is that life is full of surprises, excitements, and disappointments.  Sometimes life seems dull, but others it’s like an emotional roller coaster.  Those moments, the tough ones, the emotional ones, are an invaluable source of inspiration for your novel, in particular: character development.

I’m now several drafts into my novel, and looking back over my previous drafts I can see the stages my thought process went through, beginning with action scenes and quick dialogue to get to the next action sequence and move the story along.  Stage 2 added a little more thought provoking dialogue, a little more backstory to help the reader understand why these action scenes were taking place and to give a little more substance to the wider story arc.  Stage 3 was about tying up loose ends, embellishing certain scenes, smoothing out some rough edges and cutting out some redundancy.  In these 3 stages though, the most fundamental aspect of a reader’s experience was missing or sorely lacking: character development.  Sure, my characters did and said things and the reader usually knew why, but the feelings described were hollow or non-existent.  They didn’t feel real.  The human bond of emotional connection was missing between the reader and the character.

Character development truly makes or breaks a novel, and it can be tricky trying to figure out how to do it successfully.  Loss, grief, fear, anxiety, love, desire, hatred, thrill:  Real emotions which derive from real experiences and real relationships are paramount to character development.  But MJ Pankey, you say, my character did experience loss, his best friend was just badly wounded in front of him!  But as you read that scene, do you feel like your best friend was just badly wounded in front of you?  Tap into your inner psychologist, and tell me what that really feels like.

The emotional struggles make us who we are as individuals.  How we process those emotions, work through them, and overcome them is how we can connect with one another as human beings, and it’s also how we can connect and invest in fictional characters, even if their experiences aren’t real.

Every character who is important to a novel needs this internal struggle.  While my heroine can’t necessarily experience being offered an amazing job and then it falling through a week later in exactly the same way (being a fantasy novel kind of messes that up), I can still incorporate the familiar feelings of excitement and hope for the future, and then the following disappointment when it does not go according to plan.  I know what that feels like, and I can give that to my character.

Describing the internal conflict as actions happen and as scenes unfold is what character development means.  How does this character become better by these experiences, by these scenes, how does this event impact them now to have such a marked influence on a future thought or action?  And the best way to figure that out and get it on paper is to dig deep into your own experiences and describe how you feel/felt/would feel in a similar circumstance, and how did it change your expectations/circumstances/behaviors/beliefs moving forward?

To recap, a story is more than just events, places, things, and actions, it’s about people; real experiences, real emotions, and the kindred connection that a reader has with the character.  To create character development in your novel, you need to do some serious soul searching from your own life experiences.  When was a time you felt embarrassed?  Describe it, give it to your character.  When was a time you felt betrayed by someone?  Describe it, give it to your character.  You get the idea.

So if your novel is lacking some depth, look deep.  Dig up the emotional moments and give your characters a small piece of yourself.  Show your readers the raw humanity we all share between us as a species, and bring your characters to life.

Happy writing!

 

Treading the line between Inspiration and Plagiarism

Every writer is inspired by another’s creativity, it’s just inevitable, yet everyone wants to have an original thought or idea, and no one wants to plagiarize, unless they are specifically writing fanfiction, but even that, as E.L. James has proven with her Fifty Shades series, originally a Twilight fanfiction, can be considered original enough with the proper tweaks.

For the record, the formal definition of plagiarism according to google dictionary is as follows:

“the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own”

That’s pretty vague and the line separating inspiration and plagiarism is fuzzy at best.  Obviously everyone has their own ideas and concerns about the line, and I can’t tell you how many times I have read a book and thought that it reminded me of another book, or that certain descriptions or names sounded really familiar to others in similar genres, as I’m sure you have too.  Is that plagiarism?

Well, I’m going to go through a few tips I use when I draw inspiration from other authors, and how I ensure that I don’t cross that line into plagiarism or some other muddled sibling.  And I’ll do it with an example.

One of the main sources of frustration I’ve personally encountered with my novel Isle of Elandia is writing battle scenes.  So, I decided to listen to an audiobook of the Iliad since it is one entire battle and one of the greatest books ever.

The Iliad is written so that the characters have unique personalities, the battle is expertly choreographed and visual, and it’s very heavy on the gore and details, I can fully immerse myself in the battle for Troy and that’s what I want in my own book!  So how can I do that without plagiarizing?

