What I gleaned about the story: Father Sebastian has been assigned to a new parish in a rural village in the Philippines, but it is far from the sleepy little assignment he had been hoping for. Evil lurks in the shadows, and now it’ll be up to the tired old priest to save souls in more ways than just leading a weekly prayer.
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Note: I quite like the cover. It’s an attractive layout that conveys a subtle menace, and the tag line is equally simple and effective. My only quibble is with the transparency and effects applied to the title text, which make it hard to read at thumbnail sizes.
Note: The story conveyed in the prologue is good, but the narrative style seems rather choppy, jumping from one topic to the next with little transition. It makes for a somewhat bumpy-feeling ride. It’s not an immersion breaker, but a consistent low-grade chattering of the teeth.
Analysis: There is a scene in which the POV is carried by a guard. He’s not a recurring character, I don’t think. Just the guy watching the prisoners overnight. It’s a bit unusual for a bystander character to carry the POV, but it’s not unheard of. The problem though, was that we are in an intimate enough mode to hear the guard’s thoughts, but he is constantly referred to as “the guard.” Surely this man, whose intimate perspective is driving the narration, does not think of himself as “the guard.” And that disconnect teased at me until I finally stepped out of the story to see what was going on.
Kudos: Set in a rural Filipino village, the story is filled with foreign words and phrases, but they’ve been hyper-linked to the glossary at the back of the book, which is a really nice touch. Personally, I’d have used a slight color difference to indicate the linked passages, rather than the HTML standard of underlined blue text, because it really distracts my eye, but still it was nice to have the information handy.
Analysis: Father Sebastian goes into a little restaurant when he arrives in town because he is famished. He smells the soup that is served to him, enjoying its aroma. Then his guide asks him to choose music at the jukebox, so he goes over, and they pick a song and listen to it. Still at the jukebox, the guide now asks him if he’s ready to go tour his new parish, and he agrees. They leave. So what happened to his hunger and the bowl of soup? He even thanked the cook for the delicious soup, but by my analysis he never even tasted it.
Analysis: Chapter One ends right in the middle of a conversation, which continues at the beginning of Chapter Two, but I couldn’t figure out why. There was no dramatic closing cadence, no change of scene or POV. It just jumped. And I spent too long trying to figure out what had happened.
This seems to be another example of the choppy narration style I noted above. Maybe it’s just me, but when I can’t find the rhythm of the writing, I find it hard to stay immersed. It’s like being an inexperienced horse rider. You want to match the gait, but you keep misjudging and then you get jarred by an unexpected bump—sometimes badly. And when that happens with a book, it’s the immersion that breaks.
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