I just finished this epic fantasy novel (on Audible) a few days ago, and am overall unimpressed and a bit irritated.
Right from the start of the book I knew I was in trouble, when during an action sequence he describes a character falling by saying he ‘began to fall’ and what he saw on the way down. Hmm.. that sort of saps all the energy out of the scene, doesn’t it? Well, I thought, I’ll ignore it for now and see if the story is as great as everyone says, even if the writing isn’t so much.
Well, that’s not the last thing characters ‘begin to’ do. Everyone is beginning to do everything, in fact. I can’t count the number of times “And then I began to play” was said (the character is a musician). Why can’t you say.. I drew my fingers across the strings, I strummed an opening chord, I plucked out the first notes, the melody bled from my fingers, or something–anything other than ‘I began to play’.
You might think I’m being overly picky, but this happens so often throughout the book that it became a joke to me. I began to eat (I sunk my teeth into the sausage, because it’s always sausages in these damn fantasy epics), I began to walk (I hit the road, even that tired cliche is better than ‘began to walk’), I began to dance (I stepped and swayed in time to the music), I began to cry (tears brimmed in my eyes). It’s just so lazy it’s irritating, and when it’s used in an action scene it’s almost infuriating. In one scene a fire starts in a building the character is in, and the action is pretty intense and I was really into it when I heard “I began to burn” and all the action ground to a halt and I just groaned out loud. I mean come on! Anything is better than that! “My clothes burst into flame,” there, was that so hard? Imagine this throughout the whole novel. Literally every other paragraph someone is beginning to do something that they could have just done.
Another sort of eye-roll inducing thing about this story is that the author is constantly pointing out how he’s not doing all sorts of cliche things. “Gee, it sure would be like a storybook if X happened, but it’s not going to, because this isn’t a storybook”. Well, it is actually a storybook, and since it’s a fantasy with magic and dragons, there can’t seriously be an expectation for the reader to suspend their disbelief enough to pretend that it might be a true story, so I can only imagine that these ‘look at how not cliche I’m being’ moments must be the author bragging.
Anyway, on to the actual story. I’m not going to give any spoilers but It seems like nothing really important happened. The story is told mostly in first person, framed as some famous or maybe infamous wizard dictating his life story to a scribe. Why, when dictating your life story, you’d go into such mundane details as what kind of shoes you were wearing or what you had for breakfast on your first day at the university, who knows. I don’t mean to be picky again, but most of the time I just don’t understand why he is talking about any of it.
The protagonist’s goal throughout the story is to find out more about the creatures that he thinks killed his parents. But the story instead revolves around him trying to get into a wizard university, and trying to get enough money for tuition, and his feud with one of the other students, and a girl that he fawns over and chases around, and him trying to make money by playing his music, or trying to make money by selling some lamps he made, or trying to make money any other number of ways, and all sorts of other day to day nonsense which might fit into a regular fantasy tale I guess, but this is being told by the protagonist as his own life story. Why is he talking about all this pointless stuff?
I guess this is the first in a trilogy (great) so maybe it’s all important later. Unfortunately I just don’t care enough to get the next one.
I would not begin to (har har) recommend this to anyone, and I don’t understand why it was so popular.