Firstly, it’s important to recognize the differences between my novel and the Iliad, and every author needs to understand the same when they are drawing inspiration from another author.  For my own part, I don’t really want to drag out the battle scene, especially after several authors in my critique group say they skip battles that drag on and on, even when reading their favorite authors or series.  Obviously this point alone will make it a challenge to plagiarize, since a book length battle such as the Iliad is already far different than a mere chapter.

That’s honestly the biggest tip, recognize the differences between your novel and your favorite author’s.

Rather than copy battle verbiage or incorporate similar specifics, which would be very out of place in my novel in addition to plagiarism, zeroing in on methods the author used to draw in the reader and further the plot is an effective way to draw inspiration.  For example, at one point in the Iliad, the Trojans focus their attack on one part of the wall guarding the Greeks’ ships, which not only added strategy into the battle but also furthered the plot, since once the wall came down it introduced a whole new plethora of emotions, battles, and hero clashes, and it focused the heroes on an attainable goal for a short period.

The inspiration that can be drawn here in my own battle scene is to focus my heroes on a goal within the overall battle, such as sinking a particular warship, destroying a battering ram before it breaks down the gate, or some other strategic sabotage that will introduce areas where I can expand character development, further along my unique plot, and keep my readers’ interest.  My one battle scene is a scene, not a book, and because of this fact, adding extra details, gore, and lengthy descriptions of individual fights –while that drew me into the Iliad and made me feel like I was on the battlefield– it just will not work for my story because the purpose of my book is not to glorify war, and neither is my battle scene.  My battle scene’s goal is just to destroy this warship.

Sidebar:  I think too often authors try to describe too much in scenes, and some of it is more fluff than plot thickening and is due in part to trying to replicate another author’s ideas to accomplish the same affect and achieve the same success.  However, due to the fundamental differences between the two novels, it doesn’t have the same affect on your novel, and it’s borderline plagiarism and will lose your reader.  So again, recognize the differences, capitalize on them, and expand them in your novel.

So to summarize, plagiarism and inspiration can sometimes seem like a fine line.  But the first step to defining that line is to recognize the differences between your novel and the one you are drawing inspiration from.  Once you do, capitalize on those differences throughout your book.  Analyze the methods your favorite author used to keep your interest rather than replicating exactly how they did it.  Avoid sharing specifics in common, and avoid adding in extra details that don’t further along your plot.  Just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you, and most likely it won’t.

If you find that there aren’t that many differences to capitalize on or that they are so minor (like only names or colors) that they can be overlooked, then it may be time to re-evaluate your novel.

Best of luck writing!

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe!

 

Review: Long Grows the Dark, by Catherine Labadie

A couple of years ago I reviewed Vixen by Sarah Catherine Muth.  This author has recently published a new novel under the name Catherine Labadie, and I was stoked to receive her request to review it!  I purchased the 427 page hard back edition of Long Grows the Dark and finished it in 3 days.  Suffice to say I was hooked from the start.

The back cover reads:

Glenna marveled at the increasing chills creeping up and down her arms. She tried to close the book, first casually, then attempting to force the covers together with both hands. Neither of them budged or gave the remotest indication that they would close, and the words seemed to be etched onto her mind’s long after she’d stopped focusing on them. To her horror, the book flipped to the opening page of its own free will and began repeating the message, over and over and over again in increasingly bright ink.

Red is the color of Fate, and Scarlet the color of the Blood, Glenna thought, the words not entirely her own. Crimson be the tide that will sweep over the land should hope fade to dark.

The room grew warm, then hot, as if bonfires were burning in the vicinity. Yet her chills remained, wracking her body with shivers she could not explain. When the book flipped to the last page with t-t-t-t noise as the parchment fluttered against itself, she felt the cold settle into her bones.

Prepare Yourself.

****

An interesting preview that gives the reader an idea that there is magic and mystery between the covers.  The words “Glenna thought” while she’s actually reading the text though bothered me a bit, but alas, it didn’t keep me from delving in.

This book has something for everyone, medieval fantasy, urban fantasy, supernatural beings, magic, romance, intrigue, creativity, good dialogue, battle, and more!

