Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Self-Pub Summer Review: Blood Price, by A.L. Wright

Hello again, friends! Before we get into the review proper, I just wanted to say that I really am sorry for the unscheduled hiatus. Yes, I have been very busy lately, but unfortunately I must admit that life getting in the way isn't the only reason why it's taken me so long to write this review for what is really quite a short book. It was also... well, it was also kind of the book itself... but you'll see what I mean soon enough.

Blood Price- A.L. Wright

Synopsis:"The Noble Patriarch had ruled the local lands for over a thousand years, establishing a lasting peace for the humans and a position of power for his Nobles. His kind lived in a palace in Noble’s Rest, the largest town of the land. With his son at his side, his rule had been long and comfortable. 

That is all threatened to change, however. His Son has taken a human girl as his Chosen, and that choice has upset the other Nobles in the palace. As events unfold between his son and the girl, the Patriarch is faced with similar events of his own past. Trying to guide his son while also guarding the secrets of their race, he lets slip information that sends his son racing across the lands and away from the palace. Leaving the girl alone and vulnerable. 

Dartein has been alive for several centuries, but he had never felt truly alive until he met Josaleene. Defying all Noble custom, he took her as his chosen and bound the two of them together for eternity. But all their happiness does not seem destined to last as long buried secrets seemed determined to tear them apart. 

Upset that his father, the Patriarch, seems unwilling to help them, Dartein becomes desperate to find the answer that will save their love. Even with the threat of old enemies lurking nearby, he leaves his lady love to seek out the one thing that may be able to help them. The price of the answer is blood, but whose?"

The Cover: Alright, first off, let's talk cover, because when it comes to self-publishing, first impressions matter. A lot. My first impression? "Meh". Really, that's all I can really say about it. It's not terrible, just very bland, and not very professional-looking. Above all, it's quite generic and reveals nothing at all about the story. A hand covered in what I can only assume is blood? Does it mean something? No, not really, it's just a bloody hand and the word "blood" is in the title, and I guess the author and/or cover designer couldn't find a better stock photo to match the story, even though I'm pretty sure better stock photos are out there. It just doesn't look like a whole lot of effort or thought was put into the cover, but that's just my opinion.

Come on, you can do better than that...
My Review: Let me just make one thing clear: I take very little pleasure in writing this review. I also want to apologize in advance to the author, because even though I'm a self-proclaimed snarky bitch, I am a big ol' softy at heart when it comes to wide-eyed aspiring authors, in no small part because you can count me as one of their ranks. I love encouraging fellow writers and it gives me a warm fuzzy to see someone with real talent and passion achieve their goals. But sometimes there are those who really need some tough love. Sometimes a new author needs to face the fact that maybe that first negative review has some truth behind it and that maybe their book baby wasn't ready for the big publishing plunge. This is one of those times. Because the hard truth is that Blood Price is simply not a good book. At all.

I feel like there's not a whole lot I can say in regards to the actual story, because this novel left so little of an impression on me. Really, the biggest takeaway I have from this book is a sense of deja vu; seriously, I could pretty much copy and paste my review of The Last Swordmage word for word here, because there's not much to say about this book that I haven't already said about that one. Like Hengst's The Last Swordmage, Wright's debut novel is an unpolished, mistake-riddled, and incomplete-feeling jumble of fantasy cliches. But while TLS did contain a few hints of promise and did at least seem to have gone through some sort of editing, Blood Price never seems to have made it past the rough draft stage. Originally I was going to highlight and count all the typos and grammatical errors I came across, but I gave up pretty quickly because there are simply too many. Almost every single page contains at least two missing comas and/or apostrophes, and although I myself am not infallible when it comes to grammar, it really takes me out of the story when I can't read three paragraphs without coming across a glaring mistake.

To say that Blood Price is very obviously a first novel--or at least one of the author's first attempts at serious writing--would be a pretty accurate assessment. The novel is written in the same style that all amateur authors (yes, my teenage self included) on Wattpad and Fictionpress seem to possess; which is to say, pretty much no real "style" at all. It's a mess of blah that, in addition to being boring and stylistically bland, is often hard to take seriously because of the many trademark elements of amateur internet fiction: inappropriate exclamation marks, telling instead of showing, character reactions and thought patterns that don't seem appropriate for the situation, lots of melodrama, and plenty of dialogue that just doesn't seem like what real people would say. Wright also has the habit of breaking up paragraphs in awkward ways, creating a series of short paragraphs or even single sentences when it would read a lot better as a single, longer paragraph. I'm really not sure if she did this for dramatic effect, but if so it doesn't work.

