Rating: 2.2 out of 5
Reviewing can be a frustrating game.
You dive into a book. You want to love it. You get to know the author, and they’re a super-nice person. And yet sometimes the reading experience lags behind your expectations. You don’t want to be mean, but you owe it to everyone – yourself, your readers, hell even the writer themselves – to be honest.
That’s where I found myself with Erich’s Plea by Tracey Alley.
In its premise, the book is hopeful. Slade, the son of a king, has abdicated his rights to the throne in order to become a druid. He is eventually thrown in prison for nefarious reasons. He dreams of his father, who’s been captured (or killed), and is left instructions on how he should go about plotting his escape. He eventually does, with the help of the typical rogue’s galley of fantasy characters. And in the background of all this, there is the intrigue of a plot to take over the world by a singular dark entity with seemingly unlimited power.
There were a few problems I ran into with the story. First of all, for a main character, Slade is, honestly, not very interesting. He has no charisma, no charm. It’s almost as if he’s simply there. Secondly, the majority of the plot revolves around the big prison escape, which like Slade isn’t very exciting. The reading is quick, but the action scenes are lacking. The head-hopping between characters can be confusing, and the characters themselves are oftentimes clichéd. There reached a point where I wanted to say, “all right, get out of the prison already!” It drags on through the length of the novel, and I begged this particular storyline to end.
This is where I come to the most frustrating aspect of all in this book. Whereas the main story arc, the prison break, is mundane and tiresome, the peripheral occurrences show so much promise, so much thought. The main protagonist in these (too short) sections is Lord Michael Strong. He, along with the grand wizard (or necromancer – I couldn’t figure out which exactly) Lord Nexus are having clandestine meetings to figure out ways in which they can reunite the different kingdoms that always seem to be at odds with each other, under the poisonous eyes of The Dark One, the seemingly all-powerful evil presence.
Through their conversations, Lords Michael and Nexus reveal the history of the world author Alley has built, and it is wonderful. It is a mirror to our own, in which the xenophobia and racism that exists between the warring factions brings down what had the potential to be an almost utopian society. I greatly appreciated these aspects of the book, along with the descriptions of the different types of magic. I found these threads to be original and inventive, and well worth expanding upon.
However, the author doesn’t, and instead we’re thrust back into the boring escape plan.
There’s something else amiss with the work, however, and this has everything to do with The Dark One, himself. He’s painted as an omnipresent figure, one who knows everything that happens around him, who is tyrannical in his rule. And yet we meet him, face-to-face (first mistake), and he’s more like a caricature than a well-fleshed-out villain. Also, for someone so all-powerful, he’s surrounded by spies (second mistake). This lessens his effectiveness and turns the character into a joke. How could such a dominant being with the power of mind-reading and witchcraft at his disposal not know all these characters in his tight inner circle are plotting against him? It simply doesn’t make sense and, although this is strange to say about a work of fantasy, makes the story much less believable.
The writing style the author uses is brisk, but there is something off about it, as well. The comma usage is all over the place. Many of the sentences are run-ons. There is information that is contradictory or unnecessary to the action. Here are a couple prime examples:
As it always did, on those rare occasions that Luca came to this section of the prison, he found the utter silence unnerving, although, at least it masked the screams of the prisoners.
They could all do with some better supplies Slade knew, apart from Lara, Tares and Darzan, who appeared fully equipped, the rest of them carried only arms and equipment purloined from the dead guards.
(Perhaps these represent differences between Australian and American English...I'm not entirely sure)
Not only this, but the author has a tendency to repeat names over and over and over again when a simple “he” or “she” would suffice. This is distracting and more than a little bit maddening, as well.
And yet, all this aside, I would probably read another of Alley’s work if given the opportunity. She does have a playfulness to her tone that I find intriguing. Some of her characters are inventive and break their tropes. She has a good head for societal themes and world-building. It’s simply not present in this book as much as it should be.
I know there are more novels the series. Perhaps she has matured as a writer since this one was written, perhaps not. But if it doesn’t improve, that would be it for me.
As for Erich’s Plea…I found it middling, at best.
Plot - 3
Characters - 5
Voice - 5
Execution - 4
Personal Enjoyment – 5
Overall – 22/50 (2.2/5)
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