Long Grows the Dark follows Glenna, an enchantress from many centuries ago who is in love with her best friend’s fiance; and Gwendoline, a college student living present day who is actually (slight spoiler) Glenna reincarnated.  Both time threads center around Glenna/Gwendoline’s relationship with her best friends, and we soon learn that Glenna and crew failed to vanquish an evil in the past, and now it’s back in the present, and Glenna must figure out how to not fail this time and save her friends.  Each chapter switches between Glenna and Gwendoline’s POV and lays out the dilemma of yesteryear and today with a nice flow and at a great pace.  About 1/4 of the way through the book, the magic of a fated spell book unites the two timelines in the present, giving us just enough to connect with the past and to understand the peril without taking anything away from the present conflict.

I will try not to give away any spoilers, but I will say a few things that I really really liked about the book.

  1. The very first chapter with Gwendoline told me a lot about her, not by info dumping, but through clever dialogue, attitude, and action.  Her interaction with her best friend was so natural that I was smiling because it reminded me of myself with my best friend – it was great
  2. The whole script was so naturally written that I didn’t have a hard time imagining the scenes unfold, and they weren’t forced on me either.  The author has a writing style that describes it enough to picture, but not enough to squash my own imagination.  I really appreciated that and give kudos, that is talented writing
  3. Magic is part of this world as much as people wearing clothes.  The author does not delve into detail about how magic works or why, she just uses it, everywhere, and trusts the reader to understand and accept it, and it works.  I was not disappointed, annoyed, or confused.  There are familiars, supernatural powers, enchanted objects, spells and curses and the author does not info dump at all and with her writing style she doesn’t have to, it was like magic
  4. The enchanted object named Niles in the present, and the knight named Niles in the past added a layer of mystery that kept me wanting to find out how they were connected, it was a little obvious that they were one and the same, which made finding out how that came to be intriguing and fun, especially since Niles is a very witty and charming character
  5. Describing separate timelines in the same world can be challenging to make distinctive and paint a clear evolution between the two that is believable to the reader, but Labadie executes this nicely.  I’ve read many novels where literally the only thing that separates centuries of time is clothes and cars, and that is super annoying to read, but Long Grows the Dark paints a believable transition even where the use of magic is concerned – a small difference with a huge impact
  6. There is a passage where Glenna is struggling with her enchanted book Niles and it’s giving her attitude.  The way she tells this struggle was humorous, not overly descriptive, and enjoyable.  It added a natural lightness to the flow and story that I really liked – so much so that I made a note of it
  7. The author knows how to write a tasteful sexual encounter.  There are two sex scenes and the author did an excellent job in not making them icky, cliche, awkward, or filled with grimace-worthy descriptors for private parts (thank you!).  Not an easy task.  They were also well placed and added to the story, which is a must for sex scenes in my opinion.  They weren’t thrown in as an extra because the book has a romance arc
  8. The realistic portrayal of friendship and its challenges.  I appreciated the way the author has developed her characters’ friendship in the past and present, and includes the ugly reality that no one really wants to admit exists.  Without any spoilers, there are some things that happen with the friendship in both timelines with far-reaching consequences.  A lot of books focus on friends ultimately vanquishing evil and becoming united, which this book does too, but after the dust settles the author focuses a lot of attention on the toll of the battle, the decisions leading up, and the scars that remain after victory.  This isn’t a book about defeating the foe and going back to the same grind or happily ever after, this is a war that has a lasting impact on the characters and their friends.  As I read it, I honestly did not know what was going to happen, the unpredictability was refreshing
  9. The final battle.  The climactic finale to the entire book was a really enjoyable read, there is significantly enough time devoted to it, it is action packed, the lead up was great and thrilling and page turning, and the moving parts all went very well together.  There is a ton of magical elements woven in that both add to the story and feel natural to the setting and not forced, and there’s even an encounter with a supernatural that is interesting and ties up some loose threads, and of course an action packed battle scene with good choreography and tension

Now on to a few things that I felt detracted a bit from the story:

