Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Worst and the Best of 2010

Gathered from actual comments made about The Crown Conspiracy from people I’ve never met.

On CROWN
This was quite possibly the worst written book I have ever read and am absolutely amazed at the high ratings others have given this.

Although I have only read your first book I must say that it is probably one of the absolute best books I have ever read!

Do yourself a favor and avoid this atrocious book.

On it's own The Crown Conspiracy is good but as a series The Riyria Revelations is brilliant.

No serious fan of the fantasy genre will enjoy this book.

THE CROWN CONSPIRACY re-kindled my love of the Fantasy genre in a way I didn't even realize it needed re-kindling.

On WRITING

But worse, far worse than any of that, is the actual writing style. It is, quite simply, the worst I have any seen in any printed material in my entire life.

The writing is easy and flows with a voice that is decidedly deft. Sullivan has produced some great writing that is efficient and to the point.

These made me rethink my initial opinion but were short lived and again ruined by the poor writing.

The pacing is pitch-perfect. There is not a page unused or wasted in the whole book. In a less skilled author’s hands, this could have been a far longer and more tedious read, but again Sullivan leaves me in awe as there isn’t a sentence I’d say isn’t required.

The English language was absolutely butchered in an almost insulting way.

The man creates the world with a simple prose that brings to mind things like woodsmoke from a stone chimney, rain spattering a windowpane, snow gently falling outside while a candle burns silently away in a shop window, or a lazy river meandering its way through the lush countryside.

It's amazing that such a poorly written book could receive such high ratings.

Michael J. Sullivan has written a book I will read over and over again and it most definitely will always reside on my favorite’s shelf.


On CHARACTERS
The characters are like cardboard cutout stereotypes and entirely predictable. There is absolutely no subtlety at all and, if the characters are easy to understand, it's because they have so little depth.

Royce and Hadrian are two well-developed characters shrouded in mystery and written with a delightful dry wit that few veteran authors could emulate.

For me, the characters never evolved from simple, ordinary constructions found in any fantasy novel to somebody with life, reasoning skills, or emotion.

The characters are entertaining and evolving, without turning cheesy and predictable like they do in so many fantasy series.

They were as dead as paper. Honestly, I couldn't bring myself to care about a single one.

At first I wasn't sure if I was really going to bond with any of the characters, but to my delight I found myself loving Royce and Hadrian.

I felt the characters weren't as developed as I would have liked.

Royce and Hadrian, the two protagonists, are complex

I could not get behind the shallow characters and their motivations.

The characters were witty and likeable, and the story was very believable, something you could actually see happening.

For the most part, the prince was the same character all the way through and then just developed all of a sudden at the end.

That’s not to say the supporting cast aren’t equally impressive, as I think Alric’s personal transition is amazing.

Characters made in a completely stereotypical cookie cutter form. They are completely lacking in motivation and actually just downright stupidly unlikable.

One of the great things about the novel is its realness, the characters are alive in their own right whether it be the silent and snarky Royce or the warmer Hadrian, the sometime hindrance Prince Alric or the lovable and curious monk Myron; you'll fall in love with the characters as much as the action.

There is not one believable character who talks or thinks like a living being.

Your characters are intriguing, touching, and real: My heart ached for Hilfred when he was on the stand; I felt Myron's sorrow at not being able to become a part of the world in which he is now thrust; and Royce reminds so much of my best friend during high school that it is his face I see speaking Royce's lines.

I could not get behind the shallow characters and their motivations.

Perhaps it is simply that the characters’ presence in the here and now is so fully-realized that everything else is merely secondary; regardless I’m excited to learn more rather than disappointed that I learned so little.

On LANGUAGE
His portrayal of an ancient wizard, using what he thinks is archaic English, made me cringe from start to finish.

The wizard has been locked up for 900 years and the way he communicates with the heroes is realistic and funny.

On PREDICTABILITY
I almost never found myself being really blown away or surprised by the plot twists and turns it was rather predictable.

The plot was not straightforward and it kept me on my toes trying to figure out which characters were good guys and which were bad guys. It takes a great writer to weave a tale that surprises me, that keeps me in suspense.


