Fiction and Writing

Why I DNF Elemental Arcane.

First of all a little disclaimer thingy. I’m a very fussy reader, maybe it’s where I’m a developmental editor, maybe it’s just me, either way, I’m very picky over the books I read. These are my personal views, thoughts, feelings, etc. Lots of people love this book, and that’s great, I’m glad they enjoyed it. I couldn’t get past chapter three. No hard feelings, the book just isn’t for me.

I spoke about what I learnt from the books I’ve read over the course of this year, I thought you may be interested to see my thought process and why I didn’t finish this book.

The book in question is an urban fantasy, Elemental Arcane is book 1 in the Eldritch Files by Phaedra Weldon. This is far from a horrible book, but it didn’t grab me, so I walked away as I have so many other books to enjoy.

My main problem was that it felt as though it were starting in the middle of a story, more like it was book two or three in a series. There’s a lot of references back to stuff that happened before the book, as though I’m supposed to remember them. There’s so much history there, and that threw me quite a bit. It’s hard to grasp onto something when it’s referring back all the time.

There were also quite a few mini info-dumps that felt clunky and took away from the moment. I get that it’s a big complicated world, but, the introduction felt almost slap-dash. There was action, and then there was information, and relationship stuff, and it was all over the place.

Oh and there’s a reference to something in chapter two that suggests a huge event was missed between the prologue and there. Again that added to the sensation that I’d been thrown into the middle of too much and I was desperately trying to cling into something so I could understand and feel a part of things.

In summary, it didn’t flow, and it left me feeling confused and a bit frustrated. There was too much and it leapt from one bit to another and back again. I get what the author was trying to do, and the world sounded rich and wonderful, but I didn’t want to keep trying to get that all important immersion, so I walked away. It’s a pretty popular book so lots of people clearly thoroughly enjoy it, and that’s awesome, it’s a shame that I’m not one of them.

What I take away from this as a writer.

We all know that openings are so important, we need to pull the reader into our world and introduce our characters without making them feel as though they’re flailing. Or worse, bored. It’s hard trying to show a big complicated world, but it needs to be carefully integrated into the narrative, not thrown at us with little side-notes and such. There’s also the fact that starting with action is fantastic, but it has to be the right action, and the story must move forward. We can’t afford to keep looking back, there has to be a general sensation of forwards motion.

It’s not really new information, but it’s good to have it reinforced.


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