Monday, August 25, 2014

CSFFBT: "Merlin's Nightmare" by Robert Treskillard (I)

 Woot!  for another Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Book tour.  This month, the group is reviewing and talking about an Arthur-cycle interpretation by Robert TreskillardMerlin's Nightmare is the third in the series.

My preference for these is to talk each day about a somewhat different theme - first day on technical aspects, second day on the Fantasy or SF elements and on the final day to deal with the book as a Christian piece.

And now we jump to save white space on the internets:

I am still struggling with this book on a technical basis.  To me, it really is not working well, and I have nearly put it aside several times.  At this point, I am still not quite done with the book, and so might revise this particular post over the next couple days as I finish the rest.


Faulty, poorly visualized action sequences.  By this I mean that the fight scenes, chase scenes, and general "person does something" scenes lack a great deal in realism of description.  The pacing of action varies wildly from scene to scene and within individual scenes.  Complex actions are waved through with a single sentence, while other more mundane tasks receive a paragraph's worth of background, motivation exploration, and mental commentary.

Excess use of passive voice.

Tom Swifting verbs and stage direction action.  "He did this"  "He did that"  "He sat" "He stood".  Connected to this - far too much telling and not enough showing.

Pedestrian descriptions of landscape and some unrealistic horse behavior/horsemanship.  The world building is a bit week - a character will mention wandering bands of thieves, and it seems as though the author did not ask himself, "so, what do those thieves do with the stolen things?  And what do they do when they are not thieving?"

Quite a bit less character exposure than I prefer.  While I understand that this is the third book and that an author has to balance enough information against too much, I would have rathered a bit more flashback description and less bald recital.

On the upside:

I found the use of many terms unique - I have no idea how accurate "druidrow" is, but I have had to remind myself to not use this new-to-me word until I have had a chance to look the words up.  In general, I found the descriptive words adorable and enticing.

Arthur is convincingly presented as a teenage boy trying to become a man.  Merlin, Merlin I like.  I am having a very difficult time getting a handle on any other characters.

I am a sucker for generational/family based conflicts, and this novel is meeting that.  I do wish though that the relationships were described a bit more evocatively.

Yah! Horses!  Who stumble, fall, and are killed in battle.

I really did have a hard time getting through the first chapter, as the writing style is very different from what I best prefer, and I kept falling over details that threw me out of the story.  (For example: "smirk" is an action with negative connotations, and I am not at all used to seeing it used as a self-descriptive word by protagonists.  Seeing non-perspective characters do this, yes.  Have the pov character describe himself as doing so, not so much.)  Turning on the text to voice on my Kindle seems to have helped a bit.

More, tomorrow, on the fantasy elements.

Other CSFF Participants’ links
for the month of August: [Edited 0320 27 Aug for formating]

Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Emileigh Latham
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Robert Treskillard
Phyllis Wheeler


Robert Treskillard said...

Elizabeth ... thank you for taking the time to point out what isn't working for you. I have a lot to learn as a writer and you're helping me improve.

Terms like "Druidow" are a Cornish/Brythonic way of saying "Druids", "-ow" being the plural. I try to fit in a smattering of language to give it an authentic feel, but I'm sure this makes some stumble, and I've always debated whether I should do things like that. I'm glad you didn't mind!

Anonymous said...

Pretty complete evaluation of what you thought about the book. And it's nice to see the negatives as well as the positives, too many of us are scared to be critical.

Anonymous said...

I like your approach of looking at the technical aspects, then the fantasy itself. Good job!

Carol E. Keen said...

I love Druidow, but being very fond of Merlin and having read many a Merlin book at a young age, that word just makes me smile! :) It doesn't throw me off in the least.

Carol (Smiles!)

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