Review: Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton

25776221Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ✮

The world makes things for each place. Fish for the sea, Rocs for the mountain skies, and girls with sun in their skin and perfect aim for a desert that doesn’t let weakness live.

To say this book is dull is a bit of an understatement.

I love Arabian mythology. A while back, I did some research for a story I was working on. I only wanted some information about ghouls, but then I got caught up in the legends of the First Beings. I spent hours scrolling through websites, soaking up information. That’s why I was so excited by Rebel of the Sands – but its problems start at the very beginning. The author tries to mesh the Middle East with the Western genre, but it succeeds more in the later than the former. It doesn’t blend. The parts where the author delves into the myths are overshadowed by shootouts, politics, and a revolution that is shoved into the last part of the book.

See, that’s the other thing. I understand the importance of Ahmed’s revolution, but because it isn’t an important part of the book up until the end, I can’t be made to care about it. Most of the book is made up of Amani and Jin traveling around the country together (and staring lustfully at each other, of course), and by the time I got to the meat of the book, it was too late. I was bored out of my god damned mind.

The relationship between Amani and Jin is extremely unbalanced. They meet at a pistol pit, escape a burning building together, and the next morning they are fleeing for their lives, putting their necks out for a person they barely know. Amani throws all of her dreams of traveling to Izman, the capitol of Miraji, out the window, ones that she’s had for years, all for a boy that she’s known for two months. They start swooning over each other instantly, but the attraction between them isn’t there. They feel like two characters from different stories shoved together and forced to play a part.

Then there’s the writing. For one thing, it’s melodramatic. Everything is trying to be so intense and tragic, but it’s not working. It’s a little cheap, like those SyFy movies my dad likes to watch, just to laugh at the shitty graphics. Compared to An Ember In The Ashes – which has a lot of similar themes, if you look closely – it fails, miserably. And then there’s this:

The head that rose to look at me was the color of sun at high noon over a sand dune…I was on to the next stall already, to a Buraqi the color of cool dawn light over dusty mountains. The next one was the endless dark of the desert at night.

Those are all in the same paragraph, and those kinds of sentences are repeated over and over again all throughout the book. Like, I get that you need to be creative, but is there really anything wrong with saying that something is black? How about ebony? Stygian? On second thought, now that I think about it, does it really matter what color the Buraqi are at all? She’s only using them as a distraction; it’s not like they’re significant.

I’m rambling.

My point is that sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with being simplistic. Going overboard and trying to sound artistic and clever can backfire, and make the story difficult to read. It can also disrupt the moment. Particularly in fight scenes, it’s better to be sharp and to the point, because it amplifies the viewer’s perspective. Rebel of the Sands doesn’t do that, and so its punches aren’t thrown as hard as they could be.

Rebel of the Sands had a lot of promise and a cool concept, but a horrible execution. It picks up at the end, but by the time you get to the action, you’re practically dragging yourself through it. What it needed was less traveling, more buildup, and a lot more focus on Arabian mythology.

Project Bungou Stray Dogs: The Setting Sun, by Osamu Dazai

194740Original Title: 斜陽 (Shayō)

Author: Osamu Dazai (太宰 治, Dazai Osamu)

Translator: Donald Keene

Genres: Literature, Japanese Literature

Rating: ✮

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This I want to believe implicitly: Man was born for love and revolution.


Project BSD

I very much enjoined No Longer Human. I liked its quiet melancholy and its deep, depressing theme. Whether or not I cared for the narrator is dubious, but I thought it was insightful and I relished it thoroughly. To completely flip the page over and end up here is a bit of a shock.

The biggest problem with The Setting Sun is that it’s boring, and also that it’s melodramatic. It’s full of symbolism relating to the post-war era of Japan following World War II, and if the book related to the country as a whole, I could get down with that. Instead, Dazai wrote about a specific aristocratic family. This means that the attention is centered on them. This means that I have to care for them and direct my sympathy towards them, and I can not.

