Where Honesty Never Ends.
The Breath of Aoles, Book One
Two covers are being presented here as we are uncertain which is the most current cover. Per Goodreads, the first is what is shown. However, when the book was loaded to a Kindle Reader, the second was what came up. This title was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Today The Review Board presents you with its overall thoughts on “The Breath of Aoles, Book One” by Alan Spade. First let’s have a look at Mini Truth’s views.
When I first started this book I didn’t know how to feel. At first I was confused, then irritated, then confused again … and the sentiments went back and forth for at least 3 chapters, until I finally decided how I felt about this read. In four simple words…?
I DIDN’T LIKE IT.
As much as I wanted to like it, being that I am a lover of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, I simply could not. There are so many things about this book that left me feeling and thinking that it could have been so much better.
Allow me to start with the premise first:
Pelmen, who is the main character hates being a tanner which is the given profession and living status of the hevelens, due to some cultural order system. Basically, he finds his life mundane and uneventful and longs to be an archer which was something that was introduced to him by a man called Master Galn.
However, somewhere along the line, his good friend Teleg—whose sister Pelmen has a crush on—disappears, later on becoming a prisoner of Nylevs. Pelmen escapes his family and the life he’s always known to get away for two reasons; to pursue his dream of being an archer, but most of all, to find his friend Teleg.
Having, down the line, found his uncle, he then trains to compete in the upcoming world renowned archery competition.
In the interim Pelmen meets many, many people, including a Shaman that can control The Breath of Aoles (which means the wind) along with some other nifty stuff.
Here are my thoughts on this book. I will try really hard to keep my thoughts relevant and factual to the story line, syntax, character development and the like. I don’t think it will be necessary to categorize them in the form of pros and cons, as most of my thoughts are general.
The Breath of Aoles is a book that has potential. That much can be said. Yet, it requires a massive reworking in my opinion.
I feel as though the delivery of the story as a whole was lackluster, confusing and un-engaging. I found myself struggling just to stay awake long enough to read it, thus having to read it in small portions at a time. There were, of course, some increments when I said to myself “I’m just going to gobble up as much of this book as I can, simply to get through it.” but unfortunately that never lasted long. So, I found myself going back and forth between reading small portions, then longer bits.
Many times over the narrative fell stale, as though the author was just pecking away at the keys simply to elongate the story without any real thought as to how excessive wordiness can impact the story as a whole. Particularly when said wordiness was humdrum and/or blasé.
I hate to say it, but the narrative was needlessly word heavy.
The story did progress and move forward, but at an extremely slow pace. Especially, during the first 3 or 4 chapters which I thought just drew the story out much more than it needed to be, and consequently attributed to the fact that the book took forever to get to the point.
This was made worse by the length of the chapters (which I will get into more soon).
There was advancement, but it came at a snail like pace.
Another very peculiar thing was at the very beginning of the story. There are some intervals where there was a switch in narrative style, and with that came entire scenes that were dealt in italics. The problem with these scenes was that there was no indication as to what they were. Were they memories, dreams, thoughts? What the heck were they? Yet, with the switch of narrative style it only made it much harder to decipher. It would be much easier to show you, rather than to tell you.
Following is a screen shot:
Not only was the narrative style (as you can see above) hard to follow, particularly after commencing the story in another, but it didn’t seem to do anything to move the story along. I found them confusing and awkward.
This bullet will be short and to the point. THE CHAPTER WERE HELL’A LONG! I mean to the point were I eventually began counting how many pages were left in each chapter before they came to an end. There is nothing that bugs me more in a book than trivially long chapters.
Most of the characters were believable, that much is true. Yet, that still did not take away from the fact that much of the dialogue in which they engaged was not. I will tell you more about the dialogue later.
While Pelmen was the main character, I did not take a real liking to him. I though he made too many bad decisions. Of course, he is only 16, so that does explain a lot of it. Regardless of that, he just wasn’t my favorite character.
