The Bone Sword, by Walter Rhein. Two out of five, max. I’ve read worse, it has a plot, and at least a stab at characterization. If you took that stab in the dark, facing a mirror, striking behind you with your off hand and sweat stinging your vision to a blur.
But worse than that is the use of language, which veers between the modern “OK” and describing a starving man as having a “lack of alimentation”.
It reads, in fact, like it was written by someone with a degree in English literature who never took the time to read the common vernacular and figure out how actual human beings construct dialogue. You may not be surprised that the author bio reveals it was written by someone with a degree in English lit.
I suggest he should have sued the college and gotten his money back. And instead spent, say, fifty bucks setting up a pizza and soda party to get some plain feedback on, how does this read? Do people actually sound like this?
He also apparently paid for editing. I’d believe he got proofreading out of it, I didn’t catch any obvious typos. But a good editor would have seized on no shortage of sentences in the text and eviscerated them. Let me give you a few examples.
“The sensation of his callused hand upon his features was simultaneously slick and rough.”
“It was the ineptitude of those whose task it was to maintain the place that drew his ire.”
“At Malik’s appearance, the regulars immediately stopped their drunken antics and swiveled their fatty jowls to the entryway with the telegraphed interest of a less-than-intelligent dog.”
Need I go on? And all of those were in the first three pages.
I couldn’t force myself to read much more of it, but there are also some definite worldbuilding problems. There’s a character who’s got massive healing powers, that 1) she’s managed to keep completely quiet until her father’s deathly ill, and 2) seem to cost her, personally, nothing to use. Both of these make me very, very cranky. If she’s had these powers since she was a small child she would have made mistakes around other people in the village, the info would have gotten out and they’d have had allies – or enemies – much sooner. And magic should cost. Magic should always cost.
There’s also a priest going around burning people who disagree with him, who seems to have no other reason than fanatical For The Evulz. There are villages in places without reasons to be there – no trade, no resources, nothing but nasty swamp. And don’t get me started on the bone sword itself, unless you used serious magic (and there is none) you would never want that as a hilt material, it’s too likely to fracture in use and drive nasty stuff into your hands.
This reads, in short, like someone from a foreign, non-native-English-speaking culture, decided to do a literary analysis of fantasy, make it darker and grittier, and scattershot high-falutin’ words through it to approximate what they thought the Middle Ages sounded like.
Bleah. Donating this ASAP. Before it hurts my brain more.