Extended Thoughts: Child of the Ghosts

 

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A double post on the first day I’m back? Amazing! Or totally predictable, since I hinted that I’d be doing this in the last post, the shorter version of this review. And I follow through with my recently-made promises! Because then I won’t have the chance to up and forget…

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Title: Child of the Ghosts

Series: (Book 1) The Ghosts

Author: Johnathon Moeller

Genre: Fantasy (Sword-and-Sorcery)

Release Date: January 2014


 

 

…Child of the Ghosts, the first novel in Johnathon Moeller’s The Ghosts series, is Mistborn minus anything worth reading. But don’t worry, I won’t be referencing Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn throughout this, I just thought it was the most pithy and condensed way I could sum up my feelings for Child of the Ghosts

I added that in for continuity’s sake before beginning this Extended Thoughts session, just to keep things relevant. Unlike my original review this one’s going to be a bit more ramble-y as I talk about not only Child of the Ghosts, but the fantasy genre as a whole.

Oh, and spoilers, naturally. Including a very old Harry Potter spoiler too, I guess.

 

Characters and Their Lack Thereof:

There were no characters worth getting invested in, frankly. The story was so uncomfortably fast and slipshod that I, by the end of the book, didn’t remember most of the characters names, anything about their pasts, or their personalities. And unfortunately, most of the characters who I did remember I did not do so fondly. The primary characters, Caina, Halfdan, and Maglarion, all fit neatly into clichés, rendering them totally indistinguishable from the hundreds of other flat fantasy characters I’ve read. The only potential exception to this rule is Laeria Armalas, Caina’s mother.

To summarize: Caina is the clichéd broken young woman who tries to piece her life back together and change her ways when it’s plot-convenient. Otherwise, she’s totally content to slaughter her way through her fellow human beings without a thought, only to lament for a couple of sentences a few paragraphs later. Rinse and repeat. I was originally going to write, ‘…piece her life back together and change what she doesn’t like about herself.’ Except then I remembered that I have no idea what Caina thinks about herself, if she likes herself as a person, or if she’s concerned with how others see her. Caina, by and large, is a vessel to propel the plot forward and to throw knives. So to be honest, whatever trouble she finds herself in (which isn’t much, creating a dry, arid feeling throughout most of the plot) isn’t particularly gripping because I don’t care much about Caina or what happens to her.

Villain’s-wise Maglarion essentially Voldemort, though he’s opposed by a gaggle of assassins collectively holding the idiot-ball instead of a well-organized grassroots movement of concerned, well-fleshed-out individuals. That’s really about it— he desires eternal life and the death of everybody in Malarae for reasons never explained beyond it just being the evil necromancer thing to do instead of going into retirement. Lord Haeron, the walking, ‘hate me, I’m a scumbag with no redeeming qualities,’ character and painfully obvious sacrifice-to-be in Maglarion’s plans, is precisely as described. I mean, when you make a deal with the devil, you end up either getting through into hellfire or fiddled to death. Either way, it’s a predictable (and thus, largely unsatisfying) end.

However, we can turn to Laeria now after quickly poking fun at Halfdan: I actually thought he was dead, considering how clichéd the rest of the book was, I finished the book and quickly forgot what his ultimate fate was so I just assumed he had gone the way of Obi-Wan and Dumbledore. He did not, however, his entire character and fate just escaped my mind mere days after finishing the book.

So, the character of Laeria Armalas, who is, again, Caina’s mother, represented one of the few potentially deep and interesting character-to-character interactions. Being Caina’s mother, who is none-too-happy with her daughter (for reasons unknown, honestly), brings up the potential for an interesting dynamic with the heroine. For some background, Laeria is a magic-user but is singularly untalented. She, according to Caina, had trouble making a goblet float via her own power, so she appealed to Maglarion in order to boost her strength. Furthermore, Sebastian (Caina’s father) fathoms that the reason why she married him was because Laeria had been kicked out of the Magisterium for generally being terrible at magic; she suspected that Sebastian would rise above his current status and become a lord strong enough to force the Magisterium to accept her back.

