Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Review: Almost Adept

Almost Adept
Almost Adept by Olga Godim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book's title describes it well: it's almost adept, apart from a few significant stumbles.

Firstly, I get the impression that the author's first language may not be English, and some odd phrasings have survived the editing process. "It's only a day ride" (instead of "day's ride"), "in a nearest town", "on the Varelia's side of the mountains", "every each way" (instead of "every which way"; this appears twice), "she was in such a shock", "only in extreme condition", "could I have some snack before dinner?", and "after the injuries like yours" are all phrases that I noticed as being odd. Some of them may simply be incompletely revised sentences.

There are a few words that aren't quite the right word choice: "depravations" instead of "depravities", "occupants" instead of "occupiers", "largess" used to mean "riches one owns" instead of, as it should mean, "riches one distributes", "forerunner" instead of "progenitor", and "wilted" used of fruit, when it's a word that normally applies to leaves.

There are a couple of anachronistic word choices: "decibels", "dating", "megaton". The language, too, wobbles between relatively formal English and modern American informal, which I found occasionally distracting.

There are a few outright misspellings: "puss" for "pus" (though it's correctly spelled in another place), the obvious typo "fiend" for "friend", "pour" for "poor" and a "you" for "your" (another common typo).

I only noticed one comma error, though. That's something.

So it could have done with another edit. The story itself is satisfying enough, for the most part, though I did think that several of the events and character choices seemed driven by what would work for the plot rather than what was sensible or realistic. For example, the main character, for reasons that are never fully explained, needs to lose her virginity before she can become a fully recognised Adept, and this is a plot driver. She lets herself be arrested and taken to jail, not because she doesn't have a number of other options (which are helpfully listed), but because she's curious about the experience, and this places her where she can conveniently rescue someone else. When the governor's wife is kidnapped, by a startlingly convenient coincidence she's the main male character's former sweetheart (never previously mentioned), and he has a locket with her hair (never previously mentioned), and this enables her to be tracked magically. The magic itself is all kinds of convenient, and apparently capable of doing anything.

Even with these flaws, though, I enjoyed the journey. There was genuine tension, despite the all-powerful magic, which isn't easy to achieve. The young female protagonist is brave and determined, although she's remarkably resilient in the face of bad experiences. When horrifying things happen to children right next to her (and I could have done with a warning about that, by the way, along with the extended torture scene), she is shocked in the moment, but next day she seems cheerful and almost carefree and the incident is hardly referred to again. Apparently it was mainly there to emphasise how very bad a man the villain is.

Still, with another round of edits, less reliance on coincidence, and more care to ensure that story elements aren't just there to drive the plot, arise more naturally and have more realistic consequences, this would be a very fine book. I enjoyed it enough that I could largely overlook the flaws I've mentioned, so it gets four stars. On my subscale within four stars, ranging from 0 (barely above mediocre) to 9 (just short of amazing), it scores a 2, mainly because I liked the characters.

I received a copy of this book from the author for purposes of review.

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