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: Access Denied

 

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It would help if I knew what day it was so I could get these done on time.

As it stands, here’s another more formless “soundless fury” that I spun to try to explain my state of mind, rather than craft a new narrative.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Image Copyright: Roger Bultot

Image Copyright: Roger Bultot

 

Title: Access Denied

Word Count: 100

 

Draw sword, wake the horde, batter down this door.

My hatred of slant rhymes stalls my fury. Futility picks up whatever slack left behind. This door is wood, brick, or steel, whatever I can’t break down. Eden is more of a man, a door attendant, than a garden (though he’s standing in one, smiling sagely). I cannot bribe him for he has all that he wants and I can’t ask for time before he’s locked it all away in glass.

Eden IS timeless, like all great art, existing before the first clock clicked.

The crack in the door glows golden.

 

 

 


 

 

I don’t even know how to interpret these. They’re just my head piecing together its own distaste for time slipping away from me yet again. Maybe one day, sooner than later, I can remember how to be proud of my mind just being itself again.

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 

 

Friday Fictioneers: “Old, Familiar World”

 

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I feel like I’m obligated to write something about Thanksgiving this time around. It’s a shame I don’t also feel obligated to submit these darn things on time!

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Image Copyright: Sandra Crook

Image Copyright: Sandra Crook

 

Title: Old, Familiar World

Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

 

When I was a boy, a ship carrying my family, a wolf-eyed father and a mother with dawn in her hair, departed for the sunset horizon. I was to wait until the New World was ‘settled and civilized.’

Thus I watched for the ship from a grassy seaside cliff every day.

Years passed and not even the gout stopped me from climbing the cliff. I came less often after I was wed. And even less after my son was born. I promised to never leave them for new worlds— no family should have to wait like widows on a watch.

 

 

 


 

 

For those who are wondering, I didn’t actually have a historical ship in mind when I made this. Just any old early England/Ireland-to New World voyage where everybody died because of the cold/the Yetis/Odin cultists. Not like that narrows it down any.

 

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 

Flash! Friday: “May-Born”

 

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Well, with the announcement that this is going to be Flash! Friday’s last entry, I figured I’d make something a little referential to that fact. I’m sad to see it go, even though I’ve only been writing for it for a few months. It was a very unique (if a bit stressful) challenge. Ah well, here’s to an ending.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Title: May-Born

Character: Twins Fated to Die at the Same Instant

Theme: Magical Realism

Word Count: 200

 

Inspiration had a cold. He has such a poor immune system. Ambition can’t sit still, and she certainly can’t see to her twin brother’s needs.

Outside their windows, Chicago lays sleeping with its eyes open. The snow’s falling is just a ploy; a pale attempt to smother the city.

“Come on,” Ambition said, sitting at her computer. “This story won’t write itself.”

Inspiration rolls over on the sofa. He covers his greening body in a thick white blanket. He coughs, exhaustingly. “Do we have to?” he whines.

“Yes,” Ambition says. Her hair is tangled— Medusa’s defanged. “We’re running out of time. Look outside. This can only mean the end is coming.”

Inspiration wraps himself up further, like he’s spinning a cocoon. His form is beautiful, like a winter bay-blue with moonlight.

Ambition stands up, in a huff. Fleet-footed Mercury runs through her as she walks and fumes, a curse of her May-time birth.

“This is our rambling end, huh?” she cries, slowly stopping and her hand on the cold windowsill.

“Looks like it,” I said. I add a bit of self-insertion at the end, just for completion’s sake, and walk away to stare out my window at the falling snow.

 

 

THE OTHERS

 


 

 

And yes, it IS snowing outside right now. Quite a lot, actually. It’s freaking beautiful. And I actually live outside of Chicago, right where suburbia meets the country (typical of me, May-born Gemini that I am).

 

Yes, the Ambition and Inspiration from above are actually mine. And yes they both suck.

 

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 

Daily Prompt 9: “The Power of Touch”

 

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I got nothing. Not even two thought-nickles to rub together.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Title: The Power of Touch

Prompt: “Textures are everywhere: The rough edges of a stone wall. The smooth innocence of a baby’s cheek. The sense of touch brings back memories for us. What texture is particularly evocative to you?”

And thanks to Laura Thompson, I guess.

 

 

So, I’m gonna be a rascally little scamp and totally avoid the question.

I’m going to come right out, in some semblance of answering the question anyway, and say that I think that marble, the stone kind, has a very pleasing texture to me. But never in the way that I think it will. To try to explain and sound less insane as a result, whenever I see a marble statue or floor, it always looks and feels, in my mind, smoother than it actually is. I expect it to be the apex of smoothness and the slickest thing since the Fonz. Hey, that’s not registered as a typo- that’s pop culture for you (D’oh, on the other hand, is still seen as a typo).