It was at this point (less than 5% through the novel), that I thought Laeria could be an interesting character: her lack of power, weak sense of self (due to her seeking approval from her magical betters), and tumultuous relationship with husband and daughter opens up an avenue rarely seen in fantasy, especially sword-and-sorcery. It’s all too common for the antagonist to wield some kind of tremendous power and be totally unrelated to the hero aside from the, “You two must fight because one is the hero and one is the villain,” idea of fantasy. Yes, that was a subtle stab at the character of Maglarion. But, for Laeria, what kind of emotional and psychological barriers could we see her overcoming and battling with or even using as a shield against Caina’s eventual revenge? Will Laeria eventually conclude that Maglarion isn’t the master she thought he’d be, creating a parallel between him and Sebastian and causing Laeria to go her own way and become a recurring element of humanity to Caina’s life?

I’ll give you a hint; it’s none of those things. She’s killed before the 10% mark when Caina hits her with a fire poker. And come the end of the novel, there’s not a single character that could replace Laeria and be a new character with some actual potential.

And I had hinted at it before, but I want to make it explicit now— the Ghosts, as an organization, are really almost frustratingly stupid. Though, they’re more of a casualty of the plot than they are of bad characterization (though that is also an undeniable factor). For instance, it’s known early on that Maglarion’s bloodcrystal is a huge source of power and is fed by Maglarion’s rituals, implying (even without it having to be explicitly spelled out) that it will continue to grow in power. So, rather than try to kill Maglarion with the deus ex machina spear-of-magic-killing, destroying the bloodcrystal would rob Maglarion of his power and render him easy to kill, provided he didn’t just die on his own from the shock of his power leaving him.

I remember having figured this all out before the ghostsilver spear even showed up— and once it did appear, I spent the next few chapters flipping (metaphorically/electronically) through the next few chapters just to see if I was right.

I was. I wished I had been proved wrong.

And I had hinted at it before with Maglarion and Lord Haeron, the villains in Child of the Ghosts are just so painfully villainous. They don’t behave like human beings with human wants, desires, histories, pain, hope, and joy. I found myself thinking of the two main villains as mustachioed bandits twirling their long black whiskers just because they were that one-dimensionally evil. Which is boring and uninteresting, by the way.

Plot, Tension, and Questionably-Done Stakes: Okay, here’s the thing— oftentimes these heroic/sword-and-sorcery fantasies function on a very simple kind of plot device, the end of the world (or a close equivalent). Most people would rather the world not end, particularly in the myriad of painful ways dreamed up by fantasy authors. However, most people think that way because the world is worth living in and their lives are worth living. And yet, if a story doesn’t instill in us, the readers, a love for the people and place, why should we care about the fate of the world? Starting off a series with the, ‘World is at stake,’ plot device means that there’s really nowhere else to go from there— no villain will be more powerful than the one that threatens all life. So, the character of Maglarion is even more wasted when one considers that The Ghosts is a very large series, and I predict that the villain of each book will wield a similar, ‘destroy all life,’ kind of power. And yet, because we’re being scrubbed clean of the last villain just to have the new one replace him/her, we never get the chance to really learn about the world and its people. Thus, no matter what villain appears and no matter what power he/she is wielding, it’ll never actually make us care.

To wrap that up: We’re never given time to just examine the characters and see them just being people. Ultimately, we come to know these characters as assassins, fighters, necromancers, etc. but never as simply human beings. And yet, even that feels very bland and malnourished. I know I said I wouldn’t reference Mistborn in this, but I think it needs to be said that Mistborn had a similar cast of characters, but its world and magic system were what set it apart and kept it entertaining. Meanwhile, in Child of the Ghosts, I hardly even know anything about the world (a map may have helped) beyond what’s strictly and immediately plot-relevant. And, with no magic beyond the fantasy clichés of necromancy, telepathy, and blood magic, I was never even invested to see what came next out of that aspect of the story.

