Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Book 54 of 2012: The Book of Fire

I've been meaning to write this review for almost a month now and I've just not seemed to be able to find the motivation for it, I'm not even sure why. I keep on telling myself to just go on to the next book review and come back to this one, but I can't seem to bring myself to do that either, so I'm going to finally get this written and hopefully get (re-)caught up with my reviews!

The Book of Fire is the first book in a series featuring Cressida Widdershins who is a young girl living on an alternative version of our Earth. In her world the continents never split and most of the population has magic powers. Cressida is one of the few who has no powers at all, and she just happens to acquire a magic book which an evil cult wants to use to begin an ice age which will wipe out most of the life on Earth. Together with her friends, she has to find a way to stop this from happening.
Now I did quite enjoy this story. It was a pretty good concept, the world was pretty original and I liked the fact that Cressida was one of a very tiny percentage of the population who didn't have magical powers. There was a good sense of humour in the story as well, at times it reminded me of Terry Pratchett, which is always a good thing.

I think that it would probably appeal to a younger audience, possibly those who aren't quite ready for Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket. At times I found myself drawing parallels between those stories as well. However, I did find myself wondering at times whether the author was truly aware of the audience he was writing for. Occasionally there were instances of terms or language being used which I think would either be unfamiliar to a younger reader, or perhaps inappropriate for them. There were also times when one of the eleven-year-old characters would say something that didn't sound like the sort of thing an eleven-year-old would say, though I was willing to overlook those considering it was taking place in a different world to our own.

There were also some instances of irritating formatting. It was mostly simple little things but which all combined together became a bit wearing and definitely pulled me out of the story; line breaks in the middle of characters' speech, no indents at the beginning of paragraphs (making it feel more like a web text rather than a book), etc. Two of the most annoying things was the character Miss Weber alternating between being named as Miss Webber and Miss Weber (sometimes several times on the one page) for most of the first 20% of the book. It's the sort of thing that could lead me to give up on a book, but luckily it stopped after a while.

The story could have benefitted from slightly better formatting. If it had been arranged on the page with indented paragraphs then the author could have used the double line spaces to indicate where the focus was shifting. Focus shifts happened often and without warning, which could be jarring because suddenly the 'she' you were reading about was not Cressida but Miss Weber/Webber or Cressida's mother.

It took me about four or five days to read, which is longer than I'd normally spend reading a book like this. It felt long; in a way it reminded me of some of the stories that I've produced during NaNoWriMo where plots have randomly changed midway through because you've realised that you've not got enough to carry you to the end of the 50,000 words. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it did mean that I found it tricky to keep track of who the good guys and bad guys were.

It's obviously the beginning of an interesting series, but it could do with a little bit of polishing to make it a really good read.

"So the humans developed much like they did on other alternative Earths. They built the pyramids, went through an industrial revolution and invented reality television."Location 16

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