The Summerlark Elf, by Brandon Draga (10:13)

IOD-SummerlarkElfToday we see that using unfamiliar words and styles without the safety net of an experienced editor can be very costly.

What I gleaned about the story: A faerie child is born in a remote human homestead and taken in by the family when the mother dies. It feels like she’s going to be a Chosen One, but I have no evidence for that yet, other than the orphan born among strangers.

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WTF #1: Upon completing his makeshift funeral rite, Randis walked with heavy, burdened feet back to his home, wherein upon entering, he saw his wife sitting…

Analysis: Wherein upon entering is just awkward phrasing to my ear, and constructions like it crop up frequently in the text. To me, it feels like an author attempting to strike a particular stylistic tone, but not being sufficiently familiar with the style to pull it off effectively. And when style is applied sporadically (as it is in the section I read) it creates additional problems for me, because the prose seems to jerk from one style to another. An experienced editor would have caught these issues early and helped the author to either hit the right tone with their intended style, or remove the traces.

WTF #2: The child was smaller and more slender than a human child, though not entirely decipherable, save the large, pointed ears that belied her fae heritage.

Analysis: For the life of me, I simply cannot fathom what the author meant by “decipherable” in this case. It means either “decodable,” or “figure-out-able,” but what is there to decode or figure out about the appearance of the girl? It’s not like her nose was encrypted or her hair was woven in some kind of camouflage pattern.

And then what about “belied?” It means “to contradict.” But her pointed ears did not contradict her fae heritage, they betrayed her fae heritage. Made it readily apparent. Clearly the author meant “betrayed,” which is almost the opposite of what was actually written.

There are many errors I can look past, but not knowing the meaning of the words you’re employing isn’t one of them. And yet, even here, an experienced editor could have eliminated the problem and kept everyone looking sharp.

WTF #3: The town of Delverbrook, in the kingdom of Ghest, was not especially large, not in the way that cities such as Forgevale to the north or the Fellowdales to the east were large. It was not so small, however, that is was without its share of less-than-favourable areas.

Analysis: That’s at least one logical inversion too many for me, and it comes on the heels of a rather awkward digressive aside, so I hadn’t quite got back into my saddle when I hit that triple inversion and got thrown. Even with a good horse and a clear approach, I’d have probably tripped over this one. It doesn’t matter that I can examine it now, pull it apart, and piece together what the author meant. What matters is whether it makes sense on the fly. I don’t mind stopping to puzzle over a particularly nuanced or thoughtful comment, and I don’t mind retracing my steps to fully appreciate some clever wordplay, such as the famous example of Bilbo’s back-handed compliment to the guests at his party. But this passage was neither subtle nor clever. It’s simply a case of an affected style getting in the way of clarity.

Century of Sand, by Christopher Ruz (40:00)
Grounded, by Emily Matthew (8:02)

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 underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.