What I gleaned about the story: An old warrior rescues his young daughter from the clutches of an evil wizard and then flees with her into exile, in a desperate bid to find the something something that will put the world right again. And maybe it can even fix whatever disturbing thing has been done to the child.
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Analysis: In the opening scene, our hero, an almost elderly man, comes in carrying a girl (appx 8-10 yrs old) in both hands. Plus he’s carrying a sword in one hand. And it sounds like he actually may have fought in those circumstances. A baby under one arm, I could visualize. But a 10-year old? Held in both arms? While you duel against wicked guardsmen? This all happened offscreen, so I could have some of the details wrong, but that’s the picture that formed as the scene played out and coughed up its bits of backstory. I had to go back and re-read things a couple of times, too. So immersion definitely broke.
Analysis: Still the first scene. The old man’s cloak is still covered in blood from the offstage fight. He approaches guards at the castle gate. They talk. He makes up a story about where he’s going with the girl, and they let him leave. Several seconds later, when he’s already passing through the gate, they call him back, because they’ve spotted the blood on him. And again, I did a double take. All this blood was not visible while he was standing in front of them, facing them, in the (presumed) torch or lamp light of a guard station? But it then became visible when he was several strides away, in the (presumed) darkness of the gate itself, and with his back to them? Wouldn’t most of the blood from a sword fight be on the front of you? Perhaps I’m over-thinking it a bit, but it drives me to distraction when the visuals don’t work. Anyway, I had to re-read this section a couple of times too.
Analysis: Several scenes later, and the pair of exiles are now crossing a desert terrain on foot. The old man has a skin of water, but they’re conserving it. His own lips are cracked and split, and the girl’s eyes have begun to yellow from dehydration. But somehow, she licks her lips and spit forms at the corners of her mouth.
Now, I didn’t charge this as a full WTF, because I’m not sure it is one. Is this an in-story detail that is going to work out later? Is the old man giving her water, but foregoing it himself. (Um, nope. In the next paragraph, he says that he’s only letting her drink in the morning and evening, so she doesn’t just sweat the water back out.)
But still, I’m not quite sure this is an error, and even though I’ve stopped to re-read it, I have a feeling that it might be part of the girl’s overall weirdness, which has been growing since the beginning. She hasn’t spoken a word, and she seems to be a little “odd” as a result of the wizard’s experiments or whatever he had her locked up for. So I’m not calling it a WTF, and I’m moving ahead. But I’m holding my red flag ready in my hand for the very next break.
Only I never needed it. I got completely sucked in and before I knew it, the 40 minutes were over, and there I was, still clutching an unused red hankie in my hand.
Kudos: The writing is strong, the story seems to be enticingly non-formulaic, and I’ve just got to know what’s up with that girl.
Addendum: Upon reading the entire book, I was thoroughly engrossed from start to finish, so Century of Sand was chosen as one of the 8 books to represent ImmerseOrDie in the first IOD StoryBundle collection.