So, not too long ago, as I was wandering in the doldrums of having written two books and selling very few of them, Grael Norton from Wheatmark Press suggested to me a very novel idea—pun intended. I should start reading other author’s works and posting reviews for them. Kind of a “you get what you give” idea. Well, I thought it was a great idea and started upping my reading intake. In doing so, I also began reaching out to other authors, especially those who were self-published and newly published like me, offering review swaps and good, encouraging criticism.
Brandon Draga was one of the first authors to respond positively. He was such a welcoming guy, asked if he could sign me up for his newsletter—to which I said, “of course”—and willingly agreed to buy my book and give it a read when I said I would love to read his works.
So I read The Summerlark Elf and gave it a review. Now, it was a 3 star review, which I posted on Amazon and Goodreads but it was not a critical review, as most 3 star reviews are. I will get to my review, but I just wanted to say about Brandon, he responded to my review on Goodreads. So, normally when an author responds to a review you’ve left, it’s not good. They start to defend what they wrote and why they wrote it and a part of you feels like maybe you were too harsh and you attacked them and their work. I know, as an author, I feel that sometimes, even though I repress the urge to respond. But that is not what happened with Brandon. He responded with kindness and sincere thanks for my review. I think it was a well-meaning gesture and thought it very cool that this author is taking time to not only read his reviews, but respond in kindness to them.
With no further ado, my review of The Summerlark Elf
The Summerlark Elf did have some editing issues and page formatting issues. I don’t hold too much of a grudge in regards to those things, especially if they’re not huge and if I am reading a self-published author. It’s not that we should give self-published authors a pass on good grammar and punctuation, but I understand the cost of getting professional editing. The very best authors have major issues before their editors look through their manuscripts. We self-published authors have limited budgets and, so, minor issues don’t bug me too much.
It is clear to me that this book was written by a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and every other fantasy book and game out there. And there's nothing wrong with that. Names are borrowed, as were concepts. No problem. The writing wasn't necessarily spectacular, but it was good. It was easy to read and there were moments of very good writing. I mean, I read the book in three days. It was truly a very quick, easy, and enjoyable read. It was fun. It was a decent adventure. And that is where my criticism lies. My major issue was that I felt like I was reading a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. I felt like I was reading a borrowed story. Now, as an author, I do realize that it is very difficult to come up with a new story. In fact, from a plot-story structure standpoint, I’m not really sure if there are new stories to be told. I mean, we can come up with new names and places and worlds, but—especially when its fantasy—it’s all about either a journey or a stranger coming to town; man vs man, man vs nature, man vs self. So it is within that construct that, as authors, we are tasked with creating something fresh. When reading The Summerlark Elf, I felt like I was reading a story that might qualify for Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance or some other Wizards of the Coast world. Would I read it again? Probably not. Am I going to read the next book? Absolutely. Would I recommend this to someone else? Sure. If you’re into pure fantasy adventure, here is a fun, quick read that is enjoyable. If you're looking for deep plots, intense subplots, genre crossing, and earth shaking statements, probably not here.
Do I recommend the Summerlark Elf. Definitely.