Silvana: The Greening, by Belinda Mellor (40:00)

IOD-SilvanaGreeningToday we see that stories don’t have to begin with frantic action to be entirely engaging.

What I gleaned about the story: The only son of a wealthy Lord comes of age, but it looks like he won’t be taking the usual path. See, he’s been raised at the edge of this enchanted wood…

Find the book on Amazon.

Technical Note: The EPUB file is almost 6 MB. No novel should be any more than 1 MB. If your files are bigger than that, then you’re probably including numerous images (including the cover) at much larger resolution than is necessary, or you might be using PNG files when you should be using JPG. And it isn’t just a matter of form. Not only do large files take up more space on your customer’s e-reader, but many ebook providers charge a fee for every byte they “deliver.” So optimize your file sizes and save big money. Upon investigating, it turns out that the cover image is packed into the EPUB file twice. Once as a 500 KB JPEG file, and then again, as a 3.5 MB PNG file. That kind of redundancy in the download file is an entirely avoidable waste.

Technical Note: I was unable to open the EPUB file with Calibre’s built-in ebook reader. This was the first time that’s ever happened to me, so that alone made it noteworthy. Fortunately, I was able to run it through a file converter tool and then open it, so no harm done, but I always end up wondering if that same problem occurs for other people on other reading devices. Like maybe paying customers.

Kudo #1: Branches arced over Fabiom’s head and the limbs of each tree grasped those of the next, to form a canopy that seemingly went on forever. Wildwood: unbroken, unending. Here he was safe.

Analysis: By the end of the very first paragraph, I knew I was going to like this, although it’s hard to articulate why. It’s a feeling I got. Right away. A sense that I was in good hands with this author. Three simple sentences, each doing a different job, and each doing them with poise. It’s also about what is not here. There is no belabored sequence of to-ings and fro-ings, no recitations of personal or world history. With these 32 words, I’ve been shown a magical place, given a sense of its grandeur, and shown its emotional appeal to the protagonist. I don’t expect the rest of the book to maintain this standard, but if there’s anywhere to pull out all the stops and get things right, it’s the opening. But most importantly, now that I’ve seen this, and know that the author is capable of it, I am willing to forgive many minor transgressions that might come along later.

WTF #1: A Prologue, by any other name

Analysis: The story begins with Part I, Chapter 1, in which we see the hero as a young boy, during one of his first encounters with the enchanted forest. Immediately after that, we go to Part II, Chapter 1, in which we meet the hero, nearing his age of majority. An entire part of the book that’s just one chapter long? Why bother breaking it into parts at all? Methinks the author tried to pull a fast one, by sticking in a prologue and then pretending it wasn’t there.

I’m not one to criticize a prologue simply because it’s a prologue. If it conveys some important detail for us, or allows us to witness something that is better seen first hand, then go for it. And in this case, I think the prologue works. But the sleight-of-hand with parts was a bit off-putting. I had to stop and back up to see if maybe I’d missed a few chapters somewhere, because who writes a part of just one-chapter? And then, once the dust had settled and I’d figured out what was going on, I felt as though somebody had tried to sneak something past me.

WTF #2: However, there was a private matter he hoped to discuss with Masgor and the occasion of an individual tutorial seemed an apposite opportunity.

Analysis: The use of the word “apposite” here made me stumble. What an entirely strange word to hear in the POV of a 16-yr-old boy. Yes, he’s intelligent and well educated, but he’s also a salt-of-the-earth type, and to my ear, that word seemed out of character. Any one of “appropriate,” “suitable,” “fitting,” or “apt” would have done the trick nicely. (You could say they’d be apposite choices, too, but I’m not going for a stuffed-shirt kind of tone here. :-)

Having said that, I would not have charged a WTF for just a single instance of a stylistically questionable word choice, but there were a number of other editorial quirks along the way. Nothing immersion busting in its own right, and I was able to slide past them as they came, but taken together, they had formed a pattern of minor frictions by the end of the 40 minutes.

Note: My time is up but I’m far from done. I’ll be dropping this one onto my “read later” pile because I’m invested in the character now, and want to see how things play out for him.

Transit Point, by A.S. Webster (9:15)
A Dodge, A Twist, and a Tobacconist, by Sophronia Belle Lyon (24:17)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.