Saturday, June 26, 2021

Review - Death by Airship

Death by Airship

by Arthur Slade
Date: 2019
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 128
Format: paperback
Source: library

Prince Conn will never be king. And that's just fine with him. He's ninth in line for the pirate throne and is quite happy to sail the skies in his airship with his crew of cheery misfits, plundering as they go. But one by one his siblings are being murdered, in tragic fires, violent cannon attacks or mysterious poisonings. Soon all fingers are pointing toward Conn as the mastermind. To prove his innocence, Conn must make his way to Skull Island, navigating his airship through a gauntlet of villains, explosions and betrayals. Can he reach his father's kingdom before it's too late? Or will he suffer the same fate as the rest of his family?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I was looking for a short YA book. This is short, but my library had it shelved wrong. But I figured, "Why not?" I'd read another book by Slade before, and it wasn't terrible, so I thought I'd give Death by Airship a try.

Disclaimer: I am not an eleven-year-old boy.

Maybe, if I had been, I would've liked this more. Maybe I wouldn't have been bothered by the physics-defying feats or the lack of logic. Maybe I wouldn't have thought it was so darn goofy. Maybe I wouldn't have seen the villain coming from miles away. Maybe I would've given the lacklustre resolution a pass. And maybe I wouldn't have seen the cover as a reject from a self-publisher's reject pile. (The book is not self-published... but that cover is doing it no favours.)

Still, if you like puns, snark, and silliness in a quasi-steampunk setting, you might like this more than I did. It's a quick, amusing read... but it definitely wasn't what I was expecting or looking for.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.63 out of 5 ladybugs

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Review - The Blood Race

The Blood Race
(The Blood Race #1)
by K. A. Emmons
Date: 2017
Publisher: K. A. Emmons
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 321
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

All Ion Jacobs ever wanted was to be normal. But when you’re capable of killing with your very thoughts, it’s hard to blend in with the crowd.

Running from his past and living in fear of being discovered, Ion knows he will never be an average college student. But when Hawk, the beautiful, mysterious girl next door unearths his darkest secret, Ion’s life is flipped upside-down. He’s shocked to discover a whole world of people just like him -- a world in another dimension, where things like levitation, shape-shifting, and immortality are not only possible… they’re normal.

Forced to keep more secrets than ever before, Ion struggles to control his powers in the real world while commuting between realms -- until his arch enemy starts a fight he can’t escape. Now he has sealed the fate of the Dimension, severing their connection to the real world, and locking himself inside forever. But a deadly threat hidden in plain sight may cost Ion more than just his freedom -- it may cost him his life.

The Blood Race is the first book in K.A. Emmons' riveting new sci-fi/fantasy thriller series. If you like epic urban fantasy, fresh takes on super powers, deep allegories, raw emotions and intricate plots that surprise you at every turn, you'll love the first novel in Emmons' page-turning series. Grab your copy of The Blood Race and delve into a new dimension today!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

It's taken me over two months to read this book. Given that it's not very long, that should tell you something. I wish I could say that I'm not the audience for this, or that it just wasn't my cup of tea. Unfortunately, this book has a lot that's objectively wrong with it.

K. A. Emmons is also known as Kate Emmons, sister of Abbie Emmons who wrote and self-published 100 Days of Sunlight a couple years ago. (You can read my review for Abbie's book here.) The sisters host a podcast called The Kate & Abbie Show where they gab about writing and storytelling. Given this, and after being impressed by the brief sample on Amazon, I bought The Blood Race and hoped to enjoy it. Let's just say that I expected a lot more from someone who purports to be some sort of writing guru.

I think the first problem is that she's marketing this as YA sci-fi/fantasy. It's not. It's NA crossworlds fantasy... but with a weird insistence on keeping things squeaky clean. Nineteen-year-olds are chastised for using the word "frickin'", for example. The very worst language this book offers is three instances of "shit" (and yet, that was enough to get some reviewers' panties in a terrible twist; it makes me wonder if they've ever been around real 21st-century teenagers).

The second big problem is the obvious mismatch between chosen genre and writing style. I was misled by the sample, because that first chapter is an action-packed one. But from there, things slow to a crawl, and the reader is treated to session after session of stilted dialogue that sounds like it would be more at home in a Regency-era drawing room. (Kate has admitted in the podcast that she doesn't read a lot of fiction. She does, however, watch BBC historical dramas. These two points are reinforced through her writing style.)

Much action is skipped over with dry paragraphs of the characters telling us what transpired. And it's not even linear. As the point of view switches back and forth, so does the timeline jump around so that we're often thrown back a few hours so that we can see a scene from the other character's point of view. This threw me a few times, and I wondered if I'd missed something... only to realize that it was just another clumsy transition.

That's what the whole story seemed to me: clumsy. I can see the glimmer of a good idea here, but it's hidden behind weak plotting, white-room syndrome, and underdeveloped characters. Much of the character development of our leads, Icarus and Hawk, consists of other characters making observations about them... even when those traits aren't shown to the reader. And I was never quite sure who the main character was supposed to be. The blurb makes it sound like Icarus... and yet, it's Hawk (I'm assuming) on the cover, and Hawk who's the more developed of the two. Abbie had the same problem in 100 Days of Sunlight, with her secondary main character of Weston kind of stealing the show. Unfortunately, Hawk isn't anywhere near as likeable as Weston, and yet we're forced to be in her head for half the book.

This review is already way longer than I intended, so I'll just mention one more thing, and that's the editing. I realize this is a self-published book, but when so many of these indie authors are so adamant about the necessity of using outside editors, I really expect better in the way of typos and errors. The continuity errors, in particular, are some of the worst I've ever come across. It makes me wonder if people don't actually read books anymore, but merely skim; am I the only one who's noticing when people are lounging on a picnic blanket, and the next instant they're standing on the edge of a cliff, about to head back to their picnic blanket? (There was a gaffe like this in many of the chapters, which made for some frustrating reading.)

I'm in the minority, though. People seem to like this book, judging by its overall rating. The ending is a "cliffhanger"... but I have no desire to continue with the series. If you like clean NA fantasy with little swearing and aren't a nitpicker when you read, you might get more out of this than I did. If, however, you're looking for YA sci-fi/fantasy with teenagers who actually talk and act like teenagers, you're liable to be disappointed.

(All that being said, I would be interested to see what Kate could do if she tried her hand at writing historical fiction or high fantasy. The overly formal dialogue style she seems to be fond of would work much better in those genres than it does in a contemporary fantasy setting.)

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 1/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 1/5
Writing: 2/5
Editing: 1/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 1.63 out of 5 ladybugs