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The Tale of Onora: The Boy and the Peddler…
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The Tale of Onora: The Boy and the Peddler of Death (Volume 1)

by Dylan Saccoccio

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This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot.wordpress.leafmarks.com by express permission of this reviewer. Title: The Boy and the Peddler of Death Series: The Tale of Onora Author: Dylan Saccoccio Rating: 0.5 of 5 Stars Genre: SFF Pages: DNF at 40% Synopsis: From what I could make out, some great mage had destroyed the Elven Empire of the North a generation ago. Now there is a boy, who I can't tell if he's human or elven or something else who is verbally sparring with his father, who it turns out 'might' be the aforementioned mage? I really couldn't tell. There is also an Elven woman with a baby, but all that is said is that she is running away from something. My Thoughts: The spoiler following is a sample of what the writing has been like for my entire read so far. AT THE OPPOSITE END of the Steppe, the aroma of foreign spice and earthiness drifted with the breeze, swirling with the scent of vanilla and clove. A legion of figures swiftly crept out from the valley towards the break of day. Their silhouettes coasted over the arid terrain. They displayed a sexually attractive dexterity. Though the figures were young, they were suitable for midnight deeds by virtue of their maturity. Beneath the veils of their elegantly shrouded bodies, the Oussaneans had bronze skin. Their fiery hair and feline irises ignited with enthralling sensuality. The Oussaneans habituated that it was not enough to merely conquer a people. They must seduce them. The Caliphians had a lust for these women, an addiction even. The Oussaneans would hardly succeed at the art of seduction were they not masked by some sort of honor. If one had experienced the dilemma between stealing the life of his soul mate and refusing to do so at the consequence of his own death, he may know the feeling of fighting against these women. The Oussaneans swept over the terrain. Their glaives and scimitars swayed gracefully like willows in the wind. Every tangible piece of their armor and weapons bore the inscription of the moon, the symbol of the Lunaega Province. As the legion made their way east, an ominous gallop grew louder and louder until it matched the sound of thunder breaking the sky. A warhorse, blacker than oblivion, more powerful than a herd, tilled the soil as each hoof cut through the earth. The monstrous steed was clad in dark obsidian armor. Its ruby red eyes burned like embers from a diabolical fire. However, it was not the horse that was frightening. It was the rider of that demonic steed and what followed him that struck terror into the hearts of men. (hide spoiler) A whole book like that folks. Over-dramatized, bloviated, purple prose that mires you down in its own self-importance. A whole blasted book. At 40% I thought I would have had some idea of what was going on. But the characters were simple delivery mechanisms for the author to describe to his heart's content while at the same time informing us of all sorts of deeply mystical/philosophical musings/rants. And info dumps. In Purple Prose. It was puerile. What is worse, it thought it was grandiose with all its verbiage and synonyms and utterances beyond the ken of mortals. It was not engaging, it was not interesting, it was not well written. It was the superfluous spew of a wanna-be philosopher who didn't have enough sense to realize what silliness was coming out of his mouth. In all fairness, this is probably not any worse than some young silly lord composing Poetry [with the Capital Emphasized!] for his latest infatuation back in the day. But back then only the poor young lady and maybe a close friend or two, had to listen to his stuff. If he tried to read it at the local tavern, I'd be the first to call him drunk and dunk him in a water barrel. Water barrels are known for their powerful restorative effects. The one positive was the cover and the cover for the sequel. They were both GORGEOUS and I say that as a man. I will probably visit the artist (Virginie Carquin) 0n her own site and check out what else she has to offer. " ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
No one ever starts a fight.

Whether it's a street brawl or a war, both sides always insist they're defending against an aggressor who (figuratively or literally) threw the first punch.

Considering that no one in the world ever plays anything but reluctant defense, you'd think this planet would be a heck of a lot more peaceful than it currently is. But as you've no doubt noticed, when we're not ducking and covering on an actual battlefield, we're engaging in heated wars of words on the home front.

Question: What does that have to do with a book review?

Answer: Everything, if it's this particular book.