This all culminates it something I’ve been writing and stewing about for the past year or so: positive and negative tension. I wrote extensively on the subject for my thesis work at the end of undergrad, and this book helped me to realize that I hadn’t just been blowing smoke that whole time. Positive tension, essentially, is the feeling created when an author (usually in fantasy, but it’s conceivably applicable to any genre) capitalizes on a kind of aura of invincibility around a character which keeps him/her safe from harm. For a variety of reasons, characters (usually the main protagonist) can become invincible in all but name. As in, they will never die and never become wounded or crippled in a way that cannot later be healed. As a side note, Caina’s inability to have children, curtesy of Maglarion’s ritual, doesn’t count as it does not consistently hamper Caina’s physical or mental health. Fitting of a character like that, when danger does come knocking, the tension created isn’t based out of the question, “Will this character make it out in one piece?” as much as, “What new trick or clever idea will the character use to get out of this?”

The difference between those two is that the latter is wholly unrealistic, turning life-or-death combat into a magic act; we all know that a magician, if he or she is sufficiently skilled, will pull of the trick at hand with no real danger, no matter how realistically the magician may be sawing the assistant in half. Instead, we as the audience, are merely standing by the see how spectacular it all is. Positive tension makes the reader want to see how entertainingly a situation can end, whereas negative tension makes us as readers hope that the situation will unfold devoid of catastrophe.

Child of the Ghosts is made up, down to the genetic level, of positive tension. Even if Caina’s plans and adventures deviate from their original goal (being discovered and having to fight her way out of a tight spot seems like an already-old favourite), there’s never a sense of real danger, merely a short-lived inconvenience that serves to set up the next bit of action. It’s after revelations like this that I’m happy the book was so short, otherwise I likely would have never had the patience to finish it.

As an extension of that last point, I had figured Alistair, Caina’s noble lover, would meet his bloody end— his involvement in Caina’s life would have made it too complicated and would take emphasis away from the constant stream of action that makes up the lifeblood of the novel. So, perhaps undulling cynically, I knew he would have to die, lest he complicate the straightforward-as-an-arrow plot.

Ultimately, the Ultimate Ultimatum: So, we come to the rambling end again. And my position is still unchanged— Child of the Ghosts is too boring, narrow, and devoid of joy for me to recommend. But it’s not offensively bad and is free on Amazon. So I guess there’s that.

Oh, and what I mentioned in my shorter review about the writing still holds up upon a re-examination. Every other line has to be extenuated with a heavy bass note and a martial-arts movie zoom-in just to show how incredibly dramatic every drab, predictable turn of events was.

I’m also reading the next book in the series now. Spoiler alert: the writing style is much the same.

 


 

 

This series was started in January 2014 and there’s already at least 17 books out for it? Christmas crackers, I’ll be reading these from now until Judgement Day…

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folks!

 

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Rabble Review: Child of the Ghosts

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Well. Here I am again. It’s not flash fiction, it’s not Lorequest, it’s a book review! I’ll be doing more of these in the future. I did a few in the past, mostly about the SomnAgent series and I want to continue doing them, mostly on indie fantasy and science fiction. Because I’m a rabble-rouser and I want to make sure I want to pick fights with works I know how to talk about extensively!

Speaking of ‘extensively,’ I’ll be doing an Extended Thoughts to all of my reviews so I keep myself from babbling on further than what’s warranted.

 

Anyway, once again and as always, have fun~

 


 

 

Child of the Ghosts, the first novel in Johnathon Moeller’s The Ghosts series, is Mistborn minus anything worth reading. But don’t worry, I won’t be referencing Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn throughout this, I just thought it was the most pithy and condensed way I could sum up my feelings for Child of the Ghosts.

But okay, let’s get a little more specific.

Pros: I liked the little bits of voice we heard from the narrating main characters— it helped to outline their personality (tiny bits of it anyway) and made for entertaining little tidbits.

The action scenes were quick, coherent, and got the job done.

It was short. Which, given the list of cons, is a blessing.

Cons: The characters were, by and large, one-dimensional, uninteresting clichés that are already rampant in the fantasy genre. Nothing new is brought to the table in terms of character.

Unfortunately, nothing new or interesting is brought via plot, either. It proceeds in one strictly defined direction and lacks for interesting or thought-provoking twists and turns that would otherwise engage the reader outside of simply experiencing a string of plot-driven events. Combined with the lackluster characters, it makes the entire experience a singularly uninteresting read.

The world, people (meaning, the culture of the population at large, not individual characters), and system of magic is, at best, vague and sparse in details, or, at worst, clichéd. For a non-spoiler example of the latter, necromancy and blood magic are the prime evils in this novel, which has been done by some many, many other fantasy series (virtually every one that springs to mind which employs said magic).

The writing itself is often stilted and clumsily constructed. Too often will a small ‘twist’ happen in a chapter and, judging by the formatting and pithy writing employed, it will be played off as being of tremendous import, practically warranting a ‘bum bum bum!’ sound effect. Which seems campy to say in a review, but it was campy to read many times over in a book, as well. It gave everything a strange aura of silliness that was hard to shake.

Overall: I can’t say that I liked Child of the Ghosts, nor would I recommend it, though it is generally inoffensive. Which may just be a more diplomatic way of saying, ‘bland, drab, and generally dull.’

 

Child of the Ghost’s Amazon link for those who are interested: http://www.amazon.com/Child-Ghosts-Jonathan-Moeller-ebook/dp/B0052Q9WFQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458623012&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+the+ghosts

 


 

 

Not sure how I feel about this new post-constructor page on the site. Too big, white, and open-ended. It’s like starting a new piece of writing and realizing that your mind is completely blank. Except, that never happens to me, because I still never get writer’s block!

Ha! Anticlimax!

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Friday Fictioneers: Warm Breath

 

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Friday Fictioneers? You mean Saturday, right?

Saturday Fictioneers just doesn’t roll of the tongue the same way, I guess though. Not like that’s going to stop me from being a day late, though!

Actually, I would have posted this yesterday, but because WordPress operates on some heathen time where it’s always tomorrow at only 11PM, I decided not to. It wouldn’t have changed anything in my submission date but I just wanted to write my bigger, more important stuff instead. Totally worth it.

 

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Image Copyright:  C. Hase

Image Copyright: C. Hase

 

Word Count: 100

Genre: Horror/Realistic Fiction

Title: Warm Breath

 

 

It was a strange little B&B all the way out in nowhere. Irish countryside and rain gave the place a cold and close feeling. The owner was a throaty man who breathed way too loudly.

The colossal fish-tank in the lobby caught my attention almost immediately. The detail was amazing, including a beach with matching small tree and rusted ship chain. There was even a shipwrecked skeleton amongst the sand. It almost looked real in its accuracy.

The owner’s breath was suddenly very close to my face and murderously warm.

And I suddenly realized that I really shouldn’t be there.

 

 

 


 

 

What’s with WordPress being really janky? Yesterday, the comment system totally botched my story for Flash! Friday and now I can’t get the blue frog to post into this entry. I mean, I’m sure it’s probably nothing and I’ll have it sorted off after using the traditional, “Turn it off then on again,” method of fixing something.

You know what Sci-fi technology I don’t see enough of? A kind of helmet or headset that lets you talk directly with computers. That certainly would make it easy to micromanage resources and fix problems as if you were just rearranging Legos.

It would also make these darn magical boxes a little less frustrating. That is, until the headset itself starts acting up. So then you make a headset to talk to the headset and then the bird is watched by the birdwatcher who is watched by the watchman and so on and so on until oblivion.

Thank goodness I’m not a scientist.

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Five Sentence Fiction: A Much-Needed Distraction

 

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Even though I really am trying to not have my Five Sentence Fiction stories not just reflect my real life all the time, I feel like this one ended up being okay since I never really explicitly stated anything about myself. Oh and I never actually crashed into a tree. It was a telephone pole. And it was cold as all heck. And icy. Really, it was just a bad time. And it certainly didn’t give me anything that could be considered much-needed.

Although it did give me time to play Dragon Age: Origins. Not like that was something I was terribly happy with either, though.

But I did stay home from school that day, which was neat!

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Word of Inspiration: Diversions

Word Count: 131

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Title: A Much-Needed Distraction

 

I thought that I simply couldn’t take it anymore, I wasn’t thinking of doing anything stupid or rash mind you, I just really wanted to get away from it all— from grocery shopping and board meetings and prime time television. This life with so little to do and so much expected of you; a life filled with idiots pretending to be kings and geniuses with the voices of mice.

So, like the dumb grad student I had just finished being, I got into my car and started driving through the hazy night. I didn’t even notice the way the car swerved or the tree rapidly approaching me until I thought back on the night from my hospital bed.

I found this little bit of sidetracking to be exactly what I needed.

 

 

 


 

 

Well, I was hoping to get this post out before it became June 1st but since this website seems to run on mysterious pseudo-seconds, I’ll just think of this as a christening of this month. I probably would have gotten this out sooner if I wasn’t distracted and hated the pre-writing stress of these totally unscripted and unrehearsed intros and outros. Perhaps I am a fool for expecting myself to actually make something coherent and sensible out of these.

Oh and watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s doesn’t help much either. Curse you, Truman Capote and your ability to write engagingly human characters that I can’t look away from even as they do nothing at all! Also, I realize that Capote didn’t write the film but still!

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Friday Fictioneers: Smoke Signals

 

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Fun facts about this one: I was actually listening to Counting Crow’s “Accidently in Love”while on WikiHow when I was writing this. And “smoke signals” has been in my head since seeing this week’s picture, so it really seemed like a match made in haeven. It’s like heaven but once they messed up the neon sign out front, they didn’t have the budget to fix it. It’s the Motel 6 of afterlifes, really.

Anyway, I thought that was just a fun little tidbit. Writing these is always so high-octane. I either spill the whole thing out onto paper in about 60 seconds or I just mull over it until the former event happens. It’s exciting, like finding a dinosaur bone in your vegetable garden. Except I’m not making millions of dollars and resurrecting a long-dead piece of history.

I’ll just have to settle for helping to keep the history-making act of human creative alive I guess. If I have to.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Image Copyright: Roger Bultot

Image Copyright: Roger Bultot

 

Word Count: 100

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Title: Smoke Signals

 

 

I don’t know nothing about love but I read about it on WikiHow. How to Know You’re in Love. Be frank (can’t I be George instead [still waiting to find somebody who laughs at that one]?). Send up smoke signals on days so clear that contrails are as permanent as stitches on a ruptured heart.

So what do you say, world? What kind of a person do you think I am, casting these shapes into the sky? Do they stick in shape and carry ashes of me inside them or is the sky grey and windy and pushing them away?

 

 

 


 

 

You know what the worst part of signing into a site is? You never know what you’ve done wrong in your password because the letters are just tiny dots? So unless you want to look like a big dingus and stare at the keys as you hit them, you might start sweating yourself dry because you think some incredibly devious hacker has totally hijacked your totally important Amazon account!

Actually, that’s a really bad thing. At least for people who have their credit card information saved on their. I do not, though. Because I’m paranoid and do not try SkyNet.

Speaking of Amazon, HERE is Garamoush’s free promotion! Hurry hurry, children, the special second edition is free until only this Monday!

