What I gleaned about the story: The Hunter is recovering from shock as he flees dead friends and the smoldering ruins of the city he called home. He’s fighting his own personal demon—literally—and seems to be winning the battle as he travels northward on the open road.
Find this book on Amazon.
Analysis: It opens with a strong hook: “I left my city in ashes. I burned the Blackfall to the ground, and every man of the Bloody Hand with it. I killed the Demon of Voramis and his Dark Heresy.”
Second books in a series can make either of two mistakes as they bring new readers up to speed. The first is to ignore the problem and just assume the reader is familiar with Book One. The second is to infodump like mad, essentially recreating Book One at 1/12th scale.
Lament avoids both traps. It opens on the Hunter in shock: we see him turning over and over in his mind the events that brought him to this lonely campfire. The reminiscences are vivid and fast-paced, with just enough detail to give you the footing you need to launch into the ongoing story: the Hunter just struck a blow against a great evil, he’s running, and he’s leaving dead friends and a burnt city in his rear-view mirror.
It left me wanting to know more, but not frustrated with what I didn’t know. No, I don’t have the whole picture yet. But the girders are in place so that other important backstory details can be hung from it later.
Analysis: Maybe it’s just a particular peeve of mine, but I think Special Capitalization is a Blight on Epic Fantasy. As a tool for signaling that something is Special and Important, it kind of grates on my ear. Though there’s a bit of it earlier (‘the Hunter’ seems to be the main character’s name, rank, and mythic calling all wrapped into one), it’s not until this passage that it really started pelting me with spitballs:
“He saw Her, as clear and crisp as if She stood before him. Golden hair framed a face with a soft nose, high cheekbones, and full lips. Only Her eyes remained hidden in the shadows of his forgotten past.”
In ordinary fiction, nobody gets this sort of distinction. Not the president [“The president will see you now” vs “please rise for President Skroob.”] not the king. Among the devout, God usually gets denoted this way, with even pronoun references to Him getting special caps to mark the being under discussion as the One and Only.
Maybe the capitalization is supposed to convey her godlike standing, but it’s not wholly clear. What is clear from the narrative is that this mysterious woman gets full shroud-of-mystery points.
You could argue this is a minor thing for me to stumble on, and you’d be right. But when I’m thinking about capitalization rather than the story, immersion is broken.
Analysis: The offending line: “The hint of a mist-covered mountain peaks loomed far in the distance.”
“The hint of mist-covered mountain peaks” or “The hint of a mist-covered mountain” would be fine. But the singular/plural disagreement hit my ear hard at a moment when the story had been flowing really well.
There’s not much to be said about this one. The book did get professional editing, and it shows. This one just happened to slip past, and came at an inopportune time. My inner editor had started to get drowsy, and maybe was a little grumpy about getting woken back up (to stretch the metaphor too thin).
Analysis: Elmore Leonard’s tenth rule of writing: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
Chapter two opens with the Hunter waking up to a slobbery horse muzzle to the face, which deserves a mini-kudo in my opinion. The Hunter is working out the kinks in his joints, packing his belongings, etc. As he packs, he packs in a bit more reflection and thinks about the journey ahead. We learn a little more about the sacred/haunted dagger he’s carrying here, how it relates to him and his half-demon side. There’s also a lot of old thoughts brought back for a second appraisal: he’s traveling north, arguing with the bloodlust demon, and feeling regrets about the life he’s leaving behind. We’re breaking a bit of new ground, but at a plodding pace.
This stretch doesn’t stretch too far: when you skim forward a few more pages, your ears catch the clashing of steel. And it’s solid writing. But those pages felt like a rehash of what had come before. I wouldn’t drop the horse-to-the-face awakening, because quadruped comic relief is totally my jam. But much that followed could be summarized or excised, and the reader would be none the wiser.
On a more casual reading, I would have stuck it through, but the rules are the rules.
Thus ends the sad tale: a promising book with an intriguing premise, which might have made it through to the end were it not for an unfortunate looming mountain. Despite the points raised during the challenge, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far, and there’s a good chance I’ll pick up the series from the beginning.
Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.