on Aug. 13, 2013 :
The Warden Threat(Defying Fate) by D.L. Morrese
I don't judge a book by its cover and rarely by the little blurb on the back or some times an inner page, which is thankfully a good thing because the cover of this book wasn't helpful for me, although it does somewhat serve to show elements from the story. It just that the dark figure in the background would have to be ten times or more larger to be accurate.
I really enjoyed this book for what it was, which is why I'm a bit disappointed that it really doesn't live up to what it's billed as since it's cover proclaims Book One of the Humorous Science Fiction Epic. First I have to admit that humor can be subjective and I might just be too thick for the humor in this book. But at the point that this book leaves us it can't be billed as well as science fiction as it can as being a fantasy. The science fiction part of this story is there- like some extra appendage that intersects because of a sort of six degree of separation from the main characters in the story. I'm sure as the series progresses that will improve, sadly my skewed sense of humor might not be able to help that other half of the bill.
Again this is not saying I didn't enjoy it, just that it wasn't what I expected. There are plenty of novels out there that deal with magic that ends up being a side effect of some technology that exceeds the imaginative scope of most of the fantasized characters. This one is not unusual in that respect. There are also equal numbers of books that have dystopic themes that blast mankind back into the dark ages into a fantasy world that remembers the magic of technology so this is also nothing extra ordinary or out the norm so to speak. Some of these have actually demonstrated some tongue and cheekiness to entertain.
What drives these types of stories is the characters and I think they do a good job though I had some issues with the consistency of a few characters. None of these were enough to overshadow the entire work. I believe the humor in the story is supposed to be satirical. And the very first chapter sets a pace that might come to rival some not so recent movies I have seen. That pace doesn't sustain itself well though and I'm not sure exactly why. We start with Prince Donald out among the common folk to get a feel for how the other half live. With him is his trusted adviser/guide Kwestor whom Donald has hired although at the beginning for some reason this wasn't quite that clear to me. Donald is a dreamer, Kwestor is his foil or perhaps the realist. I almost obtained an image of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza , although I was hard pressed to make that image stick. In the onset they run across Muce the notso (There's a whole thrill of waiting for the punchline to this that never quite gets there.) They meet through a comedy of errors which set a high bar that they never reach again. I often had this tickle that reminded me of some of Swifts writing, in particular Gulliver's Travels but perhaps without the proper era and history to point to I couldn't get the real feel.
The story revolves around the heads of the three characters most of the time but there are occasions when were reeled around into the head of some of the supporting cast and I think possibly these are some of the expected humorous parts. Perhaps its the long bits of tell that fall into this area that leave it a bit flat. One particular telling instance is when Muce is confronted by a fortuneteller who takes advantage of him. We can see what is happening easily from Muce's point of view, but for some reason we end up in the woman's head getting all of her 'intell' on the subject and perhaps that's what made the humor fall flat for me. It doesn't look like tell as much as some exposition but what happens is we get into a characters head and begin to get a description from their thoughts that helps us understand their motivation which perhaps tries to explain why we should see the humor. I've no problem with telling but those who are sensitive should realize that it's here even when disguised as something else. I've personally always thought, when telling a story there will be times you will have to, well, tell, which is why I don't downgrade stars for telling.
What's more important here is the development of the characters and the interaction between them. There is a whole bit that goes on about Muce and food that we really never have totally explained or told to us, one of those instances of showing. But the real nub of the problem falls flat because the other characters always cut him short at the beginning so we rarely get a true picture of what he's capable of doing that annoys them so much. I for one would mostly be getting hungry every time he started into some story about food.
The pace of the story is pretty steady and kept me going most of the way to the middle but something happened there where I fell out of the magic and I think it might be this:
Donald and company run afoul- well at least Donald does- of a messenger who is left unnamed until later where we learn she is Trixie. The messenger almost confronts the prince for his clumsiness but is dissuaded by companions whom Kwestor recognizes as being from the kings court. She's important to the story- I'm sure future volumes will tell us this. Yet she is mostly an appendage here who meets the mysterious storyteller, Grandpa Nash, who defies Trixie's attempts at categorizing his ethnicity. This will lead to the eventual reveal that shows us that this is truly a science fiction novel. Unfortunately this part never intersects with our heroes and remains yet a mystery that we might not have needed just yet ( Except to try to turn this into science fiction). As it is I found Trixie somewhat engaging and her story at this point was more interesting than our three travelers. So, I think I was more anxious to see more of her story than the rest of Donald and company.