My overall favorite character was Lanthe. I thought she had gumption and was fairly entertaining. I did also think that uncle Xuven was a real bad ass, to be honest. Loved him
While I realize that the author wanted to keep the name authentic to the genre/plot, I have got to say that most of them I couldn’t pronounce for the life of me. They were complicated without cause. Some of them, dare I say, were just ridiculous. I don’t mind unique names for characters, as a matter of fact, I typically condone it. Yet, when the names cannot even be pronounced, then there is a problem.
Dialogue vs. Narrative:
The narrative, as I said above was pretty excessive. It was just soooooo long. Let me try to show an example, if you would permit me for a moment. Here is just one sentence:
“They climbed the steps of the staircase in the entrance hall, went through rooms carved out of the rock, where Pelmen scarcely noticed the magnificence of the woodwork, and strode along interminable corridors to end up turning into a isolated, yet sumptuously decorated room.“
The above is just one sentence. Now, if you would image the innumerable amount of long, drawn out sentences like the above one on a back to back basis, then you could image the extent of unnecessary narrative. The above example could have easily been cut in half by excluding some unnecessary words.
Here is one more example:
“The driver of the vehicle to the rear, whose features he could not make out because of the glare, hard seen him, however, he must have thought him consequential, for her contented himself with shaking his head to show his disapproval.“
Just so long!
This brings us to the dialogue.
In the dialogue one thing that truly frustrated me was the ENORMOUS amount of ellipses! The best way to tell you, is to show you. Following you will find a screenshot.
This is just ONE example of page after page of dialogue laden with ellipses. The problem with this is that they are being erroneously utilized. Ellipses are used for “an incomplete thought“. As you can see in the example above, these thoughts HAVE been completed.
So, if the character(s) is/are stuttering, or having trouble expressing something, then these divisions should have been indicated with Short Dashes or, in narrative. If done in narrative, then said characters’ form of expression should have been noted.
Then there is the fact that conversation wise, it was just so dry and unbelievable. Every conversation between the characters was monotone. Truthfully, it bored me half to death.
Then there was the situation with misused punctuation. Here is an example.
“I’ll make you one—it’s the least I can do.“
The EM Dash, also known as the Long Dash, is not used correctly. This could have easily been two sentences. Like so: “I’ll make you one. It’s the least I can do.“
Why implement a Long Dash without needing to? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
Fantasy vs. Reality:
One major problem that I had with this story was the presentation of Fantasy vs. Reality. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First let’s look at the genre.
With this book I could not tell, for the life of me, if we were talking about a Sci-Fi or a Fantasy, or a Mash-up of both. If the Mash-up is true, I really, truly think that a Prologue and/or Introduction was have went a LONG way. The story, right off the bat, dives into the lives of the characters without any real introduction as to what type of thing we are reading. Even the blurb gives no real indication.
Next thing you know, you’re being introduced to a Hierarchy of government and people that leaves you with no idea as to what’s going on. Terms (as in verbiage) were used, that gave the story a Sci-Fi feel, yet narrative was being used that gave it a Native American Fantasy feel. As in Native American folk lore.
This honestly drove me crazy, because I couldn’t tell my head from my butt-hole as to what was what.
We met things like “ptats” (one in particular named Mils, which was Pelmen’s pet), this was apparently some sort of rat. Yet, the reader doesn’t find this out until a while after it’s presented. Then there were this world’s horses, called “nidepoux” and an entire slew of other native things. Yet, are the fey or are the made up/Sci-fi? One simply cannot tell.
Here is the kicker…
One of the passages, reads as such (Once again, this is one of many.):
“The excuse was nidepoux-shit, of course.“
Let me explain my problem with the above phrase.
If we are talking about another world, with an completely alternate vocabulary, including and not limited to their names for animals and people (which are helevens—this is their word for “human” I assume.), then WHY is “shit” called “shit“?
Wouldn’t it stand to reason that “shit” would be called something else—something native?
This same logic applies to many other times when the verbiage was not true to what could have been it’s classification. Another example, is the following:
“His gestures were slow, and marked with weariness, but his complexion was less jaundiced and he could stand up.“
My dispute with that phrase is that “jaundice” is a human condition. In this story we are talking about “helevens” not humans. So wouldn’t it make more sense if the author had conjured up another word for jaundice?