If I felt anything at all, it was squashed by Kazuko. How the hell am I supposed to feel bad for her when she writes to a man, knowing that he has a wife and family, asking to become his mistress and to have his child? Ignorance is one thing, but she knows. I realize that times were different then, and that many men had mistresses and their wives even knew about it, but that doesn’t disregard how much it sickens me.

Naoji has told me that many people say you are repulsive, and that you are hated and often attacked. Such stories only make me love you all the more. I am sure, considering who you are, that you must have all kinds of amies, but now you will gradually come to love only me. I can’t help thinking that.

Kazuko is whiny. She’s whiny and self-absorbed and just plain annoying.

In regards to the writing, Dazai has this habit of stating an event, and then going back and describing what happened. I hate this tactic, because it’s anti-climatic – it’s almost lazy. Where’s the build-up and tension? As a whole as well, parts are extremely plain, some are purple enough to induce vomiting, and some just don’t make sense. (Why are the words ‘breast’ and ‘breasts’ used so often? Is it intended to be sexual or could he not think of a proper synonym?)

This book is important to Japan because it depicts its transition into a more industrial society. It’s not that I don’t understand that, or that I’m overlooking it – I simply didn’t enjoy this book.

Review: The Novice, by Taran Matharu

The Novice, by Taran Matharu22297138

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ✮

He was going to make a new life, one that Berdon would be proud of. He was going to make it to Corcillum.

Well, good for you, because I couldn’t even make it through this stupid book.

DNF 31%. It’s time for me to be honest: I’m seventeen years old. I have been writing for six years, and I have produced some shit in that time. I’m not some literary mastermind that is capable of determining what is good and what is not.

But I have been around the online writing scene. I’ve read and critiqued work, good and bad, and sometimes I publish some stuff myself. In those years, I have discovered that much of the writing online is…mediocre. You have to really dig to find a story that was written by someone who knows their trade.

The Novice was originally published on Wattpad. For an online story to be turned into a published book is a phenomenal achievement. However, the thing about The Novice is that it still feels like an online story.

The writing is just not that good. It doesn’t feel like an editor even glanced at it. Not only are there punctuation problems—things like commas in places where there should be periods. I mean, come on, that’s elementary—but there is also so much telling. We are immediately told how a character is feeling and why. If someone is nervous, they bite their lip, they wring their hands, they fidget, and they sweat. Matharu doesn’t use these hints; he just says that a character is nervous. This doesn’t leave anything for the reader to figure out themselves.

Plus, there’s too much dialogue where there should be movement. The scenes feel clipped into pieces because there isn’t a balance of both. The dialogue is also way too wordy, with characters babbling things that don’t sound natural at all.

“[My name is] Fletcher. No harm done, I’d have far worse than a bruised neck if it wasn’t for you. The way in which I received my demon is rather a complex one, which is why I was confused by your question. I’ll explain it all to you tonight if you’ll let me,” Fletcher replied, wincing as he rubbed his throat.

Also, Fletcher is an idiot. When he summons a demon, he isn’t even shocked that he’s a summoner—who are supposed to be growing sparse. After only a short time, he isn’t afraid of the demon he summoned—Ignatius—even though for all he knows, it could slash his neck in his sleep. Then, when he arrives at Vocans, a girl named Genevieve tells him that second-years eat later than the first-years.

Ten minutes later:

            “Is it just you two? Where are the second-years?” Fletcher asked, confused.

            “We eat before they do, thank heavens!” Atlas mumbled, abandoning his spoon to slurp the porridge up from the edge of the bowl.

*Slow clap.* Wow. You’re a wizard, Harry.

Lastly, The Novice has a problem that a lot of YA fantasy published in the last few years seem to be having: a complete, utter lack of world-building. Fletcher lives in Pelt, which is in the Hominum Empire, which is god knows where. There’s mentioning of war with the orcs and an elven front, some previous wars, but I have absolutely no idea where they are. At least a map would’ve been helpful, so I would know where everything is.

The Novice had promise—I love stories with elves, demons, and all sorts of magical creatures and monsters—but it needed some major revision before it was published. Sadly, it didn’t work for me.