Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall


Title: A Crown for Cold Silver
Author: Alex Marshall (no website found)
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Rating: WARTY!


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Erratum:
Page 26 (in ADE - no page numbers in the book itself!) "...bad at that road is" Should be "...bad as that road is"

This is your standard fantasy, and it runs to some six hundred pages of very dense text, so I was prepared for a hard slog, but in Adobe Digital Reader although it shows itself to be 606 pages, when I clicked from one page to another, for example from page 290, the next page showed as page 293, so I have no idea what's going on there. Clearly it's not six hundred pages. It just feels like it is.

The novel is written rather oddly. It starts ought as though it's an eastern fable, with Chinese or Korean or Japanese influences (it's hard to tell from the wild mix of names used), but these are also mixed in with more western names, so it's a bit of a mess, like the author couldn't decide which fictional culture he wished to be influenced by which real culture, or maybe he wanted it mixed on purpose, but it was too jarring for my taste.

Also some of the phrasing he used was odd, such as "more princesses at the ceremony than stars in the sky". This made no sense since the number of stars in the sky is traditionally used to indicate a massive number. Clearly there were not that many princesses. Obviously the author is trying to indicate a very large number, but this felt like a really poor choice of metaphor and flies in the face of traditional usage. Sometimes it's good to break a mold or two, but in this case it simply did not fit with the culture we were supposed to be in.

The story was very rambling, and I couldn't get into it. It went off at tangents, and it jumped around from one thing to another, and one character to another before you ever get a real chance to get to know them, and to understand or empathize with them. Consequently they all remained strangers to me, and I had no real interest in what they were trying to do, what they thought or felt, or what became of them.

Some chapters, like chapter four, for example, begin as though they're written in first person, whereas they're not. In this case, the chapter began:

Goatsdamn, but grandfather was a pain in the arse. Or rather, the small of the back.

Instead of beginning:

"Goatsdamn, but grandfather was a pain in the arse. Or rather, the small of the back," thought Sullen.

This didn't help me to feel comfortable with the novel, and the apparent random use of terms made for confusion about what the writer was trying to do, or say. In the example just given, you see the use of the English word "arse', whereas in and earlier phrase, the term "ass-end" was employed rather than "arse-end", and also the phrase "punk-ass' which seemed completely out of place, as did the phrase "in cahoots" used elsewhere. This kind of thing made little sense to me, and contributed to my sense of this novel being a mess.

This problem went further than that though, because although while it appeared to be set in a country reminiscent of one of Earth's Far East nations, the language, terminology and speech patterns were very much western, so they failed to fit the ethos. This was jarring and kept reminding me that I was reading a story. I could never become immersed in it because of this.

I gave up on the novel at chapter five, where in rapid succession I got the names Duchess Din, Maroto, Purna, Cobalt, Diggleby, Hassan, and Zosia. It felt more like United Nations than ever it did ancient culture and I couldn't take it seriously any more. I cannot recommend this novel.


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