Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest … NOT!

At least for me … as I didn’t make it to the quarterfinals. But I did get some free reviews of my novel, and for that you would think I’d be glad. The problem is that there’s nothing helpful in the reviews … no real action points that I can run with.

Now, mind you, the first one was very encouraging (thanks!), but the second one seems to have been written by someone who stopped reading after about 12 paragraphs.

“This excerpt seems to be targeted towards young male readers, with its opening scene of the slaughter of the deer.”

They must not have read the romance in Chapter 2 is all I can say!

Also, this scene is actually a premonition of what is about to happen to the hunter … and all of Britain! So it has a definite place in the novel and is there for a purpose.

The Merlin Spiral

It is also historically accurate in the sense that people did hunt back then. I know it’s hard to believe that grocery stores and Starbucks didn’t exist in the 5th century, but really … they didn’t.

As well, I’m actually quite reserved about how I describe the death and cleaning of the deer … nothing gratuitous at all, as you can read in my online excerpt.

On the good news side, Pete Peterson (yay!) moved on to the quarterfinals with his excellent book, Fiddler’s Gun! Go Pete! Go Pete! Go Pete! (say it with me now…)

Anyway, here are my reviews, for what it’s worth:

Review #1 of Merlin’s Blade

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

I found the character development one of the strongest aspects of this excerpt. The prologue featuring the hunter Rinvos was beautifully detailed and through just the simplest actions (killing and cutting up the deer, thinking about his family), I had a strong impression of who he was and cared when he was killed. I assume that the potential return of the druids paired with the unusual, ominous change in the Dragon Star is setting up the tale with Merlin. The Merlin appearing here (assuming it’s THAT Merlin) has no resemblance to what probably is the classic interpretation of him as an aging sorcerer. This Merlin is young, mostly blind and tentative. His uncertainty around Natalenya is sweet and serves to add to the fleshing out of his character. The dialogue is handled well, enhancing the flow of the story with just the right amount of attribution.

What aspect needs the most work?

Over several readings, I didn’t really find any weak areas of the excerpt. The technical aspects of writing are followed well here, as is the formatting.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I enjoyed reading this excerpt; the characters are interesting, the element of fantasy well done and the promise of action to come, intriguing. I like that the author didn’t move too fast with the storyline, which is frequently the giveaway of a less experienced writer trying to hook his reader with action rather than character building, which is what makes the action worth waiting for. I’m a bit older than the targeted Young Adult reader, but I still found the piece interesting enough that I’d like to read this polished piece further.

Review #2 of Merlin’s Blade

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The writing is very tight with few excessive adjectives, separating this excerpt from most of the others I have reviewed. This excerpt seems to be targeted towards young male readers, with its opening scene of the slaughter of the deer. Using this as an introduction is likely to engage these young male readers immediately.

What aspect needs the most work?

The description in the prologue of slaying and slaughtering the deer is rather gruesome, and may turn off some female readers (a stereotype, I realize) and those who are squeamish or averse to hunting.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

While this book is designed as young adult fiction, it likely appeals to a very narrow segment of young adult readers (in fact, putting “year of our Lord” in the first dozen words will likely turn off some readers, not because of the religious nature, but because it feels too much like assigned reading for literature class). I am confident that with appropriate marketing, this book could find paying readership.

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5 thoughts on “Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest … NOT!

  • Sorry to hear you didn’t make it.

    I can’t believe people hunted back then. That’s just crazy. If you ever saw the film Apocalypto, it opens with a hunting scene, which is prophetic for what comes later and also there is a detail of how the boar is killed that proves vital to the main character’s survival later.

    So to those critics, opening with a hunting scene is not cliche or there simply because you couldn’t think of anything else, but can play a vital role in what happens later.

    I have a hunting scene in my novel as well. From a medieval perspective, it was the most popular sport for the nobility, so I wanted to set one of my scenes with hunting as the backdrop.

  • I have a hunting scene early in my book, too. It was (and still is) a fact of life, hunting animals for food. What about slaughtering cows for beef? It happens.

    One gets the feeling that the second reviewer is squeamish, and is probably projecting his (her?) own feelings onto the potential audience.

    As for the whole male v. female audience, I’m not seeing a problem or a too-narrow focus. I think your book will appeal to readers of fantasy in general.

    That first review — that’s encouraging.

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Keanan! My thoughts exactly. :roll:

    Maybe they need a “third opinion” if the two reviews differ wildly. I know the ACFW Genesis contest has something like that (or did.)

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