Even if I wanted to write a neutral review of this book, it would be impossible. If I say anything the least bit critical, the author and his defenders will see me as one more oppressor who wants to keep down independent writers. If I praise it, those who are critical of both his behavior and his writing skills will see me as a shill or an idiot, or both.

If I don't say a thing and give it three stars, his supporters will sneer at me for not understanding the amazing five-starness of it all. His detractors will reread the code attached to the star-rating system here, look at me incredulously, and say, "You liked that? What the hell is wrong with you?"

For the record: this book is very badly written, and I did not like it at all. I read the whole damned thing, and I can back it up with supporting quotes when I tell you that this author got everything wrong. On the technical front, his spelling, grammar, and punctuation are atrocious. So far as the story goes, the characters are stick figures. The dialogue is hard to understand. The plot is impossible to find. And if you got rid of half of the adjectives and adverbs, you'd still have a book in which every object and action is smothering under a life-threatening layer of modifiers.

What this writing reminded me of more than anything was a wonderful scene in Muriel Spark's novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, in which two ten-year-old girls are writing a novel together. Here: try to figure out which of the following passages was written by a man who believes his writing is absolutely perfect, and which was written by an award-winning novelist pretending to be a ten-year-old.

"Stand back from the door, I say!"
"Never!" said Sandy, placing her young lithe body squarely in front of the latch and her arm through the bolt. Her large eyes flashed with an azure light of appeal.


The man's expression flashed a brief glimpse into the unadulterated darkness of his soul. "Do not seek the sanctuary of evil, for I have tread in the heart of it."

Tough call.

But the fact remains: bad as it is, this book is just one more poorly written self-published novel on a site that's host to hundreds of them.

So why is it under attack?

Because it is. There's no other way of putting it. There's a battle going on, and this book's in the center of it.

Dylan Saccoccio would say that he was the wronged party. Someone wrote a negative review of his book, and he was just defending his work.

Others would insist that his inflammatory language in response to that review was what started this skirmish, and they couldn't just sit back and watch him verbally attack a young woman who was bewildered by his response to her review and startlingly civil in the face of extreme provocation. (Not that I'm biased or anything.)

Obviously I side with the latter group, but I would go a step farther and say that the reason this is an all-out war is because this author is just one more soldier in – oh, why not borrow some purple prose from the author in question and call this a battle for the soul of Goodreads.

To be a little less flowery, there's an ongoing war of words about what Goodreads is and what it ought to be. And while this particular skirmish seems surprisingly heated to outsiders (I only learned about it when a friend showed me a post on PZ Myers' Pharyngula blog), it's depressingly business-as-usual for those of us who spend a lot of time here.

There are people who consider Goodreads a place to talk about books and say what we like and don't like about them. These people consider reviews a matter of personal expression and a reflection of personal taste.

Then there are people who believe that free speech doesn't mean freedom to be unkind to total strangers who after all are just trying to tell a story and maybe make a buck or two.

What's messy about this war is that it isn't as simple as writers vs. readers. There are plenty of writers, both conventionally and independently published, who are fiercely protective of a reader's right to gripe about books she doesn't like. And there are plenty of non-writer readers who truly believe that if you can't say something nice, you shouldn't say anything at all.

In a world that isn't exactly staggering under a surfeit of niceness, that last bit is the kind of idea that can be hard to argue with. To apply it to this situation: okay, this book is bad. So what? Why talk about it? Hate a book all you want in the privacy of your own home, but why hurt a writer's feelings?

Who cares if someone who isn't basically competent insists he's master of a craft and wants to be paid for his work?

Well, when you put it that way...

And that's the point a lot of us are trying to make. We put it that way because there isn't any other way to put it.

The fact is, no one's forcing a writer to write. It's easier on any given day not to write than to write. (Trust me. I'm speaking from experience here.)

And no one at all is forcing a writer to publish what he's written. Again, that's a task it's much easier not to do. No writer has ever rolled over one morning, rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, stared in bewilderment at the neatly-bound volume on her pillow (complete with cover illustration), and screamed, "Holy crap, I wrote a BOOK! It just, like, HAPPENED!" She has also never run to her computer and seen to her shock and dismay that this effortless dream-volume is now available for sale on multiple sites on the Internet.

