Reviewed by: Corina
Genre: Gothic Horror
Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store
Cornelius Harker has reputedly studied gothic literature for several years And has three degrees He has two more books out at the time of this review: Words to the Wise: Book 2, Towards Darker Climes, and A Dish Best Served Cold, described as a supernatural thriller. For more, visit his blog.
Our anti-hero recounts his life since he encountered a man with bleeding eyes, who turned him from alcoholism to wandering the earth in search of answers about himself and his past.
I did not like the protagonist of this novel, named the Wanderer. He changes his behavior in the book, but does not exhibit growth. He interrupts his storytelling in disruptive ways, and he uses too many words. The Wanderer slips out of his first person limited point-of-view(POV) into a third person omniscient POV in which he can ascertain the motives, emotions, and intent of people he has just met, with no explanation. At one point, the Wanderer says “I became capable of a skill to thwart the most competent of seers. I began to unravel a tapestry of Truth concerning her origins, and which provided me with my first factual taste of things to come.” Even if you take each accidental lapse into omniscience as foreshadowing, it still comes out of left field and is not explored further.
The story would be strengthened by extensive editing, mostly to pare the excessively ornate and archaic language to succinct and arrow-sharp prose. I understand that the genre begs for archaic language, but it does not need to be trowelled on. They should be applied more sparingly.
A few minor examples of the ponderous sentences in this book are quoted below (I’ll leave it to the truly adventurous to excavate the truly abominable sentences encased in this marmoreal quarry of a novel):
Again my slumber was infested with visions of an impenetrable mass that loomed on the horizon of some remote and deserted land, only now it was taking shape. Materialising before me into a solid structure tall enough to smite the clouds above, this fluid accumulation of Cimmerian obscurity was becoming all too frighteningly familiar.
Occasionally I was saluted by the salubrious few whose summer jaunt along the river was undoubtedly an annual custom, but I had neither the will or [sic] the inclination to return their convivial and sedulous gestures. (Salubrious means “health-giving,” and Sedulous means “showing dedication and diligence.”)
Hidden among these ubiquitous and obstreperous sentences are sparkling gems like this little paragraph:
Stillness is something that has always managed to unnerve me. Within silence plots are hatched, thoughts are made and unmade; worlds of the conscious mind are destroyed by will alone. In the hush of peace wars are forged; in the quietness of humanity there is a rage in the soul that goes unnoticed; unspoken words become harbingers of vengeance and hatred while everywhere, everything, everyone changes in those hushed deliberating moments, becoming something they are not for just one second in ten, an instance wherein murderers are made, loathing is developed, and images of wickedness are formed. It is the stillness, the silence of foreboding that most are able to conquer while others are slowly consumed by it.
To summarize, I felt that Harker did his readers a grave disservice by failing to have this novel properly proofread for grammatical errors, for vocabulary faux pas, for continuity of voice, and by failing to have his main character become a more complex person by the end of the book than he was at the beginning. Even in a series, the character should grow and change in each installment.
Harker himself, outside of this series (this is a series debut) and pending a couple more years of experience publishing, has tremendous potential as a writer. I look forward to reading anything he writes in the years to come.
This novel contains a few highly graphic, gory scenes, and uses complex run-on sentences with an overabundance of five-dollar words throughout the novel. I am an English teacher who reads Shakespeare and H.P. Lovecraft for enjoyment, but reading this book was like slogging through a swamp. If you don’t read at a university level, you should have an enormous dictionary close at hand (or in your e-reader) to read this book.
There are comma errors and some words don’t actually exist (such as “sanguineous”), and there are some grammatical errors, but many readers will not notice them.
In this frame story, the author used open quotation marks at the beginning of every paragraph in which the Wanderer is recounting his story, as is used at the beginning of an extended quotation. It is not necessary at this length, and he is telling a story, not quoting another person, so it could properly be omitted.
Rating: **Two Stars