Reshwity Publishers, $10.50, ISBN 978-0-473-35869-3
The author sent me the physical copy of Blazing Blunderbuss for review, and in hindsight, I wish I’d said no when this book was offered to me. That way, I wouldn’t feel guilty about making Nix Whittaker go through all the trouble and expense, just to put up this review. Yes, you may think that I’m a meanie, but believe me when I say that it’s easier to be a meanie when I actually buy those things that I end up savaging.
This one is meant to be the first book in a series, if I am not mistaken, and I am attracted to the premise because it’s steampunk. I like steampunk, and I always feel that I don’t come across many good romantic ones.
In this one, Hara is your usual “I’m a girl, but I dress up as a boy to do things” sort who works as a tinker. One day, her conman father went too far in his schemes and Hara ended up in jail as a result. She now wants to ditch that guy and makes her own way now, and I don’t think anyone can blame her. Along the way, she rescues a guy who dresses too nicely and seems too nice to be around those rough folks that are beating him up when she meets him. He’s Gideon, a mathematician, and he’s also a dragon. He will soon drag her into all kinds of adventures, and they end up in a stolen pirate ship with a new crew as well. What will happen next?
Well, the whole thing sounds fun, but this story is… well, my first impression is that it is 100% telling, no showing. Okay, maybe I missed out say, 1-2% of the showing here, but still, this book is very, very difficult to read because of this constant telling. I can randomly pick paragraph on any page, and it’d be something like this: he did this, she did that, he thought this, she thought that, and they then told one another this before going off to do that. This technique keeps the characters from developing beyond one-dimensional paper cut-outs, as I never know what motivates their actions. They are like puppets whose strings are being pulled too obviously by the author; I can’t see them as people.
Worse, description is scanty. The world had changed when dragons arrived on Earth – William the Conqueror was a dragon – but I don’t get a strong sense of feel or place for the setting. This is because the author relies heavily on adverbs, a technique that leaves more blanks instead of filling them up.
Henry said, “Meet Kale. He saved my life.”
Alice came up behind Hara and whispered, “He looks massive.”
Kale grinned suggestively. “It is all muscle.” He flexed his arm to demonstrate.
Reading that scene, I don’t feel anything. I don’t react and I don’t care to, because there are no details to help me visualize that moment. I didn’t put the paragraphs before this excerpt, so you will have to take my word for this, but there is no good description of Kale’s physical stature. Just… he looks massive. And he grins suggestively… how? Is it a leer? A mischievous lift of one corner of his mouth? And if Alice is whispering to Hara, how does Kale know that they are talking about how massive he is?
The whole story is written in that manner, so I’m just… I don’t know, I am just taking in the words on the page without fully caring as to what I’m reading.
Hara motioned with her gun to indicate her gun was aimed at him as she said, “But I would shoot you first. Not anyone else. Just you. Now are you going to give the order for me to be shot or for you to die?”
There was a tense silence, then the leader motioned to one of his men. They placed a small purse on the ground.
Oh my goodness, can you feel the suspense in the air? I can’t help feeling that some stricter editing could have made that scene stand out more. Maybe something like this:
Hara motioned with her gun. “Not if I shoot you first. You will be the first to go down. So are you going to ask your men to stand down, or do you prefer to meet your maker?”
There was a tense silence. “Give her the purse,” the leader finally said.
I don’t know, as I’m no author. But I do know that I am not feeling any drama or excitement from a scene that is supposed to be full of tension.
There were plenty of Rosh Barkers wandering around so Hara moved slowly from cover to cover. She hoped they didn’t discover the others were all free until much later. There was an explosion behind her, making her duck to avoid any shrapnel. That was one of the Blazing Blunderbuss’ guns. Angel trilled in concern and Hara reached up to stroke the damaged wing and reassure her. Gideon has to be all right.
Ugh, look at that. Look at that! The explosion alone could have warranted more focus, with descriptions of Hara running for cover and the reaction of the other people in that scene. Perhaps some mention of the smell, the heat, the damage caused. Maybe what Hara is feeling – maybe there is a surge of excitement? A sense of victory? But no, just six flat and boringly constructed sentences that make me yawn rather than sit closer to the edge of my seat. That scene is just dead due to the author’s wooden narrative.
Blazing Blunderbuss resembles too much an unpolished work of an amateur. It is nowhere near ready for publication in its current form. So, I can’t give this one anything but one oogie, alas, as it fails to do what it is supposed to do at the most fundamental level.