  1. Throughout the novel there are several places where it could have used a beta read and spellchecking to identify a few inconsistencies.  For example, at the end of chapter 6 Everleigh is looking at Niles with a fiendish expression, but then the beginning of chapter 7 states that she hadn’t noticed him yet, so that seemed a little inconsistent to me.  It was minor, but it made me squint
  2. The use of “exact replica” to describe the resemblance between Glenna and Gwendoline.  The word replica to me doesn’t seem like a fitting word to compare two people, and it felt a bit lazy.  Bringing this detail out in dialogue or even just a thought in Niles’ head would have sufficed, once.  The description that the bad guy has pointy teeth is a little overstated as well
  3. In one scene, Gwendoline casts a protection spell in her yard in order to practice fireballs, but when the fireball goes into the neighbor’s yard and destroys the trash can I was a little confused what good the protection spell was for.  I still enjoyed the scene, but this made me pause
  4. One of the heroes dies in a dual, (kind of spoiler???) and during the fight there’s excellent action, I’m on the edge of my seat and then….. he gets distracted for several moments and gets killed.  I didn’t find this realistic at all for a trained warrior to be in a life or death situation with one opponent and then just squirrel out and die – I was very upset.  This was a good character, and it seemed like such an uncharacteristic rookie mistake for him to make
  5. At one point the author describes Glenna’s reaction to finding out she is a reincarnated sorceress as “The story founded fantastic, unbelievable to the extreme even for a magic based world”.  This sounds like commentary more than character POV, and using “Magic based world” as how Glenna perceives her own world (the only one she knows, or at least, the only one that we know she knows) seemed odd, what other world would there be?  It just seemed like the author was trying to justify her magic to the reader when she didn’t have to
  6. There is a place also where it mentions the bad guy biting the neck of the princess in some kind of bonding ritual, but then the bond obviously didn’t stick and it was not fully explained what exactly biting someone would do nor why that was necessary since he isn’t really a vampire.  The other magical elements needed no explanation but this one could have used a bit more.  It’s only mentioned once or twice in no great detail so it seems weird to be there.  Perhaps it will be explained more in book 2
  7. The final battle.  I’ve already stated that I enjoyed the final battle scene and the lead up.  The part I had an issue with was the Deus Ex Machina – at the last second Gwendoline understands how to use her superpower without any guidance or training or….anything….and through this knowledge is able to defeat the bad guy.  I may have been able to let it slide except that this final blow to the enemy is a pretty complicated maneuver to just happen to figure out on the fly, and her much more sophisticated and magic savvy past self didn’t come close to figuring it out.  The move itself definitely worked, tied up some loose ends, and was badass, but I really wish that Gwendoline had maybe come across a passage in an ancient script or some mythology article she’d read online, a TV commercial (kidding…?), some hint that alluded to this superpower that she could recall later, or that at least would help her piece together the final move in a way that wasn’t just horribly convenient.  As cliche as that would have been, it seemed unlikely to just “know”.  Despite the adequate attention and lead up given to this final confrontation, this one thing made it feel a bit unfinished.

The things I mentioned are certainly not deal breakers.  This book was a fun and thrilling read, and I’ve already recommended it to a few friends.  Despite raising a 1 year old, working full-time, and going to school, I found time to read this book cover to cover in 3 days.  Long Grows the Dark was creative, interesting, easy to follow and smooth to imagine without forcing an image into my head.  The dialogue was funny, descriptive, relevant, and natural.  I really enjoyed having my imagination fully engaged and I could very clearly see how much original thought and talent went into this book.  It was hard to put it down, and I scarcely did.

I will continue to watch this author to see what she writes next.  She is two for two, as her first novel Vixen was also a great read.  If you wish to purchase this book and read it for yourself, you can click this link – Long Grows the Dark – Catherine Labadie.  You will not be sorry!

Inkitt: Is it worth a try?

A couple of months ago I stumbled across Inkitt.com, a reader directed publishing platform that has seen popularity in the UK.  After researching a few publishing houses and having already tried my hand at self-publishing, I was open to new ideas.

Inkitt’s premise is that writers can publish on their site for free.  The books that generate the most interest are offered a publishing contract with them.  The founder created this site after learning that J.K. Rowling was turned away by big publishing houses more than 10 times, and was only considered by one when the editor’s daughter took an interest in the book and began sharing it with her friends.  Appalled by this, the founder of Inkitt decided to create a publishing solution that would allow books like Harry Potter to be discovered immediately and published.  In effect, weeding out publishing house error.  What a fantastic idea!

