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Book Review: Xen's Tale (1 Viewer)



Hi all.

I review my friends' stories in my spare time, and I'm building up a portfolio of my reviews. Sometimes school gets in the way of my reviewing (which I dislike immensely), so I only find time to review like this once per week. The following review is of a friend's book which has not been published and is written with the Gods and setting of an online game. I tried to review it as I would a published novel.

A quick note: my friend uses the pen-name of Xen DarkWolfe.

Any comments or suggestions for improvement are appreciated greatly. Thank you.

(Edit: apologies, this should probably belong in the Book Reviews forum. Sorry).

Xen's Tale

Xen's Tale is the story of a man-turned-wolf and his battles against the chaotic God of RuneScape, Zamorak. Right from the beginning, the genre, teenage fantasy, is established as we are given a shopping-list of Xen's superhuman attributes: back-flips, daggers, spontaneous eruption, the ability to murder his own men (as a good-guy naturally would), and to switch between emotions within the space of a poorly constructed paragraph, not forgetting the clichéd dialogue and distinctly evil confrontational attitude.

In fact, our protagonist quickly becomes the reader's antagonist when he attacks his creator, a seemingly mad scientist - Frankenstein, anyone? - who realises that Xen is too powerful for him to control. We are never told Xen's true age, yet by his mood swings any reader would presume that Xen is a fully-fledged teenager except with two daggers, which never leave his sides similar to how the author won't let the reader forget about them. The reader could do without this constant buggery considering the immense portrayal of 'hero' Xen as a disrespectful, arrogant, sneaky, cold figure, and it's not as though the author didn't mean it either: he actually describes Xen as 'cold' in his confused narrative.

And this is all before we consider Xen's 'good' actions in the story: making his subjects 'shake with fear,' crushing potential allies under rocks in a rage which the almighty, developed Xen cannot control and murdering tens of thousands of troops in the climax of the story. Yes, the protagonist's rage was his trait-come-weakness that serves as his only plot-resolution, hence the sentence: 'My power was released, and every enemy on the battlefield disintegrated in a burst of black flame.' Why write a story when you can be so brilliantly subtle in one sentence?

Nearing the end of the novel, the reader hopes that Xen will end up killing himself, and the reader is pleasantly surprised. Actually, the inverted stereotype of the were-granny, Selina, complements the clichéd dialogue with her own cliché at the end, leaning over Xen's grave. Strange, for she died twice, and we're not told of her revival as we are not told of Xen's death 'till the epilogue. Obviously, the author was looking forward to killing off his protagonist so much that he talked about the actual death very little in comparison to its significance, completely different stylistically to a text where first-person description is heavy.

Fine, of course, if the writer uses the correct style of description and therefore describes the right things, but the reader often finds that both elements are missing in this narrative, for the great cities are often held at bay from adjectives yet we are constantly reminded what weaponry Xen has. And as much as the author declines the opportunity to add metaphors, he decides not to vary his plot devices: death, war, killing, pain, and revival - a revival just so that there can be more death, war, killing and pain.

We begin with the war with elves, then the personal war against Zamorak (who manages to revive himself so that he can just be killed again at the end), followed by more hurriedly-written wars added to the frame. Finally, the war which all of the 'practice' wars have lead up to - the war against Zamorak's armies. One gets the picture that the protagonist is modified in such a way that he becomes the ultimate killing weapon and is moved by the zealous God, his author, to cause maximum death. Never has a hero been so irritatingly and inversely lusty for blood - literally, he has a mouth full of 'blood' numerous times. No, this is not a story, but an exercise in building unnecessary hate and then exercising the hatred to create the most unlikely and brutal of murders.

Technically, the narrative does not excel either: the accuracy lapses between the questionable and the downright atrocious. Misplaced speech marks, exaggerated use of commas and the apparent lack of knowledge the author has about pronouns plagues the text and makes difficult-to-comprehend description completely unbearable. This is excluding the frustration of the word choice that the author employs, often making characters defy their obvious dependency of coherence to biographies without the author meaning it; it seemed, at times, as though XenDarkWolfe lost control of his text and his character development as spontaneously as his protagonist's blatantly personified eyes antagonise.

Maybe 'edited out' was the phrase the author was searching for: there were about a dozen semi-colons used in the whole text, and I only saw them used correctly twice. And there were no colons whatsoever. These mistakes make for an excruciating read without the omission of vital narrative, as several times the main area of Xen's plot is ignored and replaced by a partition. No chapters, just several stories scrappily glued together with nothing more than a tiring literary 'pritt-stick,' the only adhesive element being the flow of mistakes: almost as many errors as the innocent humans the protagonist ruthlessly murders. Scissors for the editing, glue for the 'parts' and cut-and-stuck characters, torn from biographies written better than the text itself.

It's primary-school literature all over again.

Sometimes, I get the impression that primary-school pupils actually know the rules of paragraphing better than our author who throws away the conventions like a banana peel with its contents (the narrative) bruised and past its 'best before' date. Description is split, dialogue ripped, narrative parted without consideration to implied subjects and objects of initiating sentences. Often, short paragraphs are used to build tension, but tension is discarded so carelessly by interrupting, basic adjectives that the author would do better to paragraph properly and leave the tension with some respectability.

Other aspects of the paragraphing need serious revision too: almost every paragraph begins with a pronoun. At one point, there were five or six consecutive paragraphs that began with 'I,' excluding the atrocity that is the ignorance of adverbial clauses modifying main clauses. In some ways, paragraphing is used to discern between subjects, too; a sentence would do that.

Antagonising protagonists, blunt description, murdering heroes, ambiguous paragraphing and wolves doing backflips: is it just me, or are things completely realistic?
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