Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Answering Review Request: Flames of Ether

VL Parker asked me to read her book and one by her daughter, Sarah. The latter is the one I'm reviewing. It's called "Flames of Ether" and its about a disgraced mage dragging his cousin out of her cozy hometown to beat down evil demons that he accidentally released. Her amazon page says her books are "very riveting and action-packed" and one should always be wary of self-praise but this one is certainly not boring.

Bleak. The first thing you should know about this book is that it has a bleak atmosphere. The words and the prose and actions painted a drab picture in my mind. Th heroes like talking about their misfortunes how the present pales in comparison to the glorious past, and how awful the future will be if they don't stop the Cursed Ones. They're so gloomy I kept thinking the story took place in winter even though a plot point is reaching the Black Marsh before winter. There is no humor except for one time when Kara and Kali talk about comical memories.

The plot is a mixed bag. On one hand it has a clear goal, an unusual set up for Big Bad, dungeon diving and a satisfying conclusion. On the other hand, it has premise threatening fridge logic, few surprises, and a contrived coincidence matched with a boy whose Too Dumb Too Live.

The Good

1. The unusual Big Bad set up.

The main villain here, the evil sorceress that's the cause of the problems, is an ally of the heroes. That's because her curse is doing things she didn't want it to and she needs Kara's help to stop it. You don't see that often and it works alright here.

2. Dungeon Diving

On two occasions the heroes venture into territory belonging to the Darkened; a culture based on dark magic that has long since vanished. That magic makes their territory dangerous because they were protective of their treasures. These parts have a feeling of old school Dungeons and Dragons adventures. It's a pity that the characters spent less time in such places and more time talking about how bleak things are or will be.

3. Satisfying conclusion.

The conflict is resolved and there are dangling threats that can lead to a second book. I appreciate that sort of thing.


The Bad

1. Frige Logic

The backbone of the book is the heroes traveling to the Black Marsh so they can kill the Cursed Ones before the world is destroyed by them. However, the Call to Adventure is Kali grabbing Kara and running before the Cursed Ones arrive to kill her. At several points along the journey they met the Cursed Ones and I always wondered 'why not kill them now? They have all they need to complete their missioin (i.e. Kara's power) so why go all the way to the Black Marsh?"

2. No Surprises

Despite the unusual Big Bad set up there are no further surprises. It wasn't hard to see what would happen next in any given section and the one thing that did catch me by surprise was because it was a deus ex machina.

3. Contrived Coincidence and Too Dumb To Live

There is a character that made a Deal With the Devil and fully expected the devil in question to keep their word. He was willing to doom the entire world for someone that would have died anyway because of what he did to save them. If he were a destable character, this would be alright but the author clearly wants the reader to sympathize with his likable personality and tragic plight.

Otherwise, the characters are decent. They are distinct and have backstories that could lead to that distinction. There's little development but that's because the timeline is short which brings me to one one thing that bugged me in that regard. The Reveal comes a few days after the story begins and Kara is already thinking 'I'm far different than I was before'. It sounded presumptuous to me that she would think this at the start instead of the ending.

The setting I like. It's a standard medieval fantasy thing with kings, a council of mages, and Fair Folk. When the story takes place there is a prejudice against magic because of a war the Big Bad took part in a long time ago. When 3/4 of your group are mages, this is a problem when you travel long distances. I wish I could have seen more of this and less of the 'Kill the Cursed Ones!' plot.

Prose is mediocre. I can only assume that Mis.Parker doesn't like periods or semi colons or the word 'and' because many of her sentences are run-ons. For instance, 'Bob did X, Ying the Z. Alice did A, Bing the C.' That same pattern over and over again. By the page 100 mark I winced at each each comma-splice and mentally edited it so I could continue. Beyond repetition it destroyed the power of the sentence. When words drag on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on you're skipping over this aren't you? Action scenes are usually spared the worst but there is still room for improvement.  Secondly, it has a mild purple tinge to it. There's nothing excessive but the narration overdoes the elegance and so comes across as pompous and long winded. This makes the first problem worse and more noticeable.

Overall, it's a decent read but I can't recommend it because of its price: $3.99 for an ebook. I wouldn't pay that much for this book. I'd pay $0.99 but I wouldn't pay $3.99.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Flames of Ether" a C-

Click here for the next review request: Exiled Autumn's Peril (Chronicles of Caleath)

Click here for the previous review request: Ballad of the Namelsss Traveler

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