Hemlock and the Wizard’s Tower (The Maker’s Fire – Book One) by B. Throwsnaill. I purchased this on my own from Smashwords.
Description: A young rogue named Hemlock fights crime in her rundown neighborhood, which lies at the fringe of a magical city. Her sister relies on magical healing, and the spells are failing. When Hemlock confronts the wizards by breaking into their tower, events are set into motion that determine the destiny of the entire realm. Her adventure features brutal combat, cunning politics and tragic romance.
Review: I must be, like, the hardest reader on the planet to please. I know that part of it is that I cannot separate the writer in me from the reader in me when I see problems with the writing. I try. I want to just lose myself. Sometimes I have, but sometimes things just bug me and I can’t let them go. But I’m led to write a not-so-great review on a story many others seem to find awesome.
Let me start out by saying that there were a lot of elements of this story that I did like. That is to say, it had a lot of concepts I had high hopes for. I like high fantasy worlds with magic and cool creatures, good versus evil, kick ass female characters, epic stories, grey morality, etc., This story promised all of those things.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel it in the execution.
I found it a bit over-written. I love the West Wing quote where the president says, “Anyone in my family who uses five words when they could have used ten just isn’t trying hard enough.” It’s funny, and something I do when talking, but doesn’t work for me in fiction.
Too much description weighs a story down for me. Telling every single detail of every movement, expression, thought, and so on makes the writing mechanical. It also — and man, I feel so mean to say it — but it always makes me think of a writer trying very hard to be epic, rather than letting the story be epic for itself.
There was an excess of character monologing that goes along with this. The reader does not really need to know everything. “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” Having struggled with this in my own writing, I really do understand the drive to do it, but you gotta weed that stuff out in editing. (Which this book needed more of, but that’s minor to me.)
…which leads me to my second problem. This felt like a story trying to be epic and complex, when all of the motivations and actions of the characters seemed incredibly simplistic to me. Characters that were allegedly complicated with multiple layers of intentions and morality didn’t seem complex at all to me. Every one was a straight line.
And that comes to my third “major” issues, which was that I didn’t like Hemlock. Now, I will freely and happily confess that this is not entirely on the writer. I tend to dislike young (teenage, early 20s) female main characters. I don’t know why, but they annoy me. I think I only have one author where that doesn’t happen to me.
That being said… Hemlock just struck me as kind of… stupid. She didn’t think anything through and it wasn’t until the end that I felt I could believe that any of her actions were driven by a Higher Ideal. She felt very self-focused to me, which made it hard to connect with her. And the stuff with Falignus felt forced to me.
I felt like I was Told a lot. Like… that various characters were smart or powerful or cunning warriors, but their actions rarely showed it. They often came across as simple-minded or naive.
Merit was cute, however, and I did like Gwineval.
God knows, I hate to write any review I can’t rave about a fellow indie author. I wish I could, but this book was kind of a struggle for me to get through. I did like the concepts, but the story and the characters really didn’t grab me. That’s not to say I thought it was terrible, just not great, and obviously plenty of folk feel otherwise.
This falls mid-range for me with a 2.5 Fireballs.