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WHITE LEAVES (E.L.F. #1)

Words Obscuring Story

By Ingstrand, member

Mar 2, 2013: As far as I can tell, E.L.F. has an interesting concept, an exciting story and engaging characters. I won’t find out more about any of them, unfortunately, because the language is close to unreadable.

I realize that this is a strong statement, so let me qualify it. Other readers might not bother as much about language as I do. Some of the things that bother me could be regional language variations that I’m not aware of, and the situation almost certainly improves as the story proceeds and the author becomes more experienced. In any case, a review shouldn’t be about language alone, but I can’t very well make a statement like ‘close to unreadable’ without giving examples. I’ll briefly mention a few things that I react to in the first paragraph.

Let’s begin with the always important first sentence: ‘Screened away from unwanted eyes by northwest country ferns bedazzled by fat droplets from the rains never far from recent, Shannon Hunter crouched in the dark.’ ‘Rains never far from recent’ is ungrammatical, but there is another problem here. In the first part of the sentence, we find out that 1) something or someone is screened away, 2) the screening protects from eyes that aren’t wanted (a rather strange idea, but we still don’t know anything about the world of the story), 3) the screening is done by northwest country ferns, 4) we are probably in the northwestern part of wherever the story takes place, 5) the ferns are wet, 6) it rains a lot. This part of the sentence is so long, dense and unwieldy that by the time we reach the terse and effective ‘Shannon Hunter crouched in the dark,’ it has all become a confusing jumble. We have to go back and try to figure out what we just read, and any chance to pull the reader into the story straight away is lost.

The next sentence is ‘But not as some cowering whelp.’ I have no problems with the grammar, but the voice makes me stop again—who would use an expression like ‘cowering whelp’? Perhaps someone like Denethor in The Lord of the Rings, high-status, archaic wording for an angry high-status character in an epic setting. Not that a narrator couldn’t sound like that, but the narration would draw the reader’s attention to itself rather than become a transparent window to the events of the story (which would be perfectly all right if that was the author’s attention and the voice was kept consistent).

Only minor quibbles for the rest of the paragraph; surely hiding is a ‘result’ rather than a ‘product’ of fear, and surely hunters use weapons rather than tools. Small details, but when there is a small detail like that in nearly every sentence, reading becomes a start-and-stop-and-start-again activity that soon wears me out. Which is a shame, because I would have loved to read this novel.

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WHITE LEAVES (E.L.F. #1)

Editor’s First Impression

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Feb 24, 2013: I was excited to see the blurb for this novel – an Earth Liberation Front (E.L.F.) activist encounters real elves who are bent on more than sabotage! At first the writing style of the first chapter put me off. There is very odd word usage: "his confusion-mutilated features", mixing senses "it was written all over his tone", which sometimes works: floodlights "sent shadows screeching for cover". It’s at its worst in "She wore her thick lips defeated, and all but lowered her exotic eyes in futile submission" and at its most colourful in "Like silver wind chimes carried by a swarm of angry Africanized bees all bound within an electric zipper, it rose a shriek, crackling through the space betwixt like a bolt of lightning." Upon a second read I found I was starting to enjoy these unexpected turns of phrase, although I’m still a little doubtful. I’ll be very interested to find out what other people think of this story.

White Leaves is hosted on Jukepop, so to read beyond the first chapter you have to register, which is free.

Update: I eventually did try reading further, and found it a tough slog. Despite the interesting premise, in execution it didn’t grab or convince me.

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