Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star

Stop whatever you are doing and go read Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Seriously, it’s that good.

 

My rating + review for each of the 3 books:

Red Rising – 5 Stars

The first 5-10% of the book is a little bit slow, and the “worldbuilding” elements (new words, terms, new races of humans) were a bit much for me, but not enough to bother me. Also, the first person present tense was very new for me, and took a bit of time to get used to. Then BAM, the story takes hold and never lets go. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such superb pacing. It has been quite some time since I’ve loved a book enough to lose A LOT of sleep to read it.

Pros: Incredible pