Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Swords of the Six

Betrayed in ancient times by his choice warriors, the dragon prophet sets a plan in motion to bring the traitors to justice. He hatches daughters from eggs with human characteristics; however, their veins flow not with human blood but the strength of the dragon's.   Armed with the traitors' rusted swords, these brave daughters set out to face the first traitor.

Either the traitor will repent, or justice will be served.

What follows is a story of betrayal, love, and ultimate sacrifice.

(From the back cover.)

I found Swords of the Six to be a good read with a great message, marred by a few faults that lessened my opinion of this book.

The cons.  Bear with me as I walk through some of the things I struggled with in this book.  Maybe it's because I'm a writer myself, and a persnickety perfectionist writer at that.  But I'll try to give my honest opinion.

If I had to sum up the faults I found in this book, I'd say 'unrealistic'.  This book struggled with realism.

First, many of the fight scenes were unrealistic.  I was disappointed by this. In a fantasy novel, a fight scene often makes or breaks it.  And I couldn't imagine them.  There were many sentences like this: "Dantress stood, grasped her sword, and dashed to the scene of the kidnapping. Before the remaining four dragons could attempt to take off, she thrust one of them through the chest and stabbed another in the neck when it clawed at Rose'el."  Like I said, unrealistic.  I just can't imagine this.

And, from throwing an ax that happened to be lying about at a huge serpent (he managed to hit it, too), to hunting with a sword (how DOES that work?), I was constantly jerked out of the story as my Inner Editor woke up.

Second, the characters were unrealistic.  While some characters (like Specter and MiverÄ“) I really loved, the main characters kind of annoyed me.  Dantress never seemed to have a solid character; I never really felt attached.  She went this way one chapter, the other the next.  While some of these changes in character might have been realistic, the change just wasn't shown sufficiently.

The five other sisters, too, were not realistic.  They resolved in one section of the book not to kill, whereas in the next section they said they would kill to bring justice. I never felt like they were unique; they all seemed the same to me.  And then, what they did at the end just made me shake my head in disbelief.

Ilfedo seemed to be an engima.  The scene in which he started out made me think he'd be a bitter man for the rest of the book, but later in the book he seems to have not been affected by his own rampage.  Those emotions and characteristics completely disappeared.  He melted into a warm and rather gentleman-like guy.

And third, the writing was unrealistic.  It was dotted with places where the character apparently noticed her own long and dark, red-tinged hair (for it was described thus) and other such things.   Here's another one that bothered me: "She must have hit an artery because exorbitant amounts of green blood mixed with the rain-soaked mud and the monster fell."  Not only could we use a couple commas in there, but I don't even know what exorbitant means.  "Never use a long word when a short one will do," is a law I live by.  And we readers already know that the mud is rain-soaked; why tell us?

Now, forgive me if I ranted a bit here.  Like I said, I'm a persnickety, perfectionist writer.  Just because I spent a long section describing the cons doesn't mean the cons are all huge and major.

And for the more enjoyable bit: the pros.

I saw a lot of epicness hinted at for later in the series.  Several mysterious prophecies were given (and that I very much enjoyed), and the author himself said that this book is more of a prelude to the epic that is to come in his later books.

For this reason, I expect that the coming books in the series will improve.  I'll definitely be looking forward to reading them.  If Scott Appleton can redeem some of the faults I just described, I'm sure it will turn out to be a great series.

The character voice in Swords of the Six was likewise delightful.  From the easily recognizable tone of MiverÄ“ to the sound of the white dragon's voice, I found that the author excelled in this aspect.  Most of the characters had a favorite phrase or another that gave them their own flair.

The worldbuilding was quite good.  Although I think I still need some clearing up on actual locations, it appears that there's two worlds, dangerous creatures, towns, woods, and many, many ancient battles and struggles.  Some of them have only been hinted at; some we experienced for ourselves as readers.

I found the message of the book to be very good, even though I thought it could have been pulled off in a more emotional manner.  Sacrifice is a worthy moral.

The description, even if it was over-the-top and often used big words when small ones would do, was vivid in certain scenes.  It didn't quite deliver in some, but that was made up for in the more dramatic ones.

I found little visible plot to be found (it almost seemed to be two different storylines; thus, the book is divided into parts one and two).  This further adds to the feel of a "prologue" but I felt there could have been more to it.  There was absolutely nothing at stake, and that's what bothered me.  Nothing drove the story.  But if you don't mind a more character-driven story, I didn't find it that bad.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It had a lot of promise. I hate to criticize it, but there were some serious faults.  There were some redeeming elements to it as well, though.

Rated 6.5-7 (as I'm torn how to rate this) out of 10.  Roughly 3.5 stars.

Thanks to AMG Publishers for the free copy of this book to review.  This is my honest opinion, and I was not required to write a positive review.


Goldarrow said...

Very good review, honest and polite. You did a great job.


Jake said...

Thanks, Goldarrow. :)

whisper said...

Well-reviewed; well-reviewed! I agreed with all the cons and most of the pros. ;) Oh, and Specter [sp?] was epic. Very epic.


Jake said...

Thank you, Whisper! Indeed. Specter (I believe we spelled it right) is quite the character. He's definitely my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Well-done, Jake! Very objective review. Fair, but not seething or giddy in one direction. I plan to read this book sometime (I have it on my shelf, getting dusty) if I can ever get past this wall of books I'm already reading. ;-)

Jake said...

Thanks, Nolan! (I still feel the urge to call you Beorn. o_O Weird.)

I tried to make it as fair as possible. I dislike writing negative reviews, especially for a debut novel.

Good luck reading all those books on the wall. *nod* Read well!

Christopher said...

Great review. It is very hard to find the balance between overcritical and overenthusiastic. Its even harder when your trying to share your honest opinion. Well done finding that balance.


Star-Dreamer said...

Very good review, Jake. I know what you mean about disliking to write negative reviews. I often find myself trying to look around the negative, but it's difficult... I mean, mistakes happen but while that doesn't mean that we should poke our fingers in the faults of other people/writers/artists, it doesn't mean that the mistakes should go on ignored either. People can learn to better themselves from their mistakes if the mistakes are pointed out in a kindly and helpful manner, which is what I believe you did in your cons section. :D I agreed with pretty much everything you said.

I also found that it wasn't just that the characters were all the same... but they didn't really have any faults. Out of the five sisters, I think Dantress was the most realistic, but she still had a lot of aspects to her that didn't seem natural, and you are right... the other four sisters just seem to blend into one person in my head... they all look sort of alike, and I've gotten confused before.

Specter and Albino are awesome! Wouldn't mind seeing some more of the Shepheard either. :D

Very good review. Thanks!

Star-Dreamer said...

Oh, and your pros section was right on the mark as well. :D

Anonymous said...

Where can I rate this review?

Jake said...

Hey, Anonymous! Review ratings are done for WaterBrook Multnomah's "BloggingForBooks", a system where you get free books in exchange for a review. They have a really complex program for it, which includes prizes and review ratings and stuff.

This book, however, is from AMG Publishers. They have a review system as well, but it's very simple, and there is no ranking/rating stuff.

However, I'll be sure to let you know when I review another WaterBrook book, though! Thank you!