Monday, October 3, 2011
Kobra Kid Reviews: The Hero Always Wins
The Hero Always Wins by Robert Eaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sword and sorcery? Yes, please!
Sword and sorcery and lesbians? Engaging starving orphan eyes--please, sir, I want some more!
No, really. I want more. Where the hell is the sequel? I need to know if Carys and Arabella ever get it oooon. I mean, um, declare their deep and abiding love for one another. Yep, totally meant that. Heh.
Okay, let me get serious. Not that I'm not serious about the girl-lovin', of course, because...well. Have you met me?
Anyway, here's the deal: I can't pretend this book is perfect. If I'm honest--and I always am, whether you like it or not--it could use some work. You can definitely tell it's self-published, because it suffers throughout from a lot of simple typographical errors, missing words, confused syntax, that sort of thing, as well as a handful of formatting flubs that I feel confident would have been caught and corrected by any half-competent editor. And I say that in no way intending to belittle or disrespect the people mentioned in the acknowledgements section whom the author had proofread for him; I'm sure they did the job to the best of their ability, but the fact is that there is a difference, clearly, between what can be accomplished by an amateur compared to what can be accomplished by a professional.
As further evidence of this point, my biggest complaint about this book is not the basic typos, or the rest of the aforementioned, but rather that large portions of the narrative read like a summary. I will be the first to admit that Show, Don't Tell is NOT an ironclad rule of writing, as some would have us believe; it's more of a guideline, which some writers would do well to follow less strenuously. But I feel that having the guidance of professionals at a reputable publishing house would have helped Eaton to strike a happy medium, because what we have here is what should have been a 400+ page epic crammed into a mere 224 pages, the result of which is a book that feels more like an outline rather than a finished work.
And that pisses me off, quite frankly, because you know what? This book has a hell of a lot of potential. I didn't really get into it until about page 70 or so, but after that I started being pretty impressed with Robert Eaton as a writer. Despite the brevity of this book, he managed to lay the foundation for a really intriguing magical saga, with at least three concurrent storylines, and evoked some pretty badass imagery while he was at it. It would almost sneak up on me sometimes. I'd be like: reading, reading, reading--oh, hey, that's pretty cool!
And while we're on the subject of things sneaking up on me, can I just take a minute to discuss the subtle mindfuckery that goes on in this book? I don't want to give too much away and spoil the story, but let's just say that the person you think you're supposed to be rooting for ends up being, well, not. And someone you assume is only a bit player and basically disregard for at least a third of the story, if not closer to half, actually ends up being of central importance to the plot. The effect is that, by the end of the book, you're left going, "Hey, wait just a goddamn minute!" You totally don't see it coming. Or at least I didn't. I read a lot, and I'm used to seeing the same old tired tropes trotted out over and over and over again, so I thought I knew what was going to happen. I was wrong. And that, I think, is pretty fucking cool.
In the acknowledgements, Eaton states that he wrote this book as a hobby. Well, if this is what he turns out for a hobby, I would love to see what he could produce if he approached a book as a serious, concerted project. And what I would really enjoy seeing is if, at some point, he had the time and inclination to expand this book into the epic it deserves to be, with deeper explanations of the lore involved, the magic and how it works, and those bare bones sections fleshed out to tell a more comprehensive and elaborate story. But I realize, of course, that what I want to happen and what is actually going to happen have never exactly been similar, so I will content myself with a sequel. Please write a sequel? Pretty please?
Hero, as I said, is not perfect. But it is entertaining. For me, it was like reading a Baldur's Gate game. Which is awesome, of course, because I fucking love those games. (And I just found out via the magic of Wikipedia that there are actually Baldur's Gate/Forgotten Realms books as well, and now I'm peeing myself with glee, oh my god. But I won't say that reading this book is like reading those books, because clearly I have never read them and am therefore unqualified to make that assertion.) So if you're a fantasy fan, and especially if you're a fantasy fan who also likes the Baldur's Gate games--or probably any D&D-based game, really--then it might be relevant to your interests to give The Hero Always Wins a quick read. The open ending--which is not to say cliffhanger, per se--may prove a bit frustrating, but with any luck, we can look forward to seeing more (SEQUELSEQUELSEQUEL) from Eaton in the future.
Kobra Kid, signing off.
[You can't stop the signal.]
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Posted by Kobra Kid at 9:11 PM