All this discussion about self-publishing and indie authoring has revved up my curiosity engine. (This is the same engine, incidentally, that convinced me it was a good idea to try drinking unfiltered water in Mexico. Not a good idea. Not a good idea at all.) In any case, I’m asking myself questions, and I figure there are at least some of you out there who have the same questions.
What are the good self-pubbed books out there? How do I find them? How do I support the authors who write them?
To answer these questions and more, I’ll be starting a blog-post series of book reviews for self-published books. About once a month, I’ll read a self-published work (most likely YA, but I might delve into other genres as well) and then critique it on my blog.
For my first review, I’ve chosen ANATHEMA by Megg Jensen.
Honestly, I’m not even sure how I first heard about Anathema. I think it might have been through Twitter, but it could just as easily have been through other Internet-ian avenues. Which is an interesting point, actually. Is the best way to find self-published books through mentions on the web/twit/blogosphere? Mayhaps. But that is a discussion for another time. Back to Anathema!
Anathema is a high-fantasy YA novel about a girl who discovers she’s the key to the freedom of her enslaved people. She starts out as a slave herself, and when she is unexpectedly freed, she discovers some things about herself, and some of the people closest to her, that she would never in a million years have suspected. I can’t tell you all much more than that without giving too much away, but I can tell you that if you are a fantasy fan, this book does everything it should to satisfy your deepest fantasy cravings.
Reychel: Reychel is a very sweet and sympathetic protagonist. At times she is almost criminally unaware of what’s going on around her. But it actually seems to work for her character, because (a) she was sheltered from birth to the point of not being allowed to look out windows and (b) part of her character make-up is to believe the best in people always—even people who ABSOLUTELY don’t deserve it.
Mark: Mark is dashing in the role of lead love interest. I like how he has other things going on besides Reychel, and that though he reveals himself to her (I don’t mean that in a dirty way as this is not that kind of book), he has his own agenda of which we are not sure because Reychel is not sure.
Ivy: As a character, Ivy is fairly complex. Again, I’m trying not to give too much away, so let’s just say that she’s a better XYZ than ABC and I hope she comes back in the next book. (Did I mention this book marks the beginning of a series? No? Oops. Well, it does.)
Johna: Johna’s a pretty good mentor, though we don’t see much of what she teaches our intrepid heroine. At the end of the novel, Reychel moves to a different “teacher,” and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how that plays out.
Kandek: The antagonist, if one person can be said to be the antagonist. Also a rather complex character. There’s a revelation or two about this guy that shocked the pants off me, and I’m not sure how it will ultimately affect Reychel, though I have hopes in certain directions (which will remain unsaid for now as to avoid spoilers).
As mentioned previously, this book is high fantasy. All the expected structural conceits and ploterific tropes apply. Interestingly, something noticeably missing from the story are fantastical creatures. There are only humans in this ‘verse. (Well, and horses.) Which I think works, actually, as the main conflict is between two races of people. Inserting creatures into the mix for fantasy’s sake would have been tangential and unnecessary.
Anathema did seem a tad on the short end for an epic fantasy, but it was hard to tell for sure since I read it on my Kindle. It was a fast, easy read with nothing extraneous or eye-rollingly boring, so I suppose in terms of length it was perfect. I wouldn’t have minded a little more internalization on Reychel’s part, though. I’m a sucker for reflection, perhaps too much so. But as far as twists/reversals and quest-like structure, Anathema hits it pretty much on the head.
The quality of the writing is very professional with fewer typos than I’ve seen in traditionally published books. (My not-so-inner editor is waving a Megg Jensen flag right now.) She has an especially good feel for transitions, between characters, between scenes, and between types of narrative (i.e., description, dialogue, action, etc.).
My guess is that the rest of the series will be even stronger in the writing department, as my only quibbles with the author’s writing have to do with word choices here and there seeming to be too modern for a fantasy story. Well, and that I’d like her to delve a little deeper into Reychel, take a few more risks in terms of exposing Reychel’s thoughts about things. (And believe me, there are plenty of crazy things going on that she could sink her reflectionary teeth into.)
This book is for you if…
You’re a fantasy aficionado looking for a new epic ride. There’s a lot that’s fresh about this story while still scratching all of your fantasy itches.
This book is not for you if…
1. You don’t like fantasy.
2. You prefer your fantasy on the scope of Tolkein and Jordan, with fully conjugated made-up languages and multiple species of fantastical creatures.
3. You are allergic to awesomeness.
Buy it, borrow it, or bypass it
Buy it. Definitely.