Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I really wanted to like this book. I mean that. And, honestly, it came close many a time to reeling me into it, only to fall short and leave me wanting.
Allow me to start by telling you what this book did well. Wagner has a talent for setting a scene, one which I can easily relate. His descriptions of people and of the world that they inhabit is enchanting. He knows how to turn a phrase and really pull the reader into the story.
As a writer myself I can understand the love that Wagner has for setting a scene and really trying to make the world as lush and real as possible, even when it is fantastic. He and I, it would seem, both have taken a perverse pleasure in doing such, in feeling as they we have crafted a beautiful description.
In those instances where Wagner sets the stage for his characters he is a master. In those moments I am so fully immersed and impressed that I can't help but feel gleeful that I am reading this book.
However, the real damning problem comes when Wagner has his characters speak.
Speech is a tricky thing. You have to craft speech that is unique to each character, that reveals what is necessary for the reader so that they may understand what is happening, and the dialect must be fitting to whatever period in time you are trying to conjure. Naturally this is a rather tricky skill.
Now, I would not expressly say that Wagner fails out right. However, there are times when the speech feels too plain, too modern in the mouths of the speakers. That is not to say that our characters should speak with "thy's" and "thine's" or whatever other thing, but there must be some cleverness or some sort of alien quality to reel the reader in. At times Wagner falls very short of this, however, I would say that is only a small part of the problem
The other part of the issue, for me, is that when Kane explains something he goes on, droning so that there is little mystery left for the reader to puzzle out. Because of this we know what is going to happen and yet we lose a sense of danger and excitement.
Characters explain the motivations of everyone and comment on why they are doing this. They fill the reader in on detail after detail and, well, it sounds strange.
This, in other words, becomes and issue of telling instead of showing and as we all know, it is always the job of the writer to show rather than tell.
Another issue is that Kane, being an immortal, feels like he lacks motivation to do things. This is a small issue as he does do things and tries to accomplish things, it more so feels like we lack a why.
Wagner, though skilled in many ways, has the issue of not knowing what to explain and what not to explain. This is common enough when we are unsure of our voice as a writer, yet, though there are some rather powerful passages, there is nothing that pulls this tale through the rough for me.
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