Shadows Within Dark Places

This epic fantasy finds an ancient world being plunged into chaos by an evil warlord and a creature from the swamps.  Heroes are called to take up the battle but it is a strange shadowy figure who guides them.

Jadarr is not seen and his character is continually questioned, but they choose to follow as he gathers together those who will serve the kingdom.  Is he evil or is he good?  Fairytale or sent by God?  Intertwined into the fabric of this world is a figure standing apart yet bringing those who seek goodness together.

Are we guided by unseen forces and are these forces reflected in the lives of unique individuals who pass through our lives and give us hope?  Look around and you will see that the mystery and majesty of ancient times is still with us today.

Genre

Epic Fantasy

Critic Evaluation

Cover Design Score: 4

The cover is supposed to evoke a sense of both dread and engima. Sadly, for me, it failed to impress either. While I applaud the attempt at reutilizing a stock photo for the intention of evoking dread, it is still very clearly a stock photo. Additionally, a man in a hood fails to impress upon me any sense of place, time, or theme. The text, while sufficient, is written in a cliche medieval times font. The whole cover looks like the author tried too hard on the parts that didn't matter. The author should've focused on evoking a sense of time and place, rather than the monochromatic "scary bogeyman" he went with.

Book Blurb Score: 2

The book blurb sums up all the problems  with the book in one simple package: unnecessary ambiguity. The description is so stock and so general that we have no idea waht is going on in any meaningful fashion. There's a bad guy. And a kingdom. And heroes maybe? We need to get behind a story that feels personal and real. This is so general and so vague that we really have nothing to hold our attention. 

Formatting Score: 6

There are some formatting issues early on where pictures are overlayed over text. The chapters feel sloppily assembled, with sub-headers breaking up every scene. The headers take up a large portion of each pae in a way that's distracting and unnecesary. We don't need the full title on each page like this. But, ultimately, save for the pictures covering up words, it's readable. 

Grammar & Spelling Score: 6

I didn't see too many spelling errors (though there are spelling errors), but the bigger issue is the author's grasp on grammar. There are several comma splices, fragmented sentences, parallel structure errors, vague sentences, etc. The author has an over reliance on passive sentences throughout. But, worst of all, the sentences are oten very vague.

Plot & Structure Score: 2

This is where things go south for me as a reader. We are given new characters in every chapter. Events happen, but feel entirely disconnected from one another. The world is never developed in any way that matters. We never get a sense of setting. We never get a sense of real conflict, beyond spoon-fed exposition about a dark lord. The problem is that simply presenting an evil guy isn't enough. It isn't even enough to show him conspiring to destroy or conuer anything. If we don't get an immediate sense of where we are, all this evil feels like it occurs in a vacuum, and fails to impress any sense of conflict or tension in the reader.

Character Development Score: 2

I don't know any of the characters. I reread the chapters, and couldn't tell one character apart from the last. We are given names, and these names do things. We don't really have a sense of motivation, personality, goals, or even distinct patterns of speech. New viewpoint characters are established before we have a chance to even know prior ones. With a third-person omniscient narrator, we fail to really understand anything about the people we're following, and, as such, don't care what happens to them.

The only character to receive any meaningful development is Jadarr, and even that is hard to grasp as a reader because of how ham-fisted and superficial his development is. People see him as evil? But he's really just a swell guy who's misunderstood. It lacks distinction to make it stand out.

Originality Score: 2

Without a sense of setting or characters, the fantasy plot comes across as just that: the fantasy plot. There's an evil villain. He's doing bad things. Heroes come up to stop him. We are introduced to the story with a bad guy eating a child. Why is the character evil? Because he's evil. But no, wait, turns out he isn't evil. It's just a townstory spread to demonize him because they just don't understand the situation. Then there's the kingdom, wtih this raid going on, but then there's political intrigue between the feuding leaders-- It comes across as a Frankenstein monster of other fantasy books, without the understanding of what made those books so good.

Pacing Score: 2

We move at a break-neck pace. We never understand what's happening or why. We need to linger on the lives of our characters more, or even the world. As such, we're rushing between plot points.

Use of Language Score: 4

It's readable, but the language remains stilted. It reads like an unpolished first draft.

Overall Readability Score: 6

Again, the language is readable. But the language is hardly the book's biggest problem. Without a central emotional conflict to keep us the reader rooted, the story feels like some out-of-reach phantasm. It's hard to grasp, and not in a good way.

Three Chapter Feedback:

The issues present in this manuscript are aparent and impossible to ignore. Due to the structure of the book, I'm afraid that the problems present in thesse first three chapters are likely present throughout. Please, consider this when reading the following.

This book received a critic's score of 5 out of 100 possible points.

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