The narrative voice also suffers from being pretty much the same for each viewpoint character, only made distinctive by how one-dimensional the characters are.  For a story centered on a romance, I felt very little love for anyone in this story, least of all the two main characters. What the synopsis promised to be a darkly intriguing fantasy romance ended up being a gag-inducing love story between two flat, uninteresting people that I don't care at all about because I never really got to know them over the course of the story. If I don't know them, then why should I care? We never get to know either one of them intimately and never get to see just why they love each other; instead we are simply constantly told that they love each other and that we should care about their love because the only two things they ever talk about with each other are 1) how much in love they are; and 2) how afraid they are of the impending doom that threatens to tear them apart. I'm not sure if I should barf or if I should yawn. Ugh, I feel like I'm having Anakin and Padme flashbacks...

Look, it's pretty much an author's job to make the readers care about people and situations that are completely made up. This is particularly true for published authors, who are in essence asking people to fork over their money for the chance to have fictitious people to care about. But in Blood Price the backstory, worldbuilding, character personalities, motivations, and pre-established relationships are so poorly set up that I can't find a single reason to care about these people or their problems. I never found myself engaged in the story enough to actually develop an emotional attachment to anyone, so the tragic love story plot line automatically falls apart, since it's entirely dependent on an emotional attachment that does not exist. I simply cannot find it in me to give one single fuck about these characters.

The way in which the love story played out also felt like it would have been better suited to a sequel than the first novel in a series (yes, you heard me, this is the first in a series). If I had had time in a previous book to see Dartein and Josaleene fall in love and perhaps undergo some much-needed character development, then maybe by the time this book rolled around I would've cared about them enough to have a vested interest in the supposedly-inevitable Bad Thing that threatens to tear them apart.

Besides all that, Blood Price has a big problem with delivering on it's promises. I can tell you right now that half the stuff mentioned in the synopsis doesn't pan out the way it's described in the actual story. This same sort of thing also happens within the story itself, particularly in regards to the way in which the foretold events of a prophecy play out. Without spoiling too much of the plot, a character is told that he will go on a journey and bring back important knowledge. But the only two pieces of knowledge that the prophecy could possibly refer to are things that both we the readers and they the characters already previously knew about! The prophecy therefore ends up being little more than filler and a source of pointless drama within the story.

On a somewhat related note, there are also a lot of dead ends and plot points which had the potential to be interesting but then never really go anywhere. For instance, what was the significance of Josaleene's "slumber" (aka her transformation from human to Noble) lasting much longer than usual, and why was it never explored further? And why aren't the other characters more intrigued by her extraordinary abilities, and what bearing do they have on the plot whatsoever? Why did other members of the court want to kill her so badly, and why isn't that ever investigated at all? What are the politics of the land like, and why do we never get to see the relationship between the humans and the Nobles in greater detail? I guess about half of these issues could be chalked up to haphazard plotting, and the other half to haphazard worldbuilding. If only these dangling plot threads could've been explored a bit more, then the story would've felt a lot more whole and fleshed-out.

There are a lot of little plot holes and logical inconsistencies I could talk about, but the most glaring of those has to be that which comes at the very end of the book. For the life of me I cannot understand Dartein's actions or why no explanation whatsoever is offered for them. Where is he going, and why is he going wherever it is that he's going? Why is he taking a newborn baby with him, and how does he plan on taking care of said newborn? What is he planning on doing next? Why doesn't his father--or anyone else, for that matter--even bother to question his actions? Answer me, dammit! But in the end, I really cared so little that getting answers to these questions doesn't even seem all that important. I don't feel the burning need to find out, and I think that says a lot more about the writing than does the fact that the end provides more questions than answers.

So I think you can see by now why this took me so long to read. Because I was just so weary less than halfway through that it took me nearly a week to convince myself that I had to see it through. I will say that there was a faint glow of promise underneath it all, but in no way was this book anywhere near being ready for publishing. I do want to encourage A.L. Wright to keep at it and to not be discouraged, because she does have potential. But maybe to also seriously consider either giving this book a MAJOR overhaul or starting fresh instead of continuing the series. 

My rating: One and a half stars

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award - check out my post to find out the rules: http://confessions-of-a-book-addict.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/beautiful-blogger-award.html