Saturday, February 25, 2012
"I Know Not," by James Daniel Ross: A Book Review
Surprise! I have another book review for you!
Since finishing Second Sight (G. Hamerton), I've marched through a few more Kindle samples, looking for (and finding) a few worthwhile books -- most notably Homeland (R.A. Salvatore), The Revisionists (Thomas Mullen) and Nation (Terry Pratchett). I added them to my List of Books To Buy When the Price is Right, and moved forward.
One book sample that I randomly selected hooked me so hard and swift, I bought the full book (only $3!) and devoured it in less than a day. This is the book I review for you today -- a fantasy book I'm sure you've never heard of, by an author who is at once incredibly talented and careless...
I Know Not, by James Daniel Ross
This is how I Know Not, by James Daniel Ross, begins.
Now, before you dismiss the tale outright because it employs one of the oldest tropes in literature (Amnesia? Seriously?) keep this in mind: sometimes it's acceptable to use a tired trope IF it is done really REALLY well. And in this case, Ross employs it to incredible effect.
The story is told in first person perspective, from the POV of this nameless warrior. He knows things instinctively that reveal to him the type of person he is (as far as his skill set), without knowing the full truth of who he actually is. He has no idea if he is a hero or a villain, or which side of the battle he was fighting for. As he escapes and heads out into the realm, seeking first to survive, and then to find a healer to help patch him up, he wages an internal war, as impulses to embrace extreme violent tendencies threaten to overwhelm his desire to help, to do right.
A sequence of events sees him joining a small caravan to protect it as it heads for a capitol city, while he struggles to discover who he is -- all the while dreading what he might find out.
It is a remarkable character study, skillfully shoe-horned into a visceral, violent, tightly-scripted action story. It reminds me of what I love best about Joe Abercrombie - the action, the humor, the violence, the good "bad guys" and the bad "good guys"...
And yet, the Kindle version I bought was literally riddled with typos. I couldn't go two pages without catching something that even a moderately-skilled proof-reader should have flagged immediately. It speaks volumes to me about the author that he could so enthrall me, in spite of the grating formatting. That, plus the rather limp cover design, screams the kind of careless apathy of a person who is naturally gifted at many things, but doesn't care enough to polish up what he does before moving on to the next thing that he/she wants to do.
The story is extremely compelling, very well-told, with some flashes of truly incredible phrasing and laugh-out-loud dialog. I cannot stress strongly enough how surprised I was at this book. And yet, it screams out for a little more love and polish and professionalism. It could use a deft editor's hand as well. When a perfect descriptive phrase is used, it greatly enhances the reading experience... but when that same phrase is used a second, and third time, it detracts as much as it initially enhanced. Redundancies and typos -- how the author can offer something like this, which is at once so half-baked and brilliant, puzzles me to no end. It's almost like the reader has to contribute to the writing process, which is really unnecessary.
Summary: 4/5 I can't help but dock it a star for the formatting problems. Everything inside me wants to give this a 5/5 and tout its praises. For what it is, it's a terrific ride and an even better character study. If gritty, violent fantasy is your cup of tea, you will love this book. But be prepared to wade through lazy formatting. I am so glad that I read this book. Plus: it is a stand-alone tale -- no sequels to wait endlessly for!