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Vent about the Book You're Reading

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Devor, May 11, 2018.

  1. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Ok, the 'Benjamin Ashwood' series, billed as 'old fashioned sword and sorcery.' I picked up the digital version of the first three books for a steal many months ago, read part of the first one, wasn't impressed, wrote a review to that effect and moved on to other works. Then, I noticed more and more four and five star reviews on Amazon to that effect, dug it out of digital storage, and began reading it anew. Along the way, I began making comparisons to my own efforts. (yes, not supposed to do this, but couldn't help myself)

    Ok, 'sword and sorcery.' Means lots of fights, evil magicians, and assorted monsters. 'Benjamin Ashwood' has plenty of that. I'll also give the author points for worldbuilding - once I grasped the historical severity of the demon issue, the political arrangement of petty kingdoms made sense.

    The demons, however, are barely even one dimensional - they appear, they attack, and you either fight and win or you die - every single time. That was one strike - I kept waiting for demons to display something other than mindless violence; instead, there were a few more powerful specimens with a rudimentary grasp of tactics.

    Ok, I have demons in my own writings (especially 'Empire') that play major roles in what's going on. Monstrous demons on murderous rampages feature in several characters recollections. But, my demons were more than mere killing machines - they possess formidable intellect and knowledge, plus they have goals of their own that only sometimes involve mortals.

    Another strike is the discrepancy between the highly advanced knowledge (20th century level) displayed by some characters - notably the mages - compared with the feudal city-state and petty kingdom level everybody dwelled in. At this point, I'm wondering 'lost colony' or 'cataclysm.' If it's not one of those, then, well, the strike sticks.

    My primary world (and almost all the secondary ones, for that matter) have multiple high tech devices, and a number of characters with rudimentary understanding of them. Those devices and attendant knowledge stem from the 'ancient aliens.' In my worlds, the discrepancy exists, but it's accounted for. It's not well understood and is frequently regarded as magical or demonic. In Ashwood, it's like some of the characters are quoting from a 20th century college text.

    A strike of sorts is the total absence of religion. No priests, no discussions of theology, no mention of a deity or a pantheon. Comes across as 'weird' for a quasi feudal society. The closest is a sort of martial mysticism - the 'thirty ohms.'

    In my world - at least the primary one - religion is a very big deal. The faith of the True God exercises major influence across the Solarian Empire and beyond. Priests act as counselors for peasant couples, (sometimes) provide education, moral guidance, and more. There are also feuds between the True Faith and lingering pagan religions, plus splits within the faith itself.

    The 'long lived' are another strike of sorts. Seems you master a profession, one that requires great will (almost always either a warrior or a wizard) and aging just sort of 'stops.' Mind over body. Seems to me there should be more to it than that.

    Then, there is the body count in Benjamin Ashwood - people die in droves in these books. I could accept that, but all too often, it gets repetitious: Benjamin and company meet up with somebody, who is almost always presented as a fellow refugee or guide of some sort. Said character either gets killed in the next demon attack or assassination attempt, or is an assassin themselves. Then there are the small groups of assassins, some backed by mages, who just sort of randomly show up and try to kill the heroes. Very few of these secondary characters survive. For that matter, the body count amongst ordinary artisans, traders, and like folk is high as well, especially after even casual contact with Benjamin (and he's really, really trying to make things better for these people.)

    Ok, in my works, people died in droves during the Traag War. Unlike Ashwood, though, which has 'unsettled conditions,' the Traag War was a major, decades long conflict against a realm ruled by demons who regarded their subjects as bugs. Afterwards, though, well, Solaria is unsettled, plagued by banditry, piracy, widespread poverty, and occasional urban rioting - but the body count is (mostly) far less than Ashwood's. It's a symptom of social change.

    Social Change - that is something my tales have in common with Ashwood, though the thrust is different. In Empire, it's a massive seismic shift; in Ashwood, it's more 'ordinary folk building free states in the wilderness.'

    Ok...so the Benjamin Ashwood series gets some pretty good reviews (and is better than some other digital fantasy series I've read over the past year or two) - yet, it has these issues, places where I might have done a better job. Gives me a modicum of hope. Or maybe I'm being delusional.

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