Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Previously, I have talked about the issue of how tastes change over time. How you grow and mature and, hopefully, so does your taste in books. Seriously, if you are an adult that has been through any type of higher education or life changes, you should not still be reading the same old stuff you read in high school. At least not just that same old stuff. I've mentioned how Piers Anthony used to be one of my favorite authors (in this post) and how I can't read anything by him anymore. It can be a sad feeling when you grow out of a beloved author.

Back in high school, I picked up these two books by this author Raymond Feist, Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master. [Note: These were originally published as one book, Magician, but the publisher decided it was too long and later split it into two books.] I liked them. I remember really liking them, in fact. I picked up several other Feist books, including Faerie Tale (which I loved), but never got around to reading any of them (except Faerie Tale). However, when Magician was re-released as an author's preferred edition, I picked those up and re-read it. I still liked it. That, though, was a long time ago (but not in a galaxy far, far away).

Recently, I passed the two Magician books on to my younger son, and he really liked them. He wanted the next book in the series, Silverthorn.
Now, let me just insert two things here:
1. Magician is a complete story. There is no ambiguity in the ending about it needing any kind of sequel.
2. A few years ago, my daughter bought for me Krondor: The Betrayal, a book (first in a series) that Feist wrote based off of a video game based off of Magician and the rest of the Riftwar Saga. It was terrible. However, remembering how much I had enjoyed the other books I'd read by Feist, I chalked it up to being based off of a video game.
Silverthorn is a book I owned but had never read. Like I said, Magician ends on a note of finality, so, even though there were more books in the Riftwar Saga, I had never felt compelled to continue reading, so I just hadn't. But my son's desire to continue the story spurred me to dig out my copy of Silverthorn (especially since the alternative was to buy him something we already owned), and, then, I decided I would (finally) go ahead and read it.

That was a mistake.

Silverthorn is a horrible book. Okay, horrible may be too strong of a word, but it was quite a challenge to get through it. It struck me as nothing more than a forced sequel to something that didn't need one. Basically, we want to see these characters again, so figure out a story for them. Whether that came from the publisher or the author not knowing what to write next, I have no idea. Whatever the cause, it was completely formulaic but without any of the charm of, say, The Belgariad, to make it worth reading. A quest for an item while being chased by an all powerful enemy that the heroes manage to continually defeat without anyone ever getting killed.

That bit about being chased was the worst part of it. The bad guys always knew where the good guys were, always overtaking them and hounding them endlessly. Plus, there were zombies. Oh, yeah, the book has zombies, but it was written way before the whole zombie thing became big. The only way they can be killed is by fire, so, even when they hack them to bits, the pieces keep coming. The book has magic, but it's that kind of magic that conveniently only works when the author wants it to. The whole thing was rather infuriating.

Feist also suffered from "then-syndrome" while writing this one. "He did this, then he did this, then he did that, then he did this again, and then he did this and that." Then then then. Oh my gosh. He also suffered from "again-syndrome," because, after the characters did something, they almost always did it again. "Again he picked his nose." "Again he turned around." "Again he drove me crazy!" But the worst...

The worst was "suddenly-syndrome." A while back, when PT Dilloway reviewed The House on the Corner, he dinged me for using the word "suddenly" too much. I did a word count after he said that and came up with about two dozen uses in 120,000 words. I didn't feel too badly about that. Well, PT should certainly not read Silverthorn. At one point, during a two page battle scene, Feist uses the word "suddenly" more than a dozen times. In two pages! I think I never want to use that word again after reading Feist's book.

I kept expecting, "then, suddenly, he again...," or something of the sort. It didn't happen, but it wouldn't have surprised me.

The worst part of having read this book, though, is that it's kind of ruined the other books for me. I'm left with this lingering question as to whether the other books are better than this one or if they were this bad, too, but I was just young enough not to be bothered by any of it. And I want to know! I want to go back and read Magician again just so I can see if they were better, but I know that I won't, so it's just going to bug me for who knows how long. Maybe, I'll re-read Faerie Tale and see how that one is; I've kind of wanted to re-read it for a while anyway.

