Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Book Review: I Come With Knives

I Come with Knives
by S.A. Hunt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The further away I get from reading this book the more I think three stars is just too generous... so I'm dropping it to two stars. Honestly, unless you thought book 1 in the series was the best book you've ever read then I cannot see anyone finding this read good and it's certainly not better. Given book 1 was only okay it's really not enough to get much from me (no matter how many cute Buffy or Doctor Who references S.A. Hunt puts into her stories. I will not be lured into liking bad writing by nostalgia!)

In the Beginning...
...there was an info dump. And I don't mean like a couple pages to catch you up and remind you of the story. No, no I mean like almost 50 pages of non-stop information that is impossible to digest or remember in the end. I know many writers, especially novice ones, feel like they need to explain everything about their world (be it a: fantasy world, Earth with magic, etc.). This is not the case! Readers are smart, and in fact, better writing keeps things interesting, provides just enough information while still moving the plot and our characters development forward. Please don't set-up every detail of your world to start any novel. It's just plain boring.

Gory & Gonzo
Do these things go together? Maybe... but there needs to be a really delicate line between a lot of gore (which Hunt seems obsessed with) and weird, odd descriptions. I just have trouble imaging a gory monster when it's so oddly described. A good lesson here is refer back to H. P. Lovecraft. That is an author that excelled at descriptions that were both icky, gory, and horrific (without sounding just silly). Here is an example that made me shake my head in utter confusion. Is this scary? Does adding blood to it help the absurdity? Not for me.

"It was all head and lanky frame, an enormous black-green chimpanzee with jagged dinosaur legs and a giant mascot head."

As with S.A. Hunt's first book in the series there is a heavy reliance on shock value to keep the reader interested. Maybe that keeps the attention of 12-year-old's? But it will not keep the attention of the average 16-year-old... so to me this is a fail. If this is supposed to be a teen book, and given how gory it is I think it must be put there, then relying on shock value isn't going to work. Hunt commits a classic kid/teen literature mistake: assuming the reader is not intelligent. Even a child of 5 can handle a complex plot. So don't dumb it down for MG or YA readers.
Additionally there are a lot of references in here that I suspect the average teen isn't going to pick-up. Now maybe that's okay... but writers need to be careful not to have throwbacks to their own teens in a book written for today's teens. Let's face it, as much as I want to think that being almost 40 doesn't put me in a different realm of language and pop culture knowledge; it does. And referencing Buffy the Vampire Slayer seems cute; but if your target audience is currently 14 it's doubtful they will catch the very subtle reference. Maybe that's okay... but to me it would be better to have a more current reference that your target reader will appreciate.

I have told myself under no circumstances am I letting myself read book 3. I will not allow my "need" to finish a series waste my precious reading time on anymore of Hunt's over-the-top, absurd, and gory descriptions or ridiculous plot points.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

A friend of mine really doesn't like it when she has to collect bits and pieces of information as the story goes on, maybe she'd appreciate the info dumb? I don't think I would.