Friday, August 10, 2012

Cephrael's Hand

At 643 pages Cephrael's Hand: A Pattern of Shadow & Light Book One by Melissa McPhail is a big book. It could (and maybe should) have been two books. I was warned that this was book 1 but this book commits a cardinal sin IMHO. Nothing in this book is wrapped up. It's all left up in the air like some season finale cliffhanger. I think one character might actually be hanging from a cliff or at least falling off one. At the very least McPhail could have had all the major players meet up to progress into the next book.

The book begins with three pages of "Dramatis Personae" which almost made me want to throw the book out the window. When there are too many people it is hard to care about any of them.I believe it is also almost impossible to give each character any depth. There are some characters in this novel who are just outlines. Maybe they'll develop in later books. I don't know. The book is really cluttered with people, most of them on the move. I tried to keep track of where everyone was in relation to the others but I gave up after awhile because a reader shouldn't have to work that hard to visualize things.

That's not to say that this is a bad book. It's not. It's fairly interesting story competently written. There's just nothing really new. Almost every fantasy trope is pulled out, prince in hiding, magic dying from some unknown cause, assassins in search of the prince, a wanderer who doesn't know who he is... on and on.

Here are my three nitpicks:

  1. Using pagan festivals or other things specific to Earth. If you are going build a world then build all of it. Create games, laws and festivals for your world. Unless you're going to tie it up in the end like Planet of the Apes and reveal that we were on Earth all along. And I swear that if that is what happens with this series I will burn it.
  2. Putting an apostrophe in the middle of a name or any other word. I think this is an affectation that fantasy and sci-fi writers use too often. If you can't make your characters exotic to a Western audience without adding an apostrophe then maybe you don't need that character.
  3. The main female character is almost useless. Yes, she's a competent healer but she never acts on her own. She gets kidnapped twice and both times gets away because of someone else's actions. It's like she's a Doctor's companion from the 60s always getting captured.