Something clever I'll change later

I like fantasy. The end.
Sword of Fire and Sea - Erin Hoffman This review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.

The Wikipedia article on Erin Hoffman is enough to herald the woman as a hero in her own right. You can get the details there, but to sum up, back in 2004, when it first came out that EA Games was treating their programmers like cattle, she wrote a persuasive and inflammatory blog post. Her husband had been working extended hours (like 90 hours a week), along with the rest of the team, but not receiving extra wages. It eventually led to a lawsuit and, along with a number of plaintiffs, they were awarded a total of almost $15 million, a tidy sum, although I'm unaware of what each individual received.

I remember the story coming out and my righteous anger at EA, but what can you do, if you're a gamer? You're practically forced to buy EA titles. I still do, to my chagrin. I just bought Sims 3 Pets for gods sake! The video game industry still has a long ways to go to become humane though and it amazes me that it's legal to treat their employees in such a manner.

At any rate, Ms. Hoffman and her family were awarded some hard earned cash. My imagination goes wild at this point, as I stare off into space dreamily thinking her husband must've come home with a big check and said, "Hey honey you know that fantasy series you've always wanted to write? Go nuts." Man, wouldn't that be awesome? Yes, of course it would be! She still works in the video game industry and keeps an active blog, but it seems like just the type of break an aspiring author would need.

Now if only that book had been readable.

The characters rush to and fro with little explanation either of their actions or the world they are rushing about in. I'm baffled as to why part of the time it required three, THREE!, gryphons to transport Vidarian in the baby bassinet (that's what I pictured the device as no real information is given), but then later, Thalnarra, the main gryphoness, is perfectly capable of carrying it herself. Also, a female gryphon is called a gryphoness? What's that even from? It strikes a dissonant nerd rage chord in me. Probably because as a nerd I insist that something is canon before you can go and change it, and that's not really fair to Ms. Hoffman. That doesn't change me from disliking the word gryphoness though.

Who is the Tesseract and why do we care? How could a 4-dimensional cube save the world? What is quenching and why do we care? Why are priestesses so incredibly rich that everything is covered in gold and they can offer seemingly priceless sun emeralds? Did Ariadel really just sacrifice her life for a kitten? Did a goddess just show up and yell at Vidarian for having sexy times with someone who wasn't her? Come on now. These are legitimate questions. And maybe they would've been answered, but you can see what I'm getting at here: ideas for a story that didn't come together.

Don't even get me started on the cover. At first glance I thought it was great, until I really looked at it. What is the gryphon(ess?) screaming at that the other two dudes don't seem to care about? Why, on such a small piece of real estate like a book cover, is the girl able to show up not once but THREE times! And then the description on the back apparently doesn't even describe this book, but is more a synopsis of the entire series. That just seems like bad business to me.

These are mostly superficial observations, little things that bugged me, but not enough to make me put the book down. No, that took a lot more work. We are dropped head first into a fantasy world, which is to be expected. I don't like long expositions on the state of the world, it's much better when it comes naturally with the story. However, when you receive literally no explanation, a reader is left with bewildered indignation. Names of factions and goddesses are dropped like we should know and care what they are. From the first chapter, what feels like momentous events start occurring that I could care less about because I don't know what they mean. Alright, but it's only the first chapter. I'll give the story some time to gain some momentum before I pass judgment. Vidarian, the main character, travels from a temple, to another temple, to an island, to more islands, back to the same temple, and this was all just in the 137 pages that I read. I think I skipped some temples and islands in there, too. The amount of travel leaves no time for us to get to know the characters, besides when they are annoyed with traveling. They hardly arrive at a new location before it is time to leave again, with a different setting for practically every chapter. I know literally nothing of the background of any of the main characters. The one time we do get information of the world, it is boring and a huge info dump as Thalnarra (the gryphoness) tries to explain the magic system to Vidarian. The magic system was therefore immediately filed away under "I'll learn it later if I stick around to care." So the one thing I showed some enthusiasm for, magic, all of a sudden also completely lost my interest.

I made it about halfway through, before what should have felt like a stupendous betrayal (and one of the worst sex scenes I've ever read) left me shrugging my shoulders and asking "Why do I care?" before I simply had to put the book down.

I hate abandoning a debut. Fantasy is such a difficult genre to break into, but there is so much good fantasy out there, I just couldn't waste my time with reading anymore of a book I didn't care about. Sadly, this will have to remain on my "abandoned" shelf.

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