Today I’m reviewing another book that I won in a goodreads giveaway: Tyler Sehn’s Daughter of Shadow – a Spiritbinder War Novel, the first instalment of what will probably turn into a longer series. A longer series the rest of which I shall not endeavour to read after laboriously ploughing through part one.
I did actually have some hope for this one. Although it does – again – not belong to a genre I would usually read, the initial remarks and acknowledgements by the author fooled me into believing that “[Thanks to] my editor […]. Your insight helped me become a better writer” and “Many thanks to those who volunteered as beta readers and took the time to read manuscript versions of varying quality (mostly bad)” would mean that the finished book that I held in my hands would actually bear noticeable marks of editing – or at least be mostly free from obvious mistakes.
I noticed soon enough that I’d been wrong. Not only did I find the story line very difficult to follow (but more on that later), I also ended up regretting that I did not read through the novel with a red sharpie at the ready to make corrections. I wish I had though. I would have felt so much more productive throughout the whole reading process. I kid you not: I found between one and three mistakes on most pages. They ranged from missing words (mostly articles – “He went bar”) to ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ being used interchangeably to words just being misspelled for no obvious reason.
As I don’t think I’ll have to explain what that kind of writing does to my reading flow, let’s get back to the story line, which rapidly jumped from one character to the next without ever really introducing one of them in enough detail for me to actually care what becomes of them. The author built a world that is split up into a lot of different kingdoms that all function according to their own rules and that have an incredibly intertwined and complex history. This would have been a great idea, if only it wouldn’t have caused me to completely lose track of what is going on.
For example, Melea, the Daughter of Shadow, is an interesting character as such. Or rather could have been had I been given a chance get to know her. It seemed to me that her past was actually supposed to be a mystery, which is fair enough. However, her present motivations come across as equally as unclear. Up to the very end I never truly understood what Melea is actually after – or what the novel is trying to tell me for that matter. As it is, it reads like a very drawn out exposition that might lead up to an actual story line three books from now.
I know that there are novels that create incredibly complex worlds with a lot of different characters and places in it. But these concepts were not introduced to the reader all at the same time. I found it almost impossible to care for anything that was going on in this novel. Not because I think that the characters and the plot are genuinely uninteresting, but because I never stayed with any one of them for long enough to actually care.
There were two points that were incredibly intriguing about the novel:
- Melea, the female character at the centre of the narration. I liked that she’s truly strong, independent and ambivalent enough to be interesting. However, as I said before: she still needs something besides her stubbornness and her mysterious past to characterise her further.
- The politics of the Shining Empire and the different views on religion that mirror our own world in a lot of ways. This aspect might be the only reason that could entice me to pick up the sequel: I would really like to find out if they resolve their issues of faith and whether they discover the truth they are looking for. (Also: Belenius turned out to be a much more interesting character towards the end!)
…but other than that…meh. What I found truly shocking was the time it took me to finish this novel. Usually a relatively fast reader, I expected to power through this in a matter of days. It’s only 395 pages long and it’s not Don DeLillo or Shakespeare.
As it turned out however, I preferred reading my thoroughly annotated Arden edition of Hamlet (~320 pages) – with ALL annotations – to continuing to read this novel. Because I felt like it took me ages to finish Daughter of Shadow, I checked out my reading progress on goodreads. Have a look:
See that huge gap in May? Yeah – that’s when I decided I’d rather read Hamlet.
To provide some context for the table above, let’s look at the same statistic for three other books I recently reviewed:
… as I said: I’m usually a relatively fast reader!
But back to Daughter of Shadow: When I recently told a friend that I feared I would be too mean in my review of the novel, he told me to phrase it differently:
“Daughter of Shadow is a valid first attempt and a good step into the right direction. Keep going!”
I think I’ll leave it at that.
Disclaimer: I did receive this book free of charge through a goodreads giveaway. However, I was not compensated for this review and all views and opinions expressed in this post are my own.
- Are you a fast reader? How long does it usually take you to finish a novel?
- Can you remember a novel that just would not end and that took you ages to read through? Which one?