Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 10th, 2013

Just Reviewed “The Ways of Winter” at SBR

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Folks, tonight I wrote a review over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always) for Karen Myers’ THE WAYS OF WINTER, book two in her Hounds of Annwn series.  And because of the very nature of this review — where I called the book both “interesting” and “problematic,” something I don’t think I’ve ever done before — I needed to come right over here and give you all an after-action report even though I’m way under the weather (still) and obviously haven’t blogged all week until now.

I want to reiterate that I find Karen Myers’ work quite interesting.  She has a nice way of plotting that for the most part works for me.  I like her characterization.  I thought the inventiveness of getting a rock-wight into the plot — much less the rock-wight’s child in the bargain — was stellar.  And I truly believe she has a ton of potential.

However, when I see a book that’s not up to standard editorially — one that’s very far away from professional standard, to be blunt, in quite a number of respects — I have to say that.

It doesn’t give me any pleasure whatsoever to do so, mind you.  I know that Karen Myers is a relatively new writer with a handful of books out (book four in her Hounds of Annwn series is due in a few months, I believe) and a number of short stories.  She’s self-published, has a nice Web site, is doing many great things as an independent author and knows how to market herself impressively — all good.

It’s much easier for me to criticize someone like Debbie Macomber (with a hundred books out, or nearly) or Mercedes Lackey (with over forty books out) or even someone like Celine Kiernan, who like Myers was a new author with a few books out but was published by Orbit — so all of Ms. Kiernan’s unevenness in her plotline should’ve been fixed by one of Orbit’s professional editors long before it ever made it to the market.

Granted, I don’t particularly enjoy doing that, either, but at least I don’t feel terrible afterward as I did in the case of Ash Krafton recently and now Karen Myers as well.

As a reviewer, I have to say when I don’t like something, or my book reviews don’t mean a whole lot.  (If every book got an A-plus from me, why would you want to read my reviews?  You’d know that no matter what I said, it’s all the same sort of nonsense, right?)  I also have to say something because it’s the only way a writer might change something down the line.

No, it’s not likely.  But it’s at least possible.

As a professional editor, I can’t refuse to say when I think a book has not been well-edited.  I’ve had to do this before with a self-published author (Cedar Sanderson and her fun YA urban fantasy, VULCAN’S KITTENS), and I’ll probably have to do it again for all I know.

But it’s harder for me, as a writer myself, to write a review that’s as mixed as the one I wrote tonight.  I tried hard to point out all of Ms. Myers’ strengths — of which there are many — while also pointing out as many of the weaknesses I saw without giving too much away by way of unintentional spoilers.

Since you’re here, reading my own blog and this “after-action report,” I’m going to be a little more explicit about my problem with the way Ms. Myers ends THE WAYS OF WINTER.  (If you do not want your reading spoiled, look away now.  This is your one and only warning.)

My main problem was that Ms. Myers set up a thoroughly hissable villain, Madog, to get his comeuppance.  She showed over and over again just how nasty this Fae was, why his loss would only improve matters, and what a terrible excuse for a sentient being he was . . . but then, rather than showing Madog getting what he deserves, Madog’s death occurs off-screen!

So you’ve set yourself up a nasty villain, who every reader is going to want to see die horribly.  But then, you don’t really show him dying and only allude to it?

I realize Ms. Myers’ main character, George, was in no shape to narrate this.  But she had another character, Seething Magma, who’d had several POV scenes of her own.  Why not use Seething Magma’s POV to show this death so the reader will be able to fully enjoy Madog’s passing?

Then, this happens a little bit too early on to suit me also.  George is grievously wounded by Madog, and his rehabilitation is important to see, I agree.  But there’s really nothing else there other than some quiet wrapping-up stuff — good character moments for George and his new foster-son and his new wife, Angharad, to be sure, and I welcomed them.

But there’s nothing truly essential there.  We don’t find out anything else about where Creiddylad is (one of the villains from book one, the sister of George’s great-grandfather Gwyn ap Nudd).  We don’t see Seething Magma and her child reunite, really, either — again, it’s alluded to, but not really shown, that reunion, though we do at least see them together and presumably happy.

So the real emotional heart of the ending is Madog getting his comeuppance, which we don’t see.  Then we get George’s rehab, which is fine, but there’s nothing to contrast it against — it’s all, “Well, we’re nearly at Xmas, and George is the best Xmas present his wife Angharad could ever receive,” but nearly all of that is in subtext, too.

If I didn’t like Ms. Myers’ writing so much, I probably would’ve thrown the very nice soft-cover review copy she so graciously sent me months ago across the room.

Unlike Ash Krafton’s BLOOD RUSH, which was well-edited and competently executed (I didn’t like the romance, which I said), and Cedar Sanderson’s VULCAN’S KITTENS, which needed some editing work but the main plot points were very well executed and the emotional payoff scenes were all there, THE WAYS OF WINTER had a number of things I just can’t get behind.

And that’s a shame, because I do like Ms. Myers’ writing and want her career to succeed.

So that’s it — that’s why I gave Karen Myers’ THE WAYS OF WINTER a thoroughly mixed review with a “C” grade to boot.  I hope you can understand why . . . but even if you can’t, it’s late, I still have the nasty sinus infection to deal with, and somehow I have to try to get some rest.

—————–

As far as upcoming blogs go, I still hope to write that baseball wrap-up blog I’d discussed (no longer timely, but perhaps interesting anyway?) and maybe write a blog about the Milwaukee Bucks in the bargain.

One final update: If I can ever get my late husband Michael’s two stories to format properly, I hope to have them up at Amazon within the next several weeks.  This has been delayed partially due to being under the weather, partly because I’m very, very bad at formatting, and partly because what little energy I’ve had has gone toward the final, last-round edit of my book, ELFY, along with the edits I’m doing for a number of others.

I haven’t forgotten, and will not.  I know Michael still has fans.  I want them to enjoy his work.  And I want Michael’s work to find new fans — so these stories will come back out, once I finally have clean files to upload.

Promise.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 10, 2013 at 5:50 am