22 Sep 2017
“Quest for Magic”, a short prequel to the Oriceran series by Martha Carr and Michael Anderle, was probably cooked up over a weekend and tastes half-baked.
This portion of the rapidly written, rapidly published, multi-author Oriceran series is not a complete story, but a curtain-raiser to a world where earth and a magical realm intersect every couple dozen millennia and how Austin police detective Leira Berens encounters it.
This book is for readers who skim. This series is for readers who can accept what they’re being told with the trust and knowledge of a toddler. This is not meant as a slur. Many best-selling authors operate at this level. See: Patterson, James.
But this series demands more from its readers. They have to ignore incorrect word usage, unclear sentence structure, and clichéd and thin depictions of landscape and characters. Readers who don’t mind a chapter ending in the middle of the scene and picking up in the next chapter (why?). Who won’t question how our mid-20s heroine could be made detective (answer: she can’t), why police didn’t surround a house to arrest a suspect in two murders, and leave behind a captured suspect’s gun — evidence in two killings — to pick up later (note: officers who do this don’t stay officers).
For your 99 cents, you get 18,000 words that leave you hanging at the 80 percent mark; the rest is taken up by the authors’ self-congratulations and promotional material. It shouldn’t take longer than an hour to read, unless you’re stopped by descriptions that interrupt the flow and duplicate what we’re told in dialogue (“ ‘Very good visual, Bert,’ she said, curbing her desire to look. ‘Ugh,’ she added at the thought of a permanent boil.”); repeatedly being told that one of the elves is annoyed and rolling his eyes; and errors such as the sudden introduction of a character’s name, and you search the file to confirm, yup, they screwed up.
It’s the details that threw me. Leira’s Merrell Vapor shoes are mentioned as “the most expensive thing she ever wore.” They retail for between $65-$90, not that much more expensive compared to the New Balance shoes I paid $65 for recently. I would think the author mentioned this very specific detail to show her fondness for running, and to call back to it as a joke (“Chekov’s Sneakers” I think it’s called). Berens even runs down the murder suspect soon after, but the shoes are never mentioned again (not even by the elves). Who can ignore blue and orange shoes?
I’m getting too close to the “if I were writing this” error critics are prey to, but it’s hard not to point out the ways Karr and Anderle failed to fulfill the promise of an exciting, awe-inspiring, and comic premise. Unless you think it’s funny that, after yelling at the suspect outside the house for five minutes, followed by kicking in the door, Leira feels the need to whisper instructions to her partner. And if your sense of humor begins and ends with calling an elf a Muppet, this still might be the series for you.