On COMPARISONS
If you like new fantasists like Peter Brett and Robert Redick, or skilled world builders like George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Guy Gavriel Kay and Joe Abercrombie, there's a high likelihood that you will find this as unreadable as I did.

It reminds me of George R R Martin's "Song of fire and ice" except on a lighter, much less confusing and difficult to comprehend at times scale. Needless to say, if you just want a good fantasy novel, pick this one up.

I have always loved fantasy and I enjoyed this book as much as I did when I first read Tolkien.

It was like combining the styles of Neil Gaiman to that of George R. R. Martin, and it really worked for me.

On ORIGINALITY
The writing/imagery is basic, the characters are one-dimensional and undeveloped, and the dialogue is tired old cliche after tired old cliche.

It doesn't follow the regular rubric of so many fantasy books.

On Dialog
Characters banter painfully in modern American English

The characters are fresh and engaging, I absolutely loved the banter between the two main characters.

On Length
As this book stands, it's too darned short!

It may be shorter then some of the books I have read but it sure does pack quite the punch. I say “The smaller the package, the greater they are”.

What can an author take away from all this contradiction? I can take solace in the idea that this list consists of almost all the negative comments I have seen, but doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the positive ones.

One final note:
There are two emails I received this year that, in all honesty, make everything here appear so trivial it’s silly. They are private and very personal messages from fans that I refuse to tarnish by making public, but I am glad to say they were very positive and more than any other comments or money earned--made my year. Thanks Renee & Cort and thanks Major Hill.

6 comments:

  1. Man, am I glad I'm not an author. I couldn't handle all the negative...

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  2. I knew I wasn't going to be an author way back in high school. The creative writing teacher never seemed satisfied with my level of creativity and was always trying to get me to stretch further. Then again, I guess that's their job.

    I know now that I could never be a critic (as I'm sure that Michael could attest to, be honest). Well, at least not one with any credibility. I find that I get too wrapped up in the story to concern myself with the intricate details of pacing, world building or character development. I mean, I could probably tell the difference in a well written book versus a poorly written one. But it usually takes the obvious omissions/short-comings/deficiencies for me to take notice.

    Many of my own faults as a reviewer could be overcome with the proper training and mental approach. However, I already have one hobby that's been ruined by making it my profession. I wouldn't want to ruin another hobby by turning it into something more. I prefer to read a book to escape my current reality or to deepen my knowledge on a particular subject that I find interesting. If I were to become a critic, I'm afraid that I wouldn't be able to see the forest because I'm too consumed with looking at each individual tree.

    Truthfully, I've only read the published works through Avempartha even though I own copies of all that have been released and you can include me in the portion of the population that will finish the series. I'm anxiously awaiting the release of Percepliquis (sp?) so that I can start reading the series from Book 1, Chapter 1, Page 1 through the end of Book 6. That way, I can become totally enveloped by everything Riyria and not be distracted by the storytelling of other authors seeking to entertain me between releases.

    In conclusion, THANK YOU Michael, Robin and everyone else involved in putting this wonderful story into my hands. I'm sure I'm not the only one that's curious to see what you may come up with next, be it a short story, a single novel or another series.

    Wishing you continued success...

    Chris

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  3. So, let me get this straight. Your mother-in-law's comments are in italics, and you agent's are in normal print, right? Not the other way around? Of course!

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  4. Loved the post. And your theory on critics. Sounds like you've got your head, and your series on straight. ;)

    Best of luck,

    billi jean

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  5. It is so surprising to see the negative comments because I agree with all the positive ones. I haven't been this enthused about a fantasy series in a long time. I try to avoid paying for books on my kindle but of course when I read one of your books, I had to have them all. Can't wait for the 6th book! Please keep 'em coming!

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  6. People who criticize writing style are often people who haven't read enough. Styles of writing range from the traditionally poetic and descriptive, see: Tolkien, to the simple and conversational: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, to the extremely pointed: Ursula K. Leguin, Arthur C. Clarke, to the absurd: Kurt Vonnegut and nearly incomprehensible: Joseph Heller. I personally find Michael's style accessible and humorous, which fit the story well, and (unlike many offenders today) is never pretentious or overbearing.

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