Oh, and the editing is horrible, especially considering these were edited by a major publisher. The book was full of comma errors, for one thing, but errors that don't make any sense. For instance, there would be a sentence like "I went to the store, to buy some milk." Why is that comma there? There's never a reason for a comma in a sentence like that, yet the book was full of that type of error, like the editor just tossed them on  the page and let them stay where they landed. And, then, there were the misspellings. Like the adventurers kept going up the trial. Not the trail, the trial. They did this more than once. They did it more than twice. Personally, I kind of want to see a story, now, about someone going up and down the trial or racing down the trial on his horse. That was not the only misspelling just the only one that happened again and suddenly again.

So I don't really know what to say about Feist, now. There was a time I would have suggested, at least, Faerie Tale to people that like that kind of thing, but Silverthorn leaves me more than reluctant to suggest anything by Feist to anyone.


  1. Commas: they are not salt; do not season to taste.

    You know what, though? I know the logic for that comma. "But the phrase 'to buy some milk' is extra information, so we should set it off in commas!" PUT THE COMMA DOWN AND BACK AWAY SLOWLY, AND NOBODY GETS HURT, OKAY.

    Again-syndrome is the worst, by the way. The WORST.

    My personal pet peeve right now though is (and I don't know the grammar-term for it) constructions like this: "At twelve years of age with blue eyes, Johnny walked down the hall to class." "As a woman, she felt it was her duty to comfort Jane." Something about that order makes me all off-kilter, and I suspect it is BECAUSE COMMAS.

  2. Two dozen 'suddenly' in a book is not over-use.
    The forced book is always obvious. Nothing kills the author faster. That's why I'm stopping at three for the Cassan universe.
    Thought the same thing about Anthony. Not bad when I was younger, but not good reading as an adult.

  3. This is the trouble with being a writer. We get very meticulous. I've had this problem with re-reading books from my youth as well.

  4. It seems like everybody I know is talking about rereading favourite authors and books.

    So Silverthorn was published by traditional publishers? In an actual book? And it was that badly edited and written? That never ceases to amaze me.

  5. Its sad to discover a much loved book of one's youth or childhood is actually not the literary creation we believed it to be.

    As for the bad spelling or typos, nobody seems to take the trouble any more. I find this happens a lot with ebooks. They are littered with typos. Grammar mistakes are another thing, I always want to be able to correct everything but can't.

  6. "I kept expecting, "then, suddenly, he again...," or something of the sort. It didn't happen, but it wouldn't have surprised me."

    Three of my pet peeves right there...not that I ever do that sort of thing. *ahem* But, yeah, that gets very tedious to read, and shouldn't be showing up in a an experienced writer's novels. Kind of sad, really.

  7. Suddenly is one of my weaknesses too. But I usually catch myself at it while I'm still writing.

    The last time I read The Silmarillion I noticed how often Tolkien used the word "and" at the beginning of his sentences. For instance, instead of writing "Joe went to the store" he would write "And Joe went to the store". But I really think that it works for him, giving the whole thing more of an epic, mythic feeling with just a simple word. It comes across as part of the voice of the book rather than just sloppiness. So I guess that the key here is not that repetition is bad, only mindless repetition. Repetition can also be used effectively as a tool.

    Interestingly, I don't think I've lost any favorite authors as I've grown up. I find that the books I loved were worthy of my love. The trend I have been enjoying is that as I grow older I am able to appreciate the things I always loved and a lot of things I didn't really love before on a whole new level. Perhaps this is because I've always had rather high standards.

  8. Callie: Yes, but, other than the subject/predicate combination, -everything- is extra information. That would mean commas should go -everywhere-! And, then, we'd all be talking like Shatner. Now, I'm wondering if there were just too many commas in his scripts.

    Alex: The thing that kills me about Anthony is that I SO enjoyed his books. It makes me feel bad that I don't anymore. I think there are a few that are probably decent, but most of them were just trash.

    Matthew: Well, I realized I didn't like his books anymore well before I started writing. Of course, just because I wasn't writing then doesn't mean I wasn't a writer, if that makes any sense.

    Cathy: Yeah, it came out in the mid-80's, long before self-pubbing was a thing.

    Luanne: It is! But what's more sad is that there should have been an editor there to say "stop!"

    Sarah: I have to watch my conjunctions at the beginning of sentences. My problem there is that I -like- them, but too many is, well, too many. It's been a long while since read Silmarillion, at this point. I want to read it again, but I have such I huge stack of things, right now.

