26 September 2012

Review: Evan Burl and the Falling by Justin Blaney

Evan Burl, age fifteen, is the oldest of a group of orphans who live and work in the isolated castle of Dǣmanhur under the brutal supervision of Uncle Mązol and his goons, Ballard and Yesler. The orphans are always hungry, are punished severely for breaking the rules, and are forced to work from sunup to sundown. A mysterious message in the Book predicts that Evan will become an evil sapient when he turns sixteen, and that he cannot be turned from his destiny.

Each chapter of Evan Burl and the Falling begins with a header specifying how long until the mysterious 'Falling'. This is important to note, as the story moves back and forward in time. I think this was meant to be a literary device to enhance suspense. Personally, I found it irritating. One flashback is one thing, but this felt more like telling a story in two timelines at once.

One of the skills in writing a novel in a sci fi, fantasy or speculative genre is to ensure that the reader is provided with the information they need to understand the plot at the right time. Sometimes Evan Burl managed this; sometimes it did not. And the fantasy world has to present a consistent illusion of reality to the reader. Including items like French doors broke this illusion, because they are part of our world, and Evan is not.

The other thing I found annoying was the spelling. Many of the names had little curlicues (e.g. Peąrl, sąpience, which I hope display properly on your screen). On the Kindle, the strange letters are merely annoying. But reading the epub version of the book on my Kobo was impossible, because the file conversion process had changed all the strange letters to boxes, rendering it almost unreadable.

It takes a while for the story to really gain its stride--at first, it seems as though it is trying too hard, with the melodramatic evil uncle, the punishments and the affected spelling of character's names. But once it settle in and gains pace, it improves… only to finish with a ‘to be continued’ cliffhanger ending, with no resolution to any of the questions raised. What are the orphans manufacturing? What is the ‘falling’? Where did the orphans come from? Is Evan really evil?

Evan Burl and the Falling could be the start of something good. But it finished too soon and left too many unanswered questions for my liking. I personally prefer each book in a series to have a partial resolution that gives more clues about the final climax, which completes the overall story arc.

Thanks to Inklis Marketing for providing a free ebook for review.

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