What I gleaned about the story: Daroth the trapper just wants to keep his boy hidden from the Guardians. But then along comes a wolf—a really huge wolf—and well, the boy’s going to have to look out for himself now.
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Analysis: Describing the protagonist’s son, we get: Barr had lustrous curls a chestnut hue and deep earthen eyes that sparkled when he smiled.
Barr had a chestnut hue? I wasn’t expecting this unusual phrasing, so on first pass, my subconscious parsed this as a missing comma. Had it read, “lustrous curls of a chestnut hue,” I might not have stumbled. But any time I have to pause to examine a disruption on the first page, I have to count it as a WTF, even if I am able to piece it together afterward.
Analysis: I immediately noticed the unconventional layout style—no paragraph indents and no inter-paragraph spacing—which makes the text very hard to scan but I tried to read on despite that. Unfortunately, I lost my place several times on the first page and kept having to backtrack to find the correct line.
Many authors don’t realize that it is crucial to have visual signposts that the eye can orient against on the left hand side of the text block. That is how we stay on track as the eyes saccade to the beginning of the next line. Having ragged paragraph ends on the right side simply isn’t enough. And when you can’t saccade on autopilot, you can’t immerse.
Analysis: There have been a few odd turns of phrase, archaisms and grammatical inversions, but I let them pass as minor irritants because there was something in the story holding my interest. But in the side mirror, I kept noticing little sections of trudging rhythm. Finally, I came to a passage where the story was clearly in tension but the rhythmic plodding of declarative sentences returned, this time in direct opposition to the mood of the scene.
This is a difficult feeling to describe, but it’s a bit like watching a movie where everything is supposed to be happy, but the sound track is playing some kind of low groaning dirge in a minor key. They simply don’t fit each other, and the dissonance pops you out of the experience.