Elements Familiar and Otherwise

I recently finished Maiden of Iron: A Steampunk Fable. I was once somewhat associated with the author, Edie Melson, when we were both with Novel Rocket blog, and she impressed me with her technical ability and marketing knowledge. However, I didn’t know she wrote steampunk. In fact, I’d never read any of her fiction before. So I snapped it up on Kindle and dove in.

I enjoyed it, but…. It was billed as being a funky re-telling of the old Robin Hood tale, but it really wasn’t. Character names were similar (Robin Loxley, Lady Marion, John [who was a big guy but wasn’t called Little], and so on). But the story was really nothing like it.

I found numerous typos and errors–not enough to spoil the story, but I did notice them–and here’s a funny thing: I made a decision about something I never want to include in my writing again: “She released a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding” (or words to that effect). I’m pretty sure I’ve said that in one or more of my books, but after finding it no fewer than three times in this one, I decided it’s an overused phrase that should be avoided.

All in all, it was a pretty fun read, but I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped. About the time I finished it, I ran across a post on a blog I follow, Bob’s Books, about an older novel called The Eye of the World by Robert Jordon. I thought it sounded interesting, so I started looking for it on Amazon. And then I thought, Hey! Don’t I already have that one?

I went and looked on my shelf, and yes, sure enough, there it was. I’d seen it recommended years ago and bought a used paperback copy, but had never gotten around to reading it.

Now I’ve started it, however, and I see why Bob likes it. It contains plenty of familiar fantasy elements, but it’s all well done and doesn’t seem worn out. Bob says this is the first of a fourteen-book series (Seriously? Fourteen? Yes. Fourteen), and I don’t promise to read them all. But I’m enjoying this one.

Want to know something funny? I hadn’t been reading the story very long before the main character let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. Upon reading that, I let out a laugh I didn’t know was coming. Okay, so there’s nothing wrong with the phrase, but I still plan to avoid using it in the future.

I don’t know if the protagonist in my latest series, The Four Lives of J. S. Freeman, ever releases a pent-up breath like that. It’s very possible that she does. But one thing the series doesn’t have is familiar fantasy or sci-fi elements. It’s so unlike anything I’ve read, I have a hard time describing it.

A couple of reviewers have commented that it’s not at all what they expected, but they liked it. I’m not sure, but I think that’s a problem. Shouldn’t the cover and the blurb let readers know what to anticipate?

I was going for mysterious. And I guess I succeeded.




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