    What did you read when you were younger? Don't say Piers Anthony and that you still like him now.

  9. Jo: Oops... somehow, I skipped you. :(
    That's true, but this book was published back in the 80's, and the editing reminds me more of a self-pubbed book. Maybe, this has just always been a problem?

  10. I must have missed your post on Piers Anthony, as I went and read it and saw that I hadn't commented on it.

    That part struck me because lately I've been thinking about the "Xanth" novels and wondering if I would like to re-read them. I read them all the way through probably 10 or 11 -- "Golem In The Gears" I think was the last one -- and I enjoyed them, but like you, I moved away from them. The other day I was looking at "Castle Roogna" on Amazon and wondering if I should pop for the $7.99 to buy it; that was always my favorite one.

    Now I'm not sure. I did re-read the "Split Infinity" series about 5 years ago and it was about as I remembered it: competent, interesting in places, a bit different in how it told the story. That's what I always liked about Piers.

    I think what you're seeing is that you were in the past able to overlook what you now see as flaws in the story. That's understandable: you're a great writer AND a skilled technician. Those are two very different skills. You're like a carpenter and an architect, mixed together. When someone like me throws together a shelf made of boards and milk crates, the architect part of you might say it looks interesting but the carpenter part of you can't get past the fact that it's going to fall over immediately.

    You're an "archpentect."

    As for the commas: People use them to denote pauses and things. Grammatically, they ought not to do that, but I think the intent is to try to give a feel for how the character talks. That girl that writes Hyperbole and a Half once suggested that we use punctuation specifically designed for that, like extending the ellipses to suggest a really long pause.

    "He turned and said "Leave... or I will shoot you."

    "The other man stared at him. "Go ahead...................shoot if you dare," he responded.

    I couldn't find that post, but maybe you will like this one, in which she says how she copes with people who misuse punctuation, and grammar:

    (Yes, I threw that comma before "and grammar" in there to see if I would be faulted for doing it wrong. I have no idea if that is correct or not. Alternatively, I have no idea if that is correct, or not.)

  11. I didn't like Silverthorn when I read it. However, I do remember fond things about A Darkness at Sethanon. I know he's written more since then but I moved on from Feist. But A Darkness was pretty good.

  12. Sometimes it's our own pet peeves that get us, like the critic who loved "The Star Spangled Banner" performed quickly and was annoyed whenever someone did a longer version. That's a little what commas are like. Sometimes they're simply a matter of personal preference, something that helps identify an author's particular voice.

    But that's a lot of what a lot of readers don't seem to distinguish, the difference between good writing and good storytelling. What you've noticed is that more and more you prefer both. Some readers only care about good storytelling, some are obsessive about their versions of good writing, editorial concerns or otherwise.

  13. Briane: The first 3 of Apprentice Adept (Split Infinity) are still readable but not as good as I remembered (I re-read them about 10 years or so ago); the rest are horrible.
    As for Xanth, I'm unsure which I liked best of the early ones. Maybe, Centaur Aisle, because it's one that, going in, I thought was kinda dumb but ended up liking it more than I thought I should have.

    Here's part of my thing with commas:
    In dialogue, use them how you will to show speech patterns. That's kind of what they're for. Kind of. So that kind of usage is semi-appropriate.
    In the narrative, use commas correctly. Don't try to show me how to read it, because that's -not- what commas are for. The only exception to this is in 1st person writing, but, even then, the author should lean to using the commas correctly unless there is something specific about the voice the author is trying to convey.

    I agree about the elipses being used to denote pauses (but not making them longer and longer). I use them that way, because we don't really have a piece of punctuation that does that (since that's not what the comma is for). Since the elipsis can be used to show the trailing off into silence, I find it appropriate in the middle of a sentence to show that the "speaker" paused while thinking and may have changed what s/he was going to say.

    Hmm... an archpentect... that's an interesting thought. I'll have to think about it more.

    (and, yes, the comma before "and grammar" is incorrect. :P )

    Michael: Did you read Magician?

