Title & Author: The Book of Deacon (Volume 1), Joseph R. Lallo
Genre & Publication Date: Fantasy, March 18, 2012
Book Description: “The tale of Myranda Celeste, a young woman orphaned by a century long war, and her chance discovery of a fallen soldier’s priceless cargo. The find will change her life, sending her on an adventure of soldiers and rebels, wizards and warriors, and beasts both noble and monstrous. Each step will bring her closer to the truth of her potential, of the war, and of the fate of her world.”
First Line: The end of an era is always a time of great importance.
My Take: The premise of this novel is an interesting one but the work itself is in such desperate need of additional revision and editing that the intended story is lost in the 300+ page haystack. A story, like a recipe, requires certain ingredients to keep the reader enthralled. Let’s examine what was left out of the pot:
A compelling protagonist: With the exception of a handful of short chapters, the story is told exclusively from the perspective of the main character, Myranda Celeste. As such, she needed be an engaging character that readers would enjoy following. Instead, her personality was incredibly bland, like an unspiced broth.
We’re told of her haunted past and her nomadic life. With such hardships I expected her to have more street smarts, like keeping a hidden weapon handy (a girl on her own needs more than a smile as defense, right?), some hunting know-how or at least a basic understanding of how to dress in cold temperatures. She had none of these things. She was also far too submissive in my opinion. A hard edge to her outlook on life and a little sass would’ve bonded me to her more. Unfortunately, she was far too willing to think the best of others when most of the time they treated her like garbage. Even her internal dialogue was a passive empathy for the vicious views held by strangers. It was difficult to root for someone who wouldn’t stand up for herself. I often found myself wanting to give her a hard shake and shout in her face, “Where’s your moxy, girl?” Alas, she probably would’ve just apologized to me.
Lack of flavor: The characters are more like tropes than people with merits and flaws. For example, the wizard in the first third of the book was a character that chaffed from the first introduction. I understand the stereotype of the wizard is a grumpy, short-tempered one, but where’s the heart of gold that endears him to us despite the gruff exterior? Without that, what do you have? An old, anti-social codger you can barely stand to be around. Now, unless it’s the holidays and you’re related to this person by blood or marriage, why would anyone suffer such company for any length of time?
There is also a jarring absence of character development. The protagonist’s behavior and opinions are exactly the same the whole book through. People should change in accordance with their life experiences. They may stay the same at their core but they learn and grow as well. Perhaps the author wanted to keep Myranda a pure soul who deplored violence. That’s fine, but I feel she still needed a character arc of some kind so we could follow her journey as a person as well.
Ignoring the recipe (Craft issues)*: Head jumping, sudden changes in motivation (i.e. lifelong dreams that were never mentioned before suddenly take center stage), lack of tension (a lot of wandering around, thinking to herself), character reactions that are wholly out of place (from too much anger to the absence of it), all left me equal parts bored, confused and frustrated.
On a strange side note: There was a lot of dialogue in which Myranda talked to herself when no one else was around. I’ve done the occasional “What the hell?” when on my own, but speaking an entire train of thought out loud? I think there’s medication for that.
*There’s definitely a debate on whether “craft rules” inhibit creative invention, but my belief is that stories need a modicum of structure just to make sense. What’s put into that structure is where creativity comes in.
The Magical: “A war without diplomats.” I found the tragedy of the Perpetual War to be a compelling element, although the believability was somewhat diminished by its irrationality. Closing schools that teach healing arts? Shutting down apothecaries in towns? This rationale is thinly explained by the ‘Everyone has gone crazy with this war thing.’ Yes, war can make people irrational. We’ve seen that in history, but pushing the doctors out of existence? That just plain doesn’t make sense.
The system of magic is interesting and detailed, but it doesn’t show up until halfway through the book. Then it drags on and feels more academic than fantastic.
The Mundane: I had trouble figuring out where the story was trying to lead me. Yes, the protagonist wants to see an end to the Perpetual War, but everyone’s place in that goal felt very undefined. There was a distinct lack of purpose which made the events, and the sections that dragged painfully on in between, feel like a puzzle that didn’t quite fit together.
Summary of Thoughts: Currently, the book is free on the Kindle, but it is the opinion of this humble blogger that it was published before it was ready. The story needed an editor’s pen like a surgeon needs a scalpel. Without this, it read much like an early draft. I noted many, many sections that didn’t merit their length or attention, and a few more that weren’t necessary at all. These bogged down the entire work. By the time the main plot line was clarified, the book was 75% over. That is far too late in the game to define what the story is all about. Most would’ve given up by that point…unless the reader is one of those obsessive-compulsive types and just has to finish every book I—er, they start *cough*cough*
Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews: http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Deacon-ebook/product-reviews/B0036FTF4S/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1