In other words, what I think I’m going to feel is not what it really feels like. Isn’t that a little bit odd? I mean, to have your brain just manufacture a better feeling of a stone you maybe see once every couple of days and in very small quantities compared to everything else you could possibly touch? I can’t imagine it’s a very survival/evolutionary-based trait.

Oh, and here’s a bizarre side-note: I sometimes have the urge to bite into really smooth surfaces, such as marble and smooth wood. Seriously, it’s true! As a kid I used to try to sink my teeth into the smoothest parts of my bedpost. The teeth marks are still there. I’m looking at them right now! I was a strange kid but no less strange as an adult a physically-larger child.

The feeling extends to wanting to sink my nails or various sharp objects into such surfaces.

I mean, isn’t that just kinda freaking weird? Like, to really put it to paper like this makes it sound even more out of its mind. Not like I mind, this since this stuff really turns heads. Quick, now that everyone’s looking at how much of a freak you are, insert some kind of deep philosophical and humanitarian message into the post!

Later, child, later.

For now, I’m tired and frayed at the edges like paper passed through a tumble drier. I think most people call this phenomenon, ‘Thursday.’ I call it a rallying cry, waking me up to realize that I don’t belong in this nine-to-five, two-day-weekend, world. It’s burdensome enough just living with this council of idiot geniuses (or is it genius idiots?) stuck inside of my head, so all of their stupidly brilliant (or brilliantly stupid) words reflect off the unflinching walls and, with each echo, they gain momentum like a hail of reaping arrows falling down upon the heads of marching knights at Agincourt.

 

Huh?

 

 

THE OTHERS

 


 

 

Pingback:

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/the-power-of-touch/">The Power of Touch</a>

 

I wasn’t kidding before, I don’t have anything to say here for once.

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Daily Post 8: “Secret Admirers”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Secret Admirers.”

 

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I am having a disproportionate amount of fun making power grids and generators in Fallout 4.

 

Have fun~

 


 

Title: Daily Prompt 8: “Secret Admirers”

Prompt: You return home to discover a huge flower bouquet waiting for you, no card attached. Who is it from — and why did they send it to you?

 

So I usually try to tackle Daily Prompt posts that immediately appeal to me in that I know what to write almost right away. This time though, I figured I would try a prompt that I have very few ideas about.

 

For instance: I’ll just go ahead and say that I have no idea who sent me those flowers. The real question becomes then- who could send me those flowers. With no logical answer presenting itself, I must find a way to extrapolate on what I know and determine who could be the one with flowery fingers.

 

I’m just going to go out on a limb here and discount any and all of my friends. Dearest Liezl may seem like a suspect due to her caring nature and appreciation of her friends. And I’d like to think that we became very close over our Senior year in college. However, she has a boyfriend of many years that she would be much more likely to give flowers to. Not to say that she wouldn’t give flowers to anybody else but flowers have a specific romantic connotation.

 

Again, I seriously doubt Scott (read as: Scoot) would care if she sent me flowers, but with no real evidence against her, I shall be striking Liezl from the list of suspects.

 

Nobody else even comes close to being one to send flowers. Funny pictures, texts full of nostalgia, or inside joke presents, but not flowers. Not even my goofy ex-boyfriend. He wouldn’t do anything so conspicuous.

Something I’m well and used to by now!

*sad rimshot*

 

Okay, so, there’s no real reason why my parents or family would send me such a thing with no card or anything attached. And if they did, they would be sure to tell me it was from them relatively quickly after my seeing it. So they’re off the list.

 

I’ve narrowed this down, then, to the only suspect remaining. And it’s a troublesome revelation.

 

The flowers must have come from one of the surprisingly many people in my life that border on creepy. Yes, those exist. Small in number but unpredictable as a summer storm. Sometimes they go entire years before giving me a questionable Facebook message…

But even that seems unlikely given my general obliviousness to them all.

 

Let’s just say there were sent by me from the future just to see how I’d react. That seems the most logical suspect of this tomfoolery-myself.

Guilty Part: Future Me

Sentence: Condemned to be created by Present Me

 

Gotta say, I don’t envy the guy.

 

 

THE OTHER ENTRIES

 


 

Pingback:

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/secret-admirers/">Secret Admirers</a>

 

Oh the worries of a man on his day off. How shall I spend it? Writing? Archery? Fallout 4?

Will these worrisome conundrums never end?

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

 

END TRANSMISSION.