Andrew D. Crastley,
Keepers of Runes & the Tower of Shadows
(CreateSpace, 2014)

If you are an RPG fan whose main complaint about fantasy novels is that they do not sufficiently respect the tropes of RPG games, look no further! This might be the book (and series?) for you.

Less so, for the rest of us.

The whole thing read like a novelization of what was probably a pretty good RPG game. In particular the fights were overly frequent and very predictable, including the use of various magics by the spell-casting classes. Character development was mostly restricted to "leveling up."

The plot, too, was an RPG cliche. The Big Bad wants to destroy the world. OK, fine ... but why? There's no particular motivation given, except he's the Big Bad. And despite the fact that he is utterly incompetent at choosing and using his minions, he is nonetheless oh-so-powerful, with no explanation. That's one of the problems with Big Bads, and usually their vulnerability: They rely on bullying rather than seduction to get what they want, and bullied people will -- at best -- work to rule rather than throw their talents behind the leader.

I will also mention that this is clearly the first book in a proposed series, so it does not resolve at the end. Based on the events, I'd expect it to be at least a trilogy, and it ended on what was probably intended as a cliff-hanger.

Now onto the writing.

The elvish spells are, for some reason, Latinate, which struck me as odd; I generally do not think of Latin as being otherworldly, but maybe that's just me. To me, it seems like a very pragmatic tongue (and I studied it for several years). Priests do their magic by praying and getting divine intervention -- those are a lot more responsive and cooperative gods than one generally sees in myths and folktales!

With both, I can almost hear the dice rolling when magic is attempted, along with other attacks.

I regret to say that author Andrew D. Crastley also engages in a lot of "thesaurus abuse." That's when a writer picks a word that means what he wants, but then uses a thesaurus to find a "fancier" supposed synonym, often with bewildering or amusing results. Crastley was not as blatant about it as some writers I have read, but it was an issue. For example, on page 82, Our Hero is visiting the Sorcerors' Guild for the first time, and it's a really fancy building. "Cornith stared admirably at the radiant hallways." "Admirably" and "admiringly" are not the same.

And so it went. It was mildly entertaining to figure out what word would have been appropriate, and how he got to the one he chose instead.

To all budding authors out there: read more. While the thesaurus can be your friend, if you are not familiar with a word in context, do NOT trust that it means exactly the same as the one you're looking for a synonym for. It probably doesn't, and the results can range from off-putting to downright hysterically funny.

It also helps to wind down your list of expressives. Adjectives and adverbs can be fine when used carefully; used in excess, it gets silly. Likewise "said" is a perfectly fine word. Everyone does not need to "grin," "grimace," "sneer," etc., their every utterance, and indeed, it makes them look like volatile idiots.

Especially when they all, without exception, turn red when they feel any emotion whatsoever.

Crastley's bio cites his "unique writing style," so perhaps this is all intentional.

book review by
Amanda Fisher

27 December 2014

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