I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Hamelin, a town separated from the rest of the world, has a deadly problem. Fierce, flying beasts ravage the countryside and cull the sparse human population, forcing the majority of Hamelin’s citizens to live within the safety of her boundaries for fear of being snatched away and torn into pieces. With no help in sight, the Town Council look to their gods for salvation and unearth a chilling answer to their problems.
The Tournament of Hearts – a much-celebrated, barbaric event that pits four gladiators against each other in deadly combat. Winning The Tournament brings rich rewards, fame and glory for one’s bloodline. Losing, however, results in a deadly trip to the Sacrificial Altar for you and all of those who share your blood: man, woman and child. The sacrifice is said to be a blood offering to the gods in payment for reprieve – a necessary evil for the greater good of all.
Neven Fairchild, adolescent town historian and librarian, is chosen by random draw to fight for the survival of his bloodline. Utterly inept at doing much other than reading and writing his histories, Neven must find the courage deep within himself to defeat his stronger opponents, for he discovers that much more than the lives of those he loves hangs in the balance. An evil lurks, waiting for its moment to deliver the death blow, and Neven is all that stands in its way, whether he likes it or not.
I read this book to fill the Paint It Black square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.
I’m a former library worker and I’m a sucker for books about libraries and librarians. I bought this book a while ago, because the main character is a librarian of sorts. It’s the second book I’ve read this year where the author has obviously decided to juxtapose “Librarian” with something unlikely. In this case, librarian gladiator. (See also The Hunted, where it is librarian-assassin). Strangely, both of these books were written by fellow Canadians. I hadn’t realized that this author was a Canuck until I hit about one third of the way through, and one of his characters “hucked” a bottle into a bush. That’s such a prairie Canadian verb! It is something I’ve never heard outside the prairies, but we used it all the time in school--”Huck this in the garbage” for example.
It is obvious that the author has read a fair amount of fantasy literature and he knows how these things need to be structured. His ideas were basically sound, he came up with good villains (kind of a cross between a human and a pterodactyl), he created his band of buddies. However, I had a really difficult time finishing the book because of the quality of the writing itself. There were a lot of really long sentences, sometimes a bit confusing. There were awkward sentence structures. Stephen King may say that the road to hell is paved with adverbs, but adjectives can fulfill that role too. There were way, way too many adjectives, often repetitive. How many times does the reader need to be reminded that a character is young, for example? There was a lot of unnecessary crude language (and I admit that this is just my thing). I can see using various swear words and crude expressions in dialog--it gives you a feeling for the character using it. But I found it unusual for the author to use it during description, which is unspoken by any character. Last but not least, there were a lot of words that seemed to be picked out of a thesaurus without the author actually realizing what they meant. He described one character’s sleep: “He tousled and turned,” rather than tossed and turned. He also writes: “...he could feel the veins on his head swelling beneath his frock of fine, black hair.” Now a frock is a dress, not a hair pattern, so this rubbed me the wrong way. Combine that with a confusion about whether to use “your” or “you’re” and this book drove my inner editor to drink.
In short, this author has potential, with decent ideas and knowledge of how to plot a novel. However, I would recommend a really good professional editor to help him improve his final product. It would be a shame if he quit writing, but he needs to level up.