The terms and conditions to use their site is short and simple.  The author retains all rights to the work, can remove their content from Inkitt at any time, and other such author coveted ownership guarantees.  Another great aspect, is that you can publish your book as In Progress, so you can receive feedback from readers while you are writing it, which is awesome!  The Publication contract, should your novel be popular enough to be offered one, is also available to view.

The best part is that all genres are welcome, including fan fiction, and it’s free to read any novels!  It’s like having a Kindle Unlimited without having to pay for it, or a Library at your fingertips.

The user interface is also pretty easy to navigate.  There is an easy fill option for everything so you don’t have to worry about moving things around or arranging text boxes “just so”, it’s all done for you and is standardized so that the novel content is what is truly being evaluated, not how much it appears like a “legitimate” novel in comparison to the others on the site.

You have to have a cover image (and they do have a cover creator you can utilize if you do not have your own image), a teaser, and a hook.  These are excellent to supply on this publishing platform because those are what grabs the reader’s attention, so having reader feedback is invaluable to helping you get it right before you publish. It’s literally having beta readers galore!

I know what you’re thinking though.  “My work is just hanging out there for anyone to steal and claim as their own.”  I thought the same thing once upon a time.  The truth is, once your work is on the internet, it’s copyrighted, timestamped, and yours without dispute.  Having your work out there on Inkitt.com protects your work even more so simply because it’s a legitimate platform lauded by the BBC, The Guardian, and several other big names, and it’s blatant that you, and no one else, are the author of the work.  No one is going to steal your story, even if you aren’t technically “officially” published yet.

I also want to mention the Analytics page which allows you to track how many people have read your novel, and how many times each chapter has been read so that you can see trends and improve your story where you need to.  So, if you have 20 reads for chapter 5, and 4 reads on chapter 6, it’s a sure indicator that you need to make some adjustments somewhere between 5 and 6 so more readers won’t abandon you.

Additionally, Inkitt offers several other valuable tools for writers and authors.  A novel writing bootcamp hosted by the editor of the Song of Fire and Ice series, a writer’s blog full of helpful articles, and a list of promotional websites and tools for you to get your book more publicity and visibility.  I actually discovered and read a fantastic book –Bridge of Sighs and Dreams–  through one of those very links, and I will be posting a review on it soon, so stay tuned for that!

And it’s all free!  Just sign up with your email address and voila!!!!

I decided to give it a shot and test the experience.  My sister painted the cover for my novel a few years ago and it looks stunning and was simple and easy to upload!  Inkitt even throws in an ominous background (a distorted portion of your cover image) that makes the book resemble a promotional poster.  I am pleased with the way it looks on the website.  The featured image in this blog is a screen capture of my novel from Inkitt.

My novel “Isle of Elandia: Bloodline” is on the site as a work “In Progress”.  Currently, only the Prologue and first 2 chapters are uploaded, and since its debut on November 15, I’ve had a total of 19 readers.  None, however, since November 19th.  So that tells me that once a book has been out there for longer than a few days it probably gets buried beneath a heap of new publications.

Also of note: 19 readers is not enough to report chapter data.  I’m not exactly sure if this means that those 19 readers didn’t go beyond the prologue and therefore the chapter data is 0, or if there is a reader threshold higher than 19 that must be met to initiate, or  if there is a certain number of chapters that must be published in order to trigger a report for this more specific analytic.  I don’t know!  Time and experimentation will reveal, but I am definitely going to continue to experiment with it!

In a few days I will upload chapter 3.  My hope is that the new chapter addition will unbury my novel and put it back at the top of the list.  If I start seeing the reader number go up then I can assume that adding a chapter refreshes the book’s location.  If it stays at 19, well…. I will need to explore other methods to try and boost it’s visibility to readers.

I will continue to update my blog as I learn more through my publishing experience with Inkitt.  To learn along with me, please subscribe!  And definitely check out Inkitt.com for yourself, if not to publish, then at least to enjoy a free read on a fresh novel!

Review: The Immortal Serpent – K.E. Barron

I was very thrilled to receive an email from the author of Eye of Verishten requesting a review of her second book, The Immortal Serpent last year.  Due to having a baby and some other life changing events, I haven’t had the opportunity to review it until now.  I’m also very flattered that she gave my blog a shoutout on her front page.  So, here is the long awaited review of The Immortal Serpent!