    Tony: I'm willing to overlook a lot of technically bad writing for a compelling story. Which is not to say that I don't want to clean it up, but I want to do that more to help the story be stronger (like with Briane's stuff). But, when the story is weak (like with Silverthorn), all of the bad technical stuff makes it so so much more painful that it already is.

  14. It's crazy how many ebooks are poorly written...I pretty much expect any ebook to be crap.
    And, then, suddenly, he again, conffrontted by the trial,again, suddenly desided, it would be a good to rite a bock, all about his advantures wolking the trial,,,suddenly.
    But this was not an ebook you suddenly said? I thought it was supposed to be difficult to publish a book?! If any idiot can do it, it looses a lot of it's appeal. Suddenly.

  15. Personally I'm a comma minimalist (with the exception of the Oxford comma, which I won't get into now because it's a rant) but if you read older books you do see commas everywhere. It's a very old thing to do and I do kind of understand why people do it, even if I don't like it one little bit, no siree.

    I think you mean: we would, all, be talking, like Shatner? Have you, heard, of the, Shatner comma?

  16. I read that whole series - more than once I might add - but many years ago. I wonder if I read it now if I would be as disappointed as you were. I almost don't want to find out and just leave the memory of enjoying the tale!

  17. Eve: Yeah, definitely not an ebook, since I dug it out of the garage and carried it in my back pocket to school. By definition, that makes it a pocket paperback.

    Callie: We are moving toward less punctuation, because we are moving toward smaller, simpler sentences. That was the real reason for all the commas (and semi-colons) once upon a time, because the sentences were paragraph length. When you chop those down, you don't need all the commas.
    That thing with Shatner was hilarious.

    mshatch: Well, I did read Magician twice, which is why I'm scared to go back and look at it, again, now. I'm gonna wait and see what my son thinks of Silverthorn, because, if he doesn't like it, it's probably just that one book, since he just read Magician within the last year.

  18. I'll admit to sometimes being guilty of using too many commas--I sort of insert them as I'm typing sentences, usually when I can't think of the exact word to write next.

    I've never heard of this series, but I've gone back to books and wondered why I liked them so much. It's kind of sad to not find the magic in them again.

  19. Excellent things to keep in mind here, Andrew. I know there's much weeding to be done to the WiP, but if some over-usage helps me get that thing written, I'll do it. I may hate it and figure out something better later, but I'll do it. :)

  20. TGE: Oh, I use too many, too, when I'm doing my first draft, but they are all correct. I just tend to use them more than people like these days. It's not too many that's the issue; it's putting them where they don't belong.

    I hate losing book magic. It's way worse than losing movie magic.

    David: Um... I have no idea what you mean. You mean you may need to go back and take over used words out later?

  21. I know the pain of rereading beloved books from the past. I've got an old TNG novel I got for 10 cents in the used bookstore last year that was my reintroduction to reading fiction in my early 20's that I'm too scared to pull of my shelf and read again. I have such fond memories of that story and how it led me down a rabbit hole of discovery...

    Overused words can be distracting. I recall reading the word 'sauntered' twice in a novel and thinking it was too much. I'm sure the author would have disagreed with me.

  22. I have just finished a book in which the word envelop was used to death. What was even more of a problem is that it was being spelled envelope!!!!

  23. Rusty: Odd words can certainly feel like too much, especially if they are used close together. The author of the book Quiet used the phrase "at first blush" over and over, and I was so freaking tired of it by the end of the book.

    Jo: Maybe it's what the author meant? That envelopes should go on everything? Or everything should go in an envelope? I'm all curious now.

  24. No, I've never read Piers Anthony. But I will have to eventually (as part of my quest to educate myself about the history of the fantasy genre) and I am dreading it. Feist is on that list as well. Sigh.

    I did read Terry Goodkind while I was young and new to fantasy, but I quickly realized he was a hack who got by on a few neat ideas that had awesome potential but were never implemented satisfactorily. I never even finished the Sword of Truth series and have never regretted it.

  25. Sarah: Goodkind was horrible, although I did like Wizard's First Rule. That was the only one I liked, though, and I quit reading somewhere in the middle of the 3rd book. After the first book, it was all just a big Robert Jordan rip off, and I didn't finish that series, either (of course, neither did he).

    Anthony probably has some stuff that's worth reading, but I wouldn't have any idea how to tell you what that would be at this point.