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[Reading Group] December 2014: Orison by Daniel Swensen

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Philip Overby, Nov 30, 2014.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    For December we're going to be reading Orison by Daniel Swensen. This was agreed upon by Steerpike and I and if anyone else would like to join in, you're welcome to do so. From what I understand, Swensen is an indie writer, so this will be our first time trying a book from someone who isn't published by a traditional publisher. It's kind of exciting to break this new ground and from what I've read so far, I hope it's something we can do more often in the Reading Group.

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    A short synopsis of the book:

    Story lives as a thief in the free city of Calushain, and has a plan to escape to better life. But when her stash of money is stolen by her brother, she finds herself faced with a death sentence from her crime lord boss.

    Desperate to pay off her debt, she searches for a score big enough to earn her freedom. Instead, she finds the orison, a magical artifact that could tip the balance of power between the city and the Empire seeking to conquer it.

    The power to change the world is now in the hands of a sneak thief — if it doesn’t kill her first.


    If you can join us, here is a link to the Amazon page.

    Amazon.com: Orison eBook: Daniel Swensen: Kindle Store
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Some questions to get started with:

    1. What do you think of the writing? Is it engaging? Are you interested in what is going on in the story?
    2. What is your sense of the world so far? Do you feel like the world-building has flowed naturally from the story?
    3. What are your impressions of Story and Wrynn? Do you like the characters? Do you find them interesting in the first chapter?
     
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    1. What do you think of the writing? Is it engaging? Are you interested in what is going on in the story?

    So far I really like the writing. It flows pretty well and doesn't get bogged down with details (which is something I appreciate after reading Wolfe and Mieville for two months). Not to say I don't like descriptive writing, but it's good to read something that is pretty straight-forward in its presentation.

    The story itself I can't say too much about as of yet. I've only gotten a gist of Story and Wrynn's plot so far (having only read the first bit), but I'm hopeful the anti-magic world and the criminal world weave into each other.

    2. What is your sense of the world so far? Do you feel like the world-building has flowed naturally from the story?


    The world-building doesn't seem overwrought or anything. The best I can figure is that it's a world not too far from ours with magic interweaved in. I haven't noticed any long explanatory passages yet, so that's a good sign that it's flowing naturally and not being dumped all at once.

    3. What are your impressions of Story and Wrynn? Do you like the characters? Do you find them interesting in the first chapter?

    I like the characters so far. I have more of a sense of Wrynn than Story. Not sure why, but between Story running from the beast and Wrynn running into trouble, Wyrnn's part stood out more to me. Both were pretty cool though and I liked how the story jumped into the action. I keep hearing people say, "Don't jump right into the action because the reader has no reason to care about the characters." I always ignore that advice, simply because I just like stories that jump into something right off the bat and things are revealed more as time goes on. This novel feels like it does that, one reason I think I'll enjoy it. It doesn't have the slower paced of some fantasy novels, so I think that's one of its strengths so far.
     
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Have you gotten to Chapter 2 yet? I was a bit surprised that the novel switched gears to a drastically different POV, but I like it so far. For some reason I was expecting the novel to only really follow Story and Wrynn in an urban sort of setting, so I didn't really expect to the story to open up more.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Phil:

    I'm in the third chapter now, which goes back to Story and Wrynn. I liked the second chapter as well, and I liked how it opened up the story to broader issues apart from what Story and Wrynn are dealing with, and I'm interested to see how this all ties back together. I feel like this book is on par, quality wise, with works you'd see from traditional publishers. I'm enjoying it.
     
  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I just got to Chapter 3 (it'll be awesome if we can actually go through this chapter by chapter at the same time, but I suspect you'll overtake me soon ;) ). I agree. I see this as being on par or better than a lot of traditionally published work I've picked up. That's the thing about indie publishing, whether it be small press or self-published. There are hidden gems sometimes lurking out there, but it's hard to pick through them (or have the endurance to). That's why I think spreading the word about any indie writers you find entertaining is paramount to their success. Self-promotion can only get a writer so far, which I've found out myself. You have to have people willing to put their stamp of approval on your work through reviews, sharing the book, etc.

    That said, I have one minor quibble. I found some of the stuff in Chapter 2 to be a little "explain-y," but not to the point of being distracting or anything. This is something I think all fantasy writers have to deal with. Giving insight into the world without halting the story can be difficult. I think he handles it well for the most part and I suspect this won't be a major problem going forward.
     
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Still reading the novel? I'm up to Chapter 4 (I think) now. Enjoying it a lot. Wish more people had joined in this month, but I can understand it's difficult with the holidays coming up and all.
     
  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    If anyone's keeping track, I'm still reading this. It's been a fun novel so far. I'm on Chapter 5 I think. I like all the characters and the world seems pretty interesting. My favorite character is probably Wrynn. I'm glad he got the strands off his arms so I'm looking forward to what he can do once his magic is unleashed. I just got to a part when Story and Crux are probably about to be in big trouble.

    At the rate I'm going, this will probably be the first Reading Group book I've finished since Gone Girl. And that's a very good thing!
     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I'm still reading. On the road, but I'll post this weekend to catch up.
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Phil:

    I made quite a bit more progress over the weekend. Where are you at? I don't want to spoil anything :)
     
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I'm on Chapter 7 now. Bear in mind, I'm a pretty slow reader, but I've been enjoying everything so far. Just started Chapter 7 so if you want to talk about anything before that, feel free to share your thoughts.
     
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Hey Phil...I finished it last night. Can you remind me of what is going on in Ch. 7?
     
  13. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, you read way faster than me. :)

    I do think this is a pretty quick read, I just don't get much time to read unless I'm on the train.

    I just finished Chapter 6 so I'm on Chapter 7 now. Ashen just found Shoneg (I think that's his name?) and questioned him about the orison. Also Story just got outed for stashing items so she has to recoup it all really quickly. Wrynn and Dunnac are traveling somewhere, although I can't remember the name right off hand.
     
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Ah...yeah, I liked that part of the story. I found myself becoming increasingly angry at Crux :)

    I think the author kept a nice, fast pace going, but didn't let character development suffer because of it. I like the growing relationship between the characters, and how the mystery of the orison is unraveling. With the semblances acting behind the scenes and wielding more power than mortals, it has a bit of a feel of the Black Company or Malazan books.
     
  15. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I'm actually quite impressed with this book because I'm growing increasingly impatient with fantasy books as of late. I guess the epicness of some many series is hard for me to get invested in nowadays since I do most of my reading casually on the train or when I travel. I like that this is has some global consequences, but it doesn't get bogged down too much. I like how it focuses on the characters so much and it's quickly paced.
     
  16. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Just wanted to note, Steerpike, I'm still reading this. Still slow going because I'm slow, but I'm enjoying it a lot. Thanks for recommending it to me.
     
  17. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Closing in on the end (about 80 something percent finished). I think I can comment overall on the novel now.

    I find that the pace is really well done and it's not a novel that dwells a lot on world-building and description, which as of late has been one of my main criticisms against fantasy fiction. I like that the story has multiple POVs, but doesn't get too crazy with them and they all make sense even when there is a one off (such as Jhal or Crux). The inclusion of dragon gods was a nice element and Wrynn's magic being restricted at the beginning made for good character development. Of all the characters I probably enjoyed Wrynn the most with Story being a close second.

    Overall, this was a great pick and I just wish I could read faster so I can keep up with everything. From now on if we do the Reading Group, I'm not going to pressure myself to read super fast to keep up. I'm just going to post my thoughts on the story as I go and my overall thoughts at the end. I'll definitely finish this one and pick up more novels from Swensen in the future.
     
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