The synopsis reads:

Always forward; Never back

Jeth, cursed at birth, is forced to leave his homeland and find a place for himself in a world descending into war.  Overnight, he goes from fervent soldier to desert thief who now must lie, cheat, and steal to survive in a hostile, foreign land alongside an enigmatic and sultry companion.

Across the ocean, Vidya undergoes a harrowing transformation into a winged weapon that will avenge her mother and save her island nation.

Their fates are entwined by the infamous Overlord of Herran.  One is running from him, the other is hunting him.  Neither can escape the Immortal Serpent.
Pretty attention grabbing description.  I’ve read the Eye of Verishten (EOT), written by this author, and was blown away by it, so I was very excited to read this one.  Just like with EOT, this author has created her scenes with familiar hollywood imagery that makes it easy to imagine, but in a way that sets it apart and makes it stand on its alone.  I’m going to first talk about the things I loved about this book.

The story begins with Vidya and her transformation, and it sucked me in immediately.  The intense imagery, the violence, the mythology, the emotion of the scene, it was all so intriguing I was hooked.  A very well done opening.  I’m a huge mythology — especially Greek mythology — buff.  And while the Siren colony in Immortal Serpent isn’t exactly like the Greek myths, it certainly resonated with me, especially being at the start of the book.  I love how the author took a well known concept and transformed it into something unique.

Then we switch to Jeth, the main character, and who we met in EOT where he played a side kick/comic relief role.  The author has maintained the comedic witty character here, and I’m happy that I recognize him in more than just name between the two novels.

The first thing I’ll mention is the dialogue.  There were so many excellent interactions throughout the book between Jeth and the other characters, and the scenes felt very organic and real.  The author is very talented in coming up with realistic conversations and witty phrases, and I was really drawn in by them.

I also appreciated the subtle references made to EOT, like little Easter eggs for fans through phrases here and there.  They were not overdone and were interesting.  Even with these references, they’re so subtle that this book still stands on its own… for the most part.  More about that later.

The map at the beginning of the book was a nice addition, it put everything into perspective as I read and eliminated the need for boring drawn out descriptions of where the characters were going.  There was a lot of traveling around in this book, and the map made it very easy on the eyes and brain to keep track.

Where EOT focused primarily on Ingleheim, this book weaves together many different regions, and she does it quite seamlessly.  There is a lot going on, but it’s balanced well.  At the root of it all and bringing all these regions harmoniously together is the mythology.  About 3/4 of the way through the book, this mythology is clearly laid out in one scene that I absolutely loved.  I really appreciate a good mythology, and the author has created a completely new world, with new gods, a new creation story, a new Apocalypse —  it’s fantastic.  I really enjoyed this piece and the book really picked up speed after this mythology is explored in depth, and I could not put it down after.

I really appreciated several of the supporting characters in this book, namely Snake-Eye, who at first seemed to just be a powerful overlord type but really ended up being a complicated figure more central to the story than I expected.  I also found humor in the fact that Jeth and Vidya held differing opinions on whether Snake-Eye was a male or female, which was never truly revealed to the reader, and that added some lightness to this character and mystery that I enjoyed.

I also liked the character Melikheil, the mage.  He is mentioned in EOT and is painted as a rather unsavory character there, but in the Immortal Serpent, his moral character is left to the reader’s interpretation, and we’re only allowed to watch what he does and judge him based off of that, which I appreciated.  I still feel like he’s a nasty person, but what he does in this book makes me wonder about his true motives, and it’s a good kind of curiosity.  So well done on that point as well.  I have a feeling that the author has a special place for this character in her world.

The book ends well and wraps up the main story arc, while still leaving a few things left to explore for book 2 – namely the origin of humanity according to the mythology, which I am very interested to learn about – and it also opens a new arc for Vidya and her conquest to save her island.  I find it fitting that the book should both begin and end with her, and both ends leave the reader wanting more.

Now onto a few things that I had some issues with.

Jeth’s love interest, Anwarr, is introduced as a sly, sexy, sophisticated woman who is out to get what she wants and is not interested in looking back or feeling sorry for whoever gets in her way.  She is a very strong character at first, and I liked her a lot.  As the book progresses however, she morphs into a sort of whiny, sensitive type that is common in most romance novels, and she quickly lost her sophistication and mystery, making some of the scenes with her and Jeth drag on.

