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First Wolf: Carol Anne Carr

April 29, 2010

It was Toland’s twelfth year of life when his father hurled the wolf’s head at the mighty Eorl Uhtred, bringing his childhood to a violent end. These were dangerous times, with people driven from their settlements, tribal wars, and bands of robbers on the roads, but Toland must keep his solemn promise to save the Lindisfarne Gospels from the Vikings, protect his family, and find his father. With his faithful hound Bodo, he sets off on his quest through Anglo-Saxon Northumbria and his many adventures lead him to the mysterious hermit on Inner Farne, the mystery of the stolen jewels, a blood debt, and a terrible discovery at the White Church…

I had high hopes for First Wolf: it has an above-average front cover (although the author’s name is in the wrong font, the wrong colour, and wrong position); and although the back cover copy is flawed (it contains a tense-change, is a little confusing, and at times reads a bit like a shopping list) it could be brought up to standard without too much trouble. The book’s premise appealed to me too, with its echoes of Alan Garner and its roots in a particularly spectacular part of our landscape and history. But, as is often the case with self-published books, the text is in need of a strong edit, and that’s what lets this book down in the end.

In my view, it suffers from a surplus of commas. I realise that not everyone will agree with me on this point: but I prefer text to be as clear and clean as possible and including commas when they’re not strictly needed makes this impossible. Before you all shout me down here, bear in mind that my preference for clarity-without-commas hasn’t developed simply because I dislike the look of them on the page: it’s because their overuse often hides a fundamental problem with the text which they adorn.

Too often, commas are used to prop up an inadequate sentence structure, or to try to improve a syntax which is forced and lacking in fluency: and that’s what has happened here. A good editor would have helped the writer correct all those errors and let the fast-paced story shine: as it is, the story’s excitement is dulled by the writer’s slightly confusing writing, her oddly over-formal tone, and her frequently illogical statements. Which is a shame, as with a proper edit this book could have been much improved. I read seven pages out of one hundred and fifty-five, and despite their flaws rather enjoyed them.

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  1. April 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Blimey. The author's name is well and truly hidden, isn't it?

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