Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: Shara and the Haunted Village

Book Review: Shara and the Haunted Village
Author: Jeffrey Getzin

Kindle Price: $4.99
Paperback: $4.99

Book Description
A Desperate Gamble

An ancient mystery, a legendary wizard, ghosts, magic, a demon … and Shara, an impoverished seamstress.

Shara has fallen on hard times recently. She’s starving, has just lost her home, and she can’t find work anywhere. However, a chance encounter with a a sociopathic giant and a charming rogue might just be her escape from her hand-to-mouth lifestyle. All she has to do is guide them to the haunted village she had stumbled upon when she was a child.

But can she trust them?

Char Mesan Writes
This is yet another of my free Kindle book downloads. For those of you who have read other reviews I have written, you will know by now that I love the fantasy and fairy tale type stories like that of when I was growing up – but in adult form.  It is the type of books I most love to read, and is also the type of stories I am most enjoying writing.

Shara and the Haunted Village captured my interest from its title alone; the book cover aided me in my decision to download; but the opening (and then subsequent) chapter(s) compelled me to keep turning pages and read on to find out how things will work out for Shara in the end. The author has certainly mastered chapter ending hooks to keep you hanging in there reading while you should have turned the lights out.

The story starts with Shara being newly homeless, desperate for food and worried about her long time survival.  In traditionally fairytale style, an opportunity taking Shara away from her ordinary live arrives, this time in the form of guiding two travellers to a place she and a her innkeeper friend, Gil, discovered quite by accident as children: the haunted village.

Ooh, a magical place with ghosts, and a legendary wizard.  Yep, I was most certainly going to keep on reading!

Like all good fairy tales of long ago the quest involves things happening in three’s. The Chekov’s Guns are all nicely fired by stories end, and the story’s underlying mystery is enough to compel you to read on.

One strong criticism I have with Shara and the Haunted Village is some of the strong swear words contained in the story, keeping the read as an adult’s only book. Some of it – actually, correct that, all of it – was not necessary; the brashness caused me to be yankedly removed from the reader’s fictive state when I read such (unwarranted) jarring lines of character dialogue.

Without giving too much of the storyline away, there is a character who it is an essential part of that character’s personality to use such brash language, and, I don’t have a problem with cursives within a story, so I wouldn’t have had a problem with this story if the swearing had been contained to just that character.  That first incident of swearing by a character just came out of nowhere so it hits you strongly because the same character had not uttered any foul language up until that point, making it unnecessarily crude and strong when it arrived, and without any further crudeness by that character later on, I had to question why this character swore so harshly during this scene.

As a writer myself, I think the author could have tried harder to keep the story in line with the conventions of the genre the story is in; the look and feel of the story was that of an old-style fairy tale slightly modernised for a current audience.  From my perspective though, the modernisation just didn’t need to include modern swearing; the same affect (in depicting the character react in anger) could have been easily and more appropriately achieved using old-style cursives, to keep the story ‘clean’. Actually, come to think of it, I think the swearing was the only modernisation within the story – the rest of the story felt timeless or classic. 

Another aspect of the storyline that I wasn’t keen on was the author’s handling of brute violence scenes.  Yes, many a popular classic fairy tales did often include scenes graphically depicting violence. But really, I didn’t buy into the main secondary character suddenly coming at the heroine with an axe in reaction to Shara being slow at recalling her movements of over ten years ago while trying to find the entrance to the haunted village. Even brutish, bloodthirsty characters have to possess good, logical reason(s) for attacking someone they’ve paid a lot of money to help them find an object or place. Yes, such a character would be highly suspicious that the hired help might have lied just to earn the gold on offer, but no, no, no they wouldn’t be so quick to try to kill that person before they get what they came for (especially when there are only two known characters – Gil and Shara – who have found the haunted village previously, so there is not a lot of choices as to who can guide him).

At story start, I truly engaged over the character of Shara and her plight, but as the story progressed, I realised there wasn't much depth to her or any of the other characters. There wasn't a character arc where the heroine came away all the wiser for the experience when the story came full circle for its end.
What I did like about the storyline very much, as always, is the magic and the characters using their skills to get themselves out of perilous situations. The story pace and suspense were good, but towards the end I was starting to skip a lot of the text so I could get to the end.

With all the good and bad points discussed above in mind, I’m giving Shara and the Haunted Village a three-star rating. The story idea was a good one, but the execution of this novella could definitely do with a number of improvements to get it up to where it could easily have belonged.

The story was priced 'just right' for me, so the Kindle price of $4.99 is just too excessive for what the story is. (I would have been happy to have paid $1.99 but not much more).

You can purchase a paperback copy of Shara and the Haunted Village from here. It is also temporarily available as a free Kindle book.

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