I didn’t feel a real connection between them, and in fact, the whole time I thought their relationship was temporary until Jeth’s first love mentioned at the beginning of the book came into play.  When she never did, I felt a bit misled.  I would have invested much more interest into Anwarr and Jeth’s relationship if I had not been holding out for the other girl to arrive on the scene.  After finishing the book, why she was even mentioned at all is confusing to me.  There was very little conflict with Jeth in letting her go and starting his relationship with Anwarr, and it made him seem very shallow, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of his personality.  This other love interest was never mentioned again, and it felt like a tiny loose end that had a huge impact on how I viewed the entire story.

There’s also a very erotic sex scene that comes out of nowhere and does little to enhance their relationship or move along the story, and there is nothing for the reader to imagine since it is so choreographed and detailed.  The style isn’t consistent with the other sexual encounters Jeth has in the book either, making this one seem really out of place.  It didn’t help that I was a disenchanted with their romance at this point.

Anwarr’s true importance to the overall story snuck into the last quarter of the book.  The mystery surrounding her at the beginning was highly warranted for her part later, but somewhere in the middle it took a vacation.  I was honestly expecting her to disappear forever at one point, and not have such a key role.  Her final scene in the book was very heart-wrenching, shocking, and again, came out of nowhere, which redeemed her a bit, but Anwarr’s character seems to change and shift so suddenly throughout the book that she just seems lost between her great start and gripping ending.

More about the middle of the book:  There are lots of scenes where Jeth and/or Vidya are getting into arguments or fights with each other or another character, the typical “that’s my girl not yours” type arguments from Jeth, and the “I’m a badass chick who can snap men like twigs” type scenes from Vidya.  Scene after scene of brawls, thrown fists, snide back talking that turns physical, tables and shelves etc that are dislodged by some altercation or another, bodies flying, that it really became reminiscent of a 90s TV show, Xena came to mind.  Every episode of Xena has a fight scene in it, and every chapter, or so it seemed, had some kind of exaggerated tension, and much of it didn’t move the story along at all, it just slowed my progress through the middle significantly, and was very unnecessary for character development.  It is very clear by the opening scene that Vidya is bad ass female.  Same with Jeth, his strength, skills, and devoted personality is so well laid out early on that these scenes were repetitive, not to mention super choreographed and reminiscent of a screenplay more than a novel.

I mentioned earlier that this book, though taking place in the same world as EOT, mostly stands on its own.  Where it deviates from this is the part of the timeline where Jeth goes to Ingleheim.  The readers who have not read EOT will find this very confusing.  In the space of a paragraph, Jeth goes to Ingleheim and returns, and characters he meets in EOT are mentioned as though the readers of Immortal Serpent know who they are.  For fans of the author, this is not really a problem, and the Easter eggs may bring some nostalgia.  But for new readers, this would be highly confusing, and would seem to introduce new characters and story arcs that fizzle out immediately.  There is also an EOT bad guy named General Nadila who is brought in at the end and given no introduction, even though his interaction with Jeth makes it obvious that there is a previous relationship.  Readers who have not read EOT will be very confused.  Given that this book is marketed as a standalone, I really think it detracts a lot from the story.

In the end, the gods of the mythology actually start battling which I thought was super duper awesome!  I love bringing higher powers into mortal conflicts, it really makes me tingle, especially when the mythology is as good as the Immortal Serpent.  However, it felt rushed, and was given less attention than the brawl scenes that encompassed page after page.  For the overarching impact this battle had on the story, the attention given to it was severely underwhelming, and it had so. much. potential.  This was the climax of Jeth’s entire journey, and I wanted it to be EPIC.

Overall, despite the issues I had with it, I really did enjoy this book, especially the first half and the way the author wove her complex world together with so many different cultures.  The mythology, wit, charm, and mystery surrounding the novel’s main theme was very complex, well thought out, and kept the pages turning.  I will definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out.

The Immortal Serpent, by K.E. Barron, can be purchased on Amazon and through her website www.kebarron.com.  There is also some pretty awesome book art that she has up on her website too that brings a little more magic to her novels.

If you enjoyed this review, please subscribe!  And please feel free to suggest more self-published books for review!

 

%d bloggers like this: