Wednesday 30 January 2008

Comment: Bitterwood

I mentioned before that I didn't enjoy Bitterwood, but didn't say why. As promised, I thought I'd explain why the novel just didn't work for me.

The first problem was the world. I remember reading an interview several years ago with former editor-turned-agent John Jarrold, who was asked how he knew when a new manuscript just wasn't going to make the grade. Jarrold answered that in many fantasy manuscripts, the world just doesn't come across well enough. Of course, for novels where the story takes place in a different world, this is an instant nail in the coffin.

This was one of the problems I had with Bitterwood. The world just didn't grab me. There was nothing interesting about it. It was a bog-standard medieval fantasy world. The only difference was the fact that it was run by dragons and the humans were in servitude. A potentially interesting twist, but it couldn't hide what was for me a bland world with little to hold my interest.

Maxey's novel was praised by some for a 'unique' take on Dragons, but I found little to back this up. I suppose it was the dragon society that Maxey had created that was meant to impress, but it was a typical hierarchical society, the only difference being that those involved were dragons rather than humans. Personally I found the notion of dragons living in a castle and acting in a human-like manner rather unbelievable.

The main characters failed to win me over. I liked the names of some of the dragons, but that was about it. The main human protagonist, Jandra, failed to interest me and I couldn't engage with any of the other characters. I found Maxey's writing to be workmanlike at times, with some stiff dialogue. Some of it bordered on juvenile, such as the moment where Bitterwood tells Zeeky to call him 'Hey You.' I still can't quite figure out the point of that.

I don't like putting novels down unfinished, but I also don't like reading novels that fail to entertain or interest me on any level. To be fair, I don't put down many but Bitterwood was one of them.

Other readers must have thought otherwise, as I doubt Solaris would have signed Maxey up for the next couple of books in the sequence unless Bitterwood did well. As I didn't finish the book, I don't think it's fair to give the novel a score out of ten. Best of luck to Maxey, but I for one won't be reading any more of his dragon novels.

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