Maybe it’s just me.
(Disclaimer: Tiny spoiler here.)
The ending wasn’t too bad. I dug the idea of them striding away on their horses (or nidepoux) unto the horizon in victory, albeit demonstrating the pain of the undertaking. It had some closure while leaving some things that were mentioned in the story open to question— a lead, of course, to the next installment.
I can’t hate the ending too much.
In conclusion, with everything that I mentioned in this review as a factor, I would have to say that “The Breath of Aoles, Book One” might’ve been a good idea, but the massive amounts of faux pas really hindered the overall reading experience for me.
With that being said, I give this book 4 TRB stars.
Now let’s take a look at Ms. No Labels Unleashed’s views.
Oh, wait! Who is that? Oh wow! It’s Ms. Ova Veugh. Hi there!
You know it’s always interesting when Ova comes along. Let’s give her the floor, shall we?
Ahh, Fiddelsticks! Looks like I’m a bit too late for Mini Truth. Guess I’m not needed after all …
Well Ova, if it makes you feel better, you can ask whatever questions you had for Mini Truth for me, if you’d like. I would hate that you rushed all this way for nothing.
Okay, Unleashed One. Since you insisted, I will do just that.
Hello, Ova Veugh here—making my first appearance in 2015! Today I have the Unleashed One, who will answer my questions as it pertains to The Breath of Aoles.
First question: What do you perceive as the pros of this particular tale?
Unleashed: Well, one thing I have to give the author: he really outdid himself as it pertains to names. I’ve never seen so many different spellings of things in life!
As it pertains to the cover, I am unsure which cover is the more updated one. On my Kindle reader it is still showing the one with the landscape. Yet for Mini Truth, it displayed the one with the three “beings”. As far as cover concept goes, the one with the three “beings” goes along with the story a lot better while the one with the landscape does not.
The author was quite involved with presenting the settings of places. I felt like the location sequences were well written.
There were a few characters I liked, albeit not the main character. Alicene possessed a serenity and silent strength that made me smile. Xuven was not only smart but also resilient. Even in parts of the story where Xuven could have been perceived as harsh, when you have to deal with a personality such as Pelmen, you have to adopt being a bit of a hard ass. Fekkar’s dedication and resourcefulness was brilliant to see and the tough, confident zeal of Laneth was a bright spark in this read.
The resolution did not have the ambiance of a cliffhanger and was the other bright light in this read, although it took quite the journey to get there.
Ova: Wow, Unleashed One! This sounds like quite a winner.
Ova: Or not. So, what didn’t work for you?
Unleashed: Where do I start?
Ova: I guess start anywhere you’d like.
Unleashed: The first part I’d like to call “Molasses in the Momentum”. Simply put, for the first twenty five to thirty percent of the book, it was slow—painfully slow. Like a tooth thrumming in ache. The initial narrative incorporated elements that were italicized, but I could not tell whether it was just the main character Pelmen having a flashback or stream of consciousness. It just really threw me off.
Although the remaining narrative style mercifully diverted away from that trait, it was not strong enough to carry the story. A lot of information was provided in such a way that I felt as if I was reading a history book more so than a novel. Therefore, the components of engagement I were anticipating were significantly lacking.
Ova: Narrative, check! What else?
Unleashed: In the first chapter, the reader is put in the midst of Pelmen’s struggles to accept his role according to the caste system. Yet we are not provided any type of prologue for guidance. What different types of beings will we be dealing with? What is the structure of the caste system (from the aristocrat to the peasant)? Also, the story shifts between presenting itself as fantasy, and in other ways, science fiction—although at the end, I leaned more towards fantasy. It just lacks definition in this sense, and I (as a reader) spent the majority of the read trying to put all the preliminary elements together— which could have been minimized, if I would have just been provided a proper prologue. Another solution would have been an actual glossary; for me, the explanation at the end did not quite fit the bill.
Ova: You’ve mentioned that Pelmen wasn’t exactly your favorite character. Care to expand on why?
Unleashed: Okay, I get that Pelmen is sixteen and some teens are “so smart they are stupid”. Yet, he is not described as “human” so would he have “human like” characteristics? Okay, riding on the assumption that he does possess human traits (since we aren’t told any different through the story), it just makes you wonder how many times his uncle had to warn and guide, only for him to do what he wants to do. In my opinion, he had not obtained enough growth in this long novel to set him up for continued success leading into the next book.
Furthermore, it seems like that there were many different faces of Pelmen. Was he going through a growth spurt at the time? Let me explain.
One moment, Pelmen acted like an unsure boy that needs prodding to come out of his shell. That’s the only explanation I could come up with, due to the amount of ellipses (the three dots) that was used in his dialogue. Either that, or he had a disability which caused him to stutter. If it was a case of stuttering, then the wrong punctuation was used (the dash should be used instead, as in B-b-but). In other moments, he was the defiant wise guy that walks right into trouble—both knowingly and unknowingly. Then, there were times where he was a lean, mean, “females dig me” machine.
Okay, that was an exaggeration.
Yet there was a segment between Laneth and Pelmen described that did not match the Pelmen that was being mapped out at the start, nor throughout the story. The whole “Did they or didn’t they?” kept me entertained for about ten milliseconds. I was like, “Wow, I didn’t know they got down like that!” Again, that is adopting the theory that these beings have human mannerisms. I even got to wondering if they expressed and acted on desire in the same way; if not, what would it be like? I will never know, and neither will any other reader, since no full details were given.
Ova: Not fully sold on Pelmen’s character development, check. All right, guess it is time to get to the rating-
Unleashed: I’m not done.
Ova: Oops, I’m sorry.
Unleashed: Quite all right. The dialogue delivered many a head scratch. It felt sort of manufactured and stilted. There were certain words that fit the times, and other words that were modern, like the word “shit” for example. Was there no other word in their dialect that substitutes for that?
Besides that, the lack of time stamps made tracking of events a challenge. One glaring instance was near the start of the book when Master Galn had passed away, and Pelmen was training for the tournament. When the hunt to find Teleg began, Pelmen asked about his participation in the tournament and Xuven said he would not be able to do so until the next time. How much time had passed to where Pelmen missed his opportunity when before it seemed as if he had just enough time? The mention of time would have boosted a sense of urgency in parts of the narrative where it seemed flat or invisible.
The fact that the chapters were immensely long did not do The Breath of Aoles any favors. There were multiple intervals when information was mentioned at the very beginning but the connecting dots were not mentioned until the very end of the chapter, or didn’t provide cohesion until several chapters later. It was way too easy to forget information once chapters began exceeding ten pages, or even worse, when scene separators should have been chapters instead. There was too much emphasis on the mundane and not enough emphasis on the paramount.
Ova: Looks like the cons outweighed the pros for you, Unleashed One. If you had to give a bullet point list as a summary, what would it look like?
Unleashed: Well, it’d be something like this.
• Prologue at the beginning or detailed glossary at the end would have aided in comprehension of the characters and surroundings.
• Chapter lengths should have been cut significantly. It would have served to make the action more immediate.
• Work was a bit too narrative heavy—ambiance was more textbook than novel. A more proportioned mix of narrative and dialogue would have kept the interest ongoing.
• The flow of dialogue was not in alignment with the fantasy type dialect the author was trying to establish for his characters.
• From a syntax perspective, decrease the use of ellipses and incorporate better sentence structure, in terms that the sentences, in some areas, ran a bit too lengthy.
• Crucial plot points threatened to (and at times did) go amiss amidst the supernumerary blocks of information that didn’t play much of a role in the novel.
Overall, there’s a story there but the way of conveyance did it a grave injustice. I will let other readers be the judge. As for myself, I do not care enough for Pelmen to journey with him to his next adventure.
Ova, you won’t have to do much adding, for I am on the same page as Mini Truth.
Unleashed Verdict: 4 out of 10 Stars
Well, folks, looks like the overall score is …
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