Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Book Review: Eleganta by Denny Swartzlander

Eleganta by Denny Swartzlander is my February and first Kindle Pick of the Month. In a way, this is an experiment. First time writers publishing in the Kindle store either (1) couldn't get their novel published by a traditional publisher or (2) didn't submit to a traditional publisher. Either way, the traditional publishing route, which some people feel is pretty important to boosting quality, has been circumvented.

Full disclosure: My first fantasy novel was not picked up by a publisher, so I decided to put it out on my site, the Kindle store, and other online venues.

So, the experiment is to see if self-published eBooks meet the same quality standard as traditional books.

Eleganta left me undecided.

The titular character, a garden fairy, has just given birth to a baby, an occurrence not seen in over a decade. It is quickly decided that the baby must be brought to the fairy queen for protection, for an invading army of trolls—and one troll general in particular—is hell-bent on capturing her. Seems that the trolls grow sick and die when ingesting the current crop of fairies, so they're consumed (no pun intended) with creating a line of fairies not toxic to them. For reasons which remain unclear to me, Eleganta's baby is the key to this source.

So begins a journey for Eleganta, her daughter, and a warrior fairy charged with protecting them that should by all accounts be one charged with suspense and danger. There's plenty of danger (though I never really felt anyone was going to suffer from it) but little suspense. Eleganta and company go from one destination to another, sometimes quickly, sometimes stopping to frolic in the forest, so to speak, all the while chased by a pair of monstrous hound-like creatures. That in itself is a problem: the trolls want the baby alive, so why send a couple of creatures who will probably do nothing less than eat it if they ever capture it?

Another point of contention I couldn't get past: fairies fly, yet their villages are walled. Perhaps this is because they've been fighting the army of trolls for some time, so they've simply built their defenses up. But, still, I had imagined a different sort of lifestyle for fairy-kind, one that did not mirror our own so much.

In terms of writing, Eleganta varies from above average to below average. Character descriptions sometimes are info dumps, with too much, too soon and descriptions that are too detailed. I prefer to find out the nuances of a character as the story unfolds rather than having information thrown at me straight off. There are parts of Eleganta that are on par with anything you'd read elsewhere. Unfortunately, there are also other sections I felt could have used a bit more polish.

The storyline is good enough, though pacing was not the best and the characters are all-too-familiar or just flat. There was no one character I really connected with nor any characters I genuinely wanted to see succeed.

Perhaps the most telling sign of all: I couldn't finish Eleganta. I made it halfway. Knowing when to stop reading isn't always easy. In this case, I was having a hard time getting enthused about picking up my Kindle and diving into the story. If that isn't a sign tell me what to do, I don't know what is.

While Eleganta has thus far racked up nine five star reviews on Amazon, I didn't feel it quite met that level. I plan to give it three stars when I post my review there shortly.

Kindle February Pick of the Month

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I'm supporting Kindle writers by selecting for review the occasional eBook from Amazon's Kindle Store each month. This is the first of those selections.

Eleganta: A novel of Fairykind by Denny Swartzlander is my first pick for my ongoing I Support Kindle Writers campaign.

Eleganta is offered in both Kindle and paperback editions, but the paperback is through, so still satisfies the criteria I outlined for how I'd be making my selections. It hasn't gone through the traditional publishing process, in other words.

The review count of Eleganta is a little higher than I would have liked (it has 8 five star reviews), but I'm going to let that pass on this one.

It seems like a promising read:

Enter the 9th century, a time of magic and mystery. On a hidden isle in the seas near England, a young fairy named Ethywyne Eleganta secretly gives birth to the first youngling in fourteen years. She and her child become the hunted prize of the wicked troll general Sunderin. Ethywyne must make the perilous journey across the Fairy Realms, to get her child to the Fairy Queen, the only one who can protect her from the shadow that seeks to destroy all of Fairykind.

You can visit the official Eleganta web site for more information about the book or its author. I should have my review out in a few weeks.

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I'm Supporting Kindle Writers

I want to do something to help support new and indie writers publishing in the Kindle store. I also want to read more this year.

As for the latter, I'm reading and reviewing all of the Tor Free eBooks as well as taking part in LibraryThing's 50 Book Reading Challenge.

As for the former…

I'm going to do something nice for a change (for the first time, if you ask my wife) and attempt to give something back to the writing community. I plan to do this by selecting, once a month, an eBook from Amazon's Kindle Store to read and review. There are some criteria (listed below) to which I will adhere to when making a selection, the most notable being that the eBook will have to have been written by a relatively unknown or completely unknown author. I want to help out people like myself who are exploring the self-publishing route or indie authors by giving a shout-out of their work. The stage on this blog is pretty small, but every lit bit of attention helps, right?

That being said, I can't guarantee my review will be positive (see #1 below). I can't even guarantee it will help foster new sales for that particular writer. The only thing I can guarantee is a single sale and a subsequent review. That's all.

Now, to lay some ground rules:

1.) I'm going to give an honest review. If the book doesn't work for me (or if it just stinks), I'll say so. I figure anyone brave enough to put their work up for sale should be able to stand some criticism.

2.) As far as price, I'll likely stick to eBooks selling for less than about $4-5. This isn't set in stone, and, to be honest, I'm not sure what I'll find at that price range. I sell my eBook, The Hall of the Wood, for less than that and everyone knows it is of dubious quality. ;-) Also, I support the boycott on eBooks costing more than $9.99, so I certainly won't go over that threshold.

3.) I'll target new writers, or at least those eBooks that currently do not have any reviews (or a small number of reviews).

4.) The eBook has to have a cover. I think book covers are important. In the eBook world, I think it shows a heightening of professionalism, a sort of minimum requirement that all eBooks should have in order to be taken seriously. This will be one of the first criteria I will use to eliminate potential review candidates.

5.) I'll (obviously) post my review up here, but I'll also add it to Amazon along with a rating. Amazon reviews are extremely important. Perhaps even more so for new writers or books that are languishing without any reviews at all. Hopefully (for the writer), my review is positive and helps their sales.

6.) I'll generally stick with fantasy and science fiction. However, I might stray into historical fiction or even mystery/detective, depending on what I find.

7.) The eBook has to have a Product Description. If I don't know what the book is about, why would I want to read it? Also, the description has to be well-written. In other words, product descriptions full of sentences that don't make sense or are fraught with typos are a reflection on the content within and will keep me from hitting the 'buy' button.

8.) The eBook has to be a novel, and not a short story. Lots of people selling short fiction in the Kindle store. That's fine, but not what I want to buy/review. Best way to determine this is to look at the file/download size.

What this amounts to is (hopefully) a way of giving back and promoting little-known or unknown authors. Everyone knows the publishing game is changing; I'd like to be a part of that change in a positive way.

One last comment… If you, dear reader, happen to have an eBook for sale in the Kindle Store that you might want me to read and review, feel free to post it up below.

I should hopefully have my first eBook selected by the end of the week.

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