Philomena by Mark Guiney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
[Disclaimer: I have no idea how I got a copy of this book. I may have gotten it from the author and completely forgotten, because I didn't win it in a giveaway, but in all honesty I have no clue. So in the event the author sent it to me for a review, here's a disclaimer that I didn't pay for this book, but my opinion is my own.]
For a first novel this was mostly enjoyable. There were the obvious first-novel problems with plot, pacing, details, etc. I noticed a lot of typos in the PDF, although that could just be the edition, and for all I know it's been polished in print. There were a few plot holes/things I didn't quite "get" about the book, some of the character dynamics didn't really make sense (Veronica/Forthright's dislike of each other is obvious, but it's not obvious as to why, even with the back story scene halfway through). I thought maybe the author was working up to a love triangle (which I would have disliked even more so thank goodness that wasn't it).
Basil as a character is pretty much inherently good. He doesn't seem to have a flaw, aside from self-doubt and selflessness. Cyprian is a good guy too, but he doesn't really seem realistic to me. He's a great person and seems to be a good ships captain, but what else?
The "magic" in this book isn't really magic as most people think of it, and I give some props to the author for developing something unusual at the least. It was interesting how the people who can use Words (with a capital "W") are limited and the Words aren't necessarily "words" or even explicitly stated at all times. A lot of it was that "Basil started speaking and Words poured from his mouth" kind of stuff which is great, but what exactly the Words did wasn't clear until the very end of the book. It didn't really make much sense, though, and left me with more questions than there were answers provided. I get that it's sort of hereditary, and only the rulers of Cor Nova are able to wield the Words, but Basil's sudden ability and ability to control it without really thinking about it seems like it came on too quickly.
The battles were well-written and the adventure was interesting, although I think it was a bit too easy for the characters to get where they were going. Maybe that's just because most of the confrontations were wrapped up in a chapter or two, as opposed to any lengthy derailing of the plans they kept making. And at the end, (view spoiler)[when they drop Basil off at Soliodomus, it's noted that the lock is obviously off the door and the door is cracked open, and there's no resistance to the ship's docking. The people on the ship notice this only after they've dropped Basil off, and essentially shrug their shoulders and say "Oh well, we need to go fight now." I would have thought that at least one or two of them would have said something about it being a trap before Basil got off the ship, but it seems no one noticed until after he was inside the castle. (hide spoiler)]
The last thing that really stuck in my craw throughout the read was how the author kept referring to characters by their whole names, instead of a first or last name, except Cyprian, Basil and Veronica. By the end of the book I had forgotten Basil's last name! But Clip McElhaney and Burt Spacklebrook (who I don't think was ever referred to as simply a first or last name) were almost always mentioned by first and last name. It is a method of naming that doesn't quite sit right with me, because I feel that if we're going to learn to love these characters, we should be familiar enough with them to know them by first or last name only. Most books I've read do it that way, and that's the way I prefer it.
As an overall experience the book was a fun fantasy novel that ends very solidly, with the potential for more, but which works as a stand-alone. I LOVE that it's technically a stand-alone because it's not another first-in-a-series that I have to worry about not getting everything out of it. I see that the author is writing more stories about Cor Nova, which is nice, but I can say I am satisfied with the way this ended.
Also, Lilith is stinking adorable and while a lot of people hate the "precocious child" character, personally I found her to be hilarious and completely believable. I also liked Forthright better than most of the other characters, despite being abrasive and rude at times (or maybe because of it).
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