"But I didn't even DO anything!" this writer has never, ever shouted.

Writers have been known to say that our books are our babies. (Heck, Jane Austen said it, so it must be true.)

If that's the case, some writers are nightmare parents who want all the fun stuff that goes along with having a baby – first smile, first step, first birthday cake – but steadfastly refuse to change diapers.

Wanting all the good things that can come along with being a writer (money, fame, fan mail) while refusing to accept the negatives (deadlines, bad reviews, hate mail) is delusional.

It also isn't fair to the rest of us.

Let's take a closer look at the argument for niceness. A writer is a person. Why hurt his feelings by publicly saying bad things about his writing?

Read the sample pages of his work. Those should tell you if you'll like the book or not. If you don't like what you see, don't read the rest of the book. And if you don't read the book, of course you have no reason to post a review.

Simple. Everybody's happy.

Everyone except the people who would like the rating system here to actually mean something.

In a post I read recently, a writer compared posting free-to-read fan fiction to baking cookies and sharing them with your coworkers. What if someone did that every day, and all she asked in return was a little feedback so she could feel appreciated and learn to be a better baker? Is that so much to ask when someone's offering you free yummies?

It was an interesting analogy, and it led to a lively debate.

I bring this up because a lot of people – specifically, the people who think it's unkind to give a low rating and a negative review to any book – seem to regard all books as baked goods.

If you visited your elderly great-aunt and she offered you her home-baked cookies, maybe you'd accept out of politeness, even if you didn't really want one. Even if they weren't very good, you wouldn't say anything mean about them. She worked hard to make you something she hoped you'd like. You'd have to be some kind of jerk to say, "Ye gods, woman – these are hard as rocks and not nearly as sweet. Can I bring some home in case I need something to throw at burglars?"

Saccoccio urged readers not to read his book if they didn't think they'd enjoy it. That way, only the people who enjoyed it would review it. And his GR rating would be heartwarmingly high.

But the reason he wanted a high rating was so (as he said himself) he could sell lots of copies of his book. A negative review could destroy his dreams of becoming a successful writer.

And that's where the cookie crumbles.

If an author wants to be treated with all the kindness and consideration you'd give a cookie-wielding great-aunt, and that author also wants to succeed as a professional in a field that's supposedly a meritocracy – well, that author is guilty of what used to be called wanting to eat his cake and have it too.

That's what's wrong with the argument I've seen made by readers and writers alike that it's one thing to trash-talk writers who have already made it big. Stephen King isn't going to cry his eyes out if I say I couldn't stand It. But it's unkind and unfair to air the flaws of a writer who's just starting out.

There are two things that are very, very wrong with that argument.

First of all, it's factually incorrect. A study was done on the connection between reviews and book sales. Good reviews boosted sales, of course. But so did bad ones.

EXCEPT bad reviews of established writers.

That's right. Poor reviews – even scathing ones – of unknown writers gave a bump to sales. But they did damage to authors who already had a reputation to hurt.

Here's a link, if you want to see for yourself:

https://hbr.org/2012/03/bad-reviews-can-boost-sales-heres-why

The other thing wrong with the "pick on someone your own size" argument is what it says to readers. Specifically, it says that a high rating on GR is meaningless when it comes to independently published or small-press fiction, so readers should stick with the conventionally published books from the big houses – the ones people are free to trash-talk if they deserve it.

I think I can safely say that no indie-writer wants to go there.

Who'da thunk that letting people tell the truth about your book – even if the truth hurts – isn't just good manners. It's also good for business.

I really hope that through some miracle, Dylan Saccoccio has a change of heart and decides he has something to learn from the reviewers who took the time to say what they thought of his book. Not just the ones who said things he wanted to hear and already believed, but the ones who pointed out that his story is impossible to follow, his prose needs cleaning up, and his dialogue doesn't resemble how people actually talk (even in high fantasy).

He probably won't, but I can dream. ( )
  Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
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