Beginning your narrative by over explaining every detail with superfluous language can get in the way of enjoying a story. Writers like Piers Anthony and Octavia Butler have created worlds and intrigue within a sentence. And though every author may not be capable of doing that, you want to be careful not to lose your audience. If you’re trapped in a dried husk, perhaps that would be sufficient instead of going on for two pages word building on your reader’s time. Luckily, if you’re a good writer you can figure out a way to maneuver yourself out of that wordy trap. Still, getting your reader lost in chapter one, with no idea of what’s happening and no one to care about is not a good thing. In ‘Secrets of the Dead Mystics: Origin 2’ by Aaron R. Allen, Shabaris has been imprisoned in an unnecessarily explained complex way. It takes several pages for him to enact plan B in reforming his body. If you’ve looked down at your eBook and only see three percent used, but you could’ve sworn you’ve been reading for an hour is a bad sign. Then, finally chapter two, Shabaris doesn’t have a body, yet there’s still more world building with no one to care about or latch onto. You’re just as lost as another newly introduced character and look over at your reread pile where Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ is just calling your name. The chief problem with Allen’s novel is that the first few chapters give too much information. As a reader you shouldn’t be editing the prose. You should be immersed in the incredible world. But the start of this book has a multitude of entities thrust at you with little idea of what’s going on.
Keeping in mind the convoluted first five chapters and the barely serviceable storylines of two more, the rest of Allen’s book works its way into a serviceable story. It may be best to start reading from chapter eight. The character Bloodbrand is straightforward. He and his men have encountered a sneak attack they were not prepared for. Here, in this chapter magic and war are seamless. The dialogue is smoother. The awkwardness of the previous chapters are gone and Allen hits a stride. Now, if you like fantasy or just solid storytelling this book works. It feels like a good Dungeons and Dragons game where your dungeon master is a true sadist. Alliances are made and broken. There are love affairs and lost children. Then children are found. There’s also a map in the beginning of the book to help you navigate this new world. You’ll start laughing with the characters you were cursing in chapter five.
For Allen’s next novel, the best place for him to start may be in the middle. If the first seven chapters were never there, you wouldn’t miss them. Cahan, Bloodbrand, even Ailith may be your favorite character or perhaps all three. The one thing about this book is that once you get past the problematic pages you can read it any way you want. Nonlinear may be more fun than straight forward since each chapter is named for a different character or place. Try reading all of Bloodbrand’s chapters or Cahan’s, then going towards the rest of the book. Now you’re in control and perhaps that’ll be a more enjoyable read.
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