This now becomes two stories; the story of Trixie and Grandpa Nash and the story of Donald, Kwestor and Muce.
The rest of the story for Donald and company seemed mostly predictable yet necessary to develop Donald and demonstrate that neither Kwestor or Muce seem to be as they seem to be. If one can excuse my use of passivity here. It all seems like a cautionary fable. It is quite interesting that Kwestor comes off as a sort of Jekyll Hyde or at least dual personality. One the acerbic skeptic who has no delight in life and is not afraid to inflict his mood upon the prince who seems too chipper most of the time. The other is almost a wise sophist thinker who can't seem to get the other personality to live life the way he sees things.Even though Kwestor's skeptic side seems the loser its more so for the sophist side that feels the the pain that he's found himself unable to convince his other half. Muse seems to be a dullard and brute at time but seems also to possess more than the average intellect when one can wade through his culinary inspired dialogue. He's always coming up with some gems I'm hoping will come up later but, not so far.
This is a great book for fantasy lovers and some sci-fi fans not so much for Science Fictionados- maybe the next book. I can't recommend it as a humorous volume where it seemed there were more serious tones than satirical ones. Perhaps the names of characters were supposed to help push the satire, I'm just not certain. If there is satire here its mired down in a thick morass of molasses and honey, which mired my senses. Maybe the discerning reader will trudge through it all better off than I.
It's a thoroughly entertaining book without the need to laugh myself silly and I'll be looking to the next volume with the hope that these two stories are truly going to meet.
(review of free book)
on Nov. 23, 2011 :
The Warden Threat, by D.L. Morrese, is like a Shirley Temple – light, sweet, fun and sparkly. It’s part of a grown-up genre, yet appropriate for all ages. Actually, that said, it’s more of a Dirty Shirley, in that it’s laugh-out-loud funny (and as you probably have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s move on.)
I did catch a few typos and a couple of missing commas, but other than that, the grammar is refreshingly precise and the vocabulary, well, scrumptious. I admit, I had to look one or two words up, but at the same time, it wasn’t a “too-smart-for-its-own-good” book, which I liked.
And as for the bad, that was about it. The characters are believable and well-rounded, although slightly cliche at times. The book avoids all of my major pet peeves. POV is logical, solid, and easily followed. Character motivations are clear and make sense. Descriptions are long enough to be engaging, but short enough to avoid clumsiness or awkwardness. I should make a note here; they are occasionally redundant, like the following passage -
“He approached it slowly, staring up into the stern black face and the cold black eyes that somehow seemed alive.”
- but then you get passages like this little tidbit that make you overjoyed you picked up your kindle in the first place:
“The serving girl began to laugh in the friendly but uncommitted way waitresses do to make customers feel appreciated and more generous when it comes time to leave a tip.”
One of my favorite things in the work were the little “easter eggs” that would make sense later – little pieces of our modern world in the medieval setting. Take, for example, this scene of a messenger learning to read for the first time:
“Grandpa Nash produced another book for her … about a dog named Spot that also seemed to like to run …”
And that’s just it. The whole book is filled with little gems that I just want to quote to you, but I’m quickly coming to the point where it’s no longer me reviewing and more me violating intellectual copyright. So, in order to help you understand the experience of the book, I will leave you with this note. Usually, when I am reviewing a book for my site, I highlight and make little notes as I go, so that I’ll have a lot to say. In this case, I was too busy reading it; I literally read the entire thing straight through in one sitting. \
Aaaa-and it just so happens that the author has agreed to give me a free copy of the sequel, The Warden War, in exchange for another review, so … you know … I gotta go. I’ll, um, call you .. or something.
Overall Score: 4.8 stars. (Seriously.)
The Warden Threat is available from Amazon here, or from Smashwords here, or you can check out the author’s homepage here.
Reviewed for Maria Violante's review site, mariaviolante.com
(reviewed the day of purchase)