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Friday Fictioneers: Beating Hearts

 

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You ever get the feeling that you can read an entire person’s life with one glance at them? But then you realize you can only do that because their life story is the same as yours and you’re just looking at you in a different shape and size and trappings. And then do you ever get the feeling that suddenly crowded city streets start filling up with divisions of you- where every face that passes you is as readable as your own reflection? What do you do with a moment like that? Are you all too similar or are you close enough to know each other like never before?

I have no idea what that even was. I just kind of stream-of-consciousness wrote that and only really looked up at it now.

Now that I look at it though, I figure I might as well leave it there. After all, these weekly writing challenges are a remarkable way to get a tiny peak into my psychological and emotional landscape at the given time. So I figure I’ll stick with the improv’d feeling and just let other folks make sense of my trace-y ramblings.

It’s how I’ve been living life so far and the amount of confused glances thrown my way are practically negligible.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Image copyright: David Stewart

Image copyright: David Stewart

 

Title: Beating Hearts

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Word Count: 100

 

“Grandpa,” Monica groaned, “can’t you tell Donny to turn his rock-and-roll down? It’s ear-splitting.”

“Monie,” I said, “have you ever been to Africa?”

She shook her curls.

“Well, I have,” I said …I saw it as a naïve younger man, back when the Peace Corp was still waging war on me. From villages left in less than ashes, I had seen men and women smiling through it all. They smiled as I served stew made up mostly of hope from a dented ladle. “And they love life there like nowhere else.” I smile. “So I say, let the band play.”

 

 


 

 

I wish I had about twenty more words. I really wanted the old man to say something else before the flourish in the final line. But oh well, what’s life without challenges? Boring, that’s what. Also, I kind of wish I knew more about music going into this. I didn’t want to look the terms up and make it sound disingenuous but I wanted to have a word for that ending flourish of a statement. It was one of those moments when you wanted one single word in all of the English language and not only can you not think of it but you don’t know if you even know it in the first place.

And unlike my usual writing I can’t just make a big bold red word that says something like, “FILL IN LATER” in its place so I can, well, fill it in later. I imagine it would look a mite unprofessional here.

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Friday Fictioneers: Castle Walls

 

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I know I never even used the word “walls” in this post. And that doesn’t really matter to me! Because I just really like the sound of “castle walls.” I really want to name a book that one day. For now, this tale of misery and woe will have to suffice.

Also, why is it always the stepfather? Because he’s seen as some kind of invader into the familial sphere or a new center of attention for the mother?

Actually, that last one just sounds like Freudian whoo-ha and should be promptly regarded with skepticism.

I’m sure there are plenty of good stepfathers, by the way!

 

Have fun (even though this story isn’t exactly conducive to “fun”)~

 


 

 

Image Copyright: Rachel Bjerke

Image Copyright: Rachel Bjerke

 

Title: Castle Walls

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Word Count: 100

 

 

No princesses live in my castle but there is a dragon circling around it. It doesn’t breathe real fire but it might as well. The words that come out of its mouth are hot enough to turn you right into ash. His punches are just as bad. Jim, the dragon of mom’s second marriage, is stalking outside my mossy stronghold. He is fuming. I don’t remember what I did to make him angry today. It’s usually nothing.

But now he knows where I hide from him. I can see him through the crack in the stones. He is searching. Hunting.

 

 


 

 

I feel like I’m not paying enough attention to my blog. I haven’t updated Shadow of the Colossus’ Lorequest in quite a while and March is appearing to be a slow month. Or people are just going outside for the first time this year and don’t want to stay inside reading blogs. If that’s the case, keep doing what you’re doing! Even so I still feel like I need to spend more time here. Oh and it also gives me something tiny to cling onto to let me know that as soon as college is over, I won’t be completely without jobs, prospects, or hope.

I mean, I can always write but I’d be doing that every day even if I lost my hands and eyes.

Oh well, might as well enjoy the familial and the comfortable before real life snatches it all away from me!

 

I need my own little castle in the forest to hide in. With a moat made out of jello.

Just saying.

 

 

Best of luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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