By Marc Royston
An old woman finds a mysterious body while the world around her is killing itself with the Civil War. From there, things fall apart, and secrets are revealed.
This was the hardest part of the story to weather through and probably the biggest cause for the low score. I don’t understand the fascination many authors have using unbelievably old styled prose. It’s almost as if they think it sounds more legit. I’m not sure. Either way, if the story takes place in some time before now (the most immediate present,) then everyone must speak in a hyper poetic / repetitive manner. Check it out.
Whispering secrets, my blade drew threads of silver through the air. The wine of the living flowed.
Then there’s the classic repeat, repeat, repeat.
…not long thereafter, the midpoint of my backbone prickled. A wave of frost chilled me from within, and a feather of warning caressed my neck.
Translation: I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared.
The author constantly abuses us with not just overly flowery sentences, but also enacts the telltale sin of new writers—the ever dreaded over description.
Now that I saw him closely, he had the look of one who was fond of his liquor. His skin appeared pickled; his nose was bulbous and inflamed; and his gestures lacked certainty. Moreover, his words dragged, ever-so-slightly slurred. But if he had in fact imbibed of late, I caught no scent of it.
If you find any of this unappealing, I beg you to skip the first three pages. There is literally sentence upon sentence of the narrator’s thoughts that fold in upon itself, explaining her horrible situation. This kind of narrative worked for Poe, and even he showed restraint.
In the end, the author does have a wonderful vocabulary, but as Vonnegut expressed best, when using big words, they should be applied lightly and in a way in which the reader doesn’t even notice them.
As bad as that first part may seem, it gets slightly better from here on. When it comes to characters, it actually had some nice ones. The main character, an old woman who is left unnamed until the end, has depth when she’s not rattling on and on with her archaic prose.
With her, from time to time, there is some genuine character building, though to what end I’m still unsure of. And as for a goal, it’s fairly simple: to bury the body she found and not let others do as they wish with it. Some of this is still unclear. However, along the way, she encounters soldiers of the Civil War going on around her, and they seem real enough.
There is little structure in the story. As I’ve stated the first three pages or so are ramblings, until suddenly she stumbles upon the body. With the overly abstruse sentences, I had to take breaks from the story and often found myself lost upon returning to it. But beyond that, it appears to have a simple enough storyline that slowly uncovers the past and how this past has brought about this woman’s unfortunate situation in life.
The only reason I finished this book is because it was short. Had it been much longer, I would’ve tossed it aside much earlier and given it an even lower grade. The way this author presented his material confused and distorted without really setting any mood. Then there is little dialogue and when there is, it is filled with the same self-indulgent tendencies. If anything, this appears to be a character study, because not much happens, and very little change occurs with the protagonist. I know the author is writing a newer, longer book soon. I hope with it, he updates his vernacular and sentence structures.
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