One great thing about being on vacation is I can read much more. I reblogged my review of the Summer Indie Book Award-nominated Magic-Price last week anticipating I’d be ready to post my review of Magic-Scars today. This review also gives me a chance to try out my new format for reviews.
A note on format: Reviews are essentially opinions. Everybody has one, and at the end of the day, a person either likes a book or doesn’t. The real question is how to be objective. As a writer myself, I love an overall opinion of my book, but I also look for honest feedback. So I’m taking a page from the writer’s group I was in while stationed in San Diego. It allowed me to be objective. It also allowed me to separate myself from what I think of the person.
This format came from what I like about books and what I look for when I read books. My hope is that if readers don’t care about a certain aspect, they can skip to one they do. I’ll also give an overall opinion, which you can also scroll to directly. Please feel free to comment on the format below as I want to help authors improve and readers find books they might like to read.
Spolier Free Summary: Magic-Scars is a sequel to Magic-Price. Scars is the second book in the Crown of Stones Trilogy. It takes place a few years after Price. Ian Troy is still fighting with his friends to stop his father from using magic to take over the world. The readers get a lot of treats here in terms of secrets revealed and progress in the story.
Character: Ian Troy is awesome. He’s why I liked book one, and he’s why I’m eager to read Magic-Borne, though I do want to read this Potter book I’ve heard tell about first. (NOTE: This has more to do with me trying to read The Cursed Child before someone spoils it. I’m actually more excited to read Borne at this point.) The first-person narrative drives Ian home, but I’ll be honest, I’m officially frustrated I can’t see more of the other characters. The world is so deep. As much as I love Ian, I’m upset that I can’t get into any other heads. It doesn’t necessarily hurt the book at all because, like all books that do first-person narrative well, Ian is a wonderfully sympathetic, proactive character. This is my number one requirement of all books. I don’t care how cool the magic system is. I don’t care how intricate the world building is. If the main character isn’t sympathetic and proactive, it doesn’t rank very well on my book.
Ian isn’t the only reason to keep reading though. There’s a whole cast of characters that are fascinating. First-person narrative allowed Schneider to keep the scope of the world from getting out of control, but I’d have happily read two or three more books in the series if it meant I could have gleamed more insight as to the motivations of the other characters. Like I said, it doesn’t hurt the book.
Exposition: Another benefit of first-person narrative is the fact that it sort of cheats the bulk of exposition. Schneider didn’t beat us to death with exposition, but there’s a lot of it. It’s woven in well with great dialogue, and it’s only something you notice if you’re up at 4 a.m. reviewing a few chapters to get a feel for it. In my opinion, if a reader has to go back to the book and look for exposition, it was done right.
Worldbuilding: This is one of Schneider’s two main strengths. The magic system is complex. As I think on it more and more, I’ll do what I always do and start looking for ways to punch holes in the system. That’s the cool part about fantasy books like this. As deep and well designed as the world is, there are a few questions about how the magic works that I’m hopeful the last book addresses. The world itself is intricately designed, as are the cultures, histories and races of this series.
Everything feels real while reading this. Yes, there are things about the magic system that give me questions, but I’m willing to let it go until I read the last book. None of those questions feel like cheats. Usually, by book two, I like to have a pretty solid feel for how a magic system works. My gripe is that, while the basic premise is easy to grasp, I still can’t quite summarize the mechanics of how the system works. This may be because the system is a part of the plot. As we learn about the magic, we understand what’s going on in the book more. To just come out with it would cheat the reader of discovering certain things for themselves. Only those obsessed with diagraming and breakdown of abilities would be disappointed. Bonus points for the Eldering. Their history was a nice touch.
Dialogue: This is sort of in the middle for me. The characters all have a unique voice. The exchanges feel more-or-less natural. I can’t pretend to know what makes dialogue “better,” but the dialogue here isn’t bad at all. There are a few instances where some readers might argue some of the interactions, but I’m not one of them.
Description: I have a better sense of the world than I do the characters. I naturally see Ian more clearly in my mind that the other characters. I confess characters don’t sit well in my imagination to begin with. What I do know is that all the characters get their fair share of description. It’s not enough to get through my particularly thick skull, but I think most readers will be fine with it. I think the settings are stronger because they bring better images to my imagination. What Schneider does well though is weave those things in. I hate being beaten to death with description or minute detail. Not once in the book did I skim over a section because I felt it was just overwritten description.
A note on content: There are some adult scenes in this book. Normally, this is an automatic turn-off for me. I’m more a “Fade to black” scene kind of guy. Things get steamy in this novel, but it’s not over done. In fact, one of my favorite parts in the book (one that sums up Ian rather nicely) is in such a scene. These scenes don’t oversaturate the book or get in the way of the plot. It’s a well-done balance in my opinion.
Overall: I was a big fan of Price, and Scars is much better. Scars pays off on the potential Schneider demonstrated with Price. It’s a great second act that has just enough cliffhanger to make you want to jump straight to book three without robbing you of feeling like you’ve finished reading a novel. (I absolutely hate true cliffhangers). I’ll rate it on Amazon and Goodreads because they help authors, but ratings really are more or less an awful tool. People either like books or they don’t. So I won’t be providing a rating here because I wouldn’t invest 1,200 words on a book I didn’t love. I wouldn’t have already bought the next book in the series either. I’ll end with this…
I’ve made no secret that Schneider is a friend of mine. What I feel is important to point out is that she became my friend because she’s a wonderful person who’s been an amazing help to me and my own development. What made me seek her out was an amazing cover and a damn-well written book. I sought her out because she has skills I admire in a writer. If you’re looking for a great, fast-paced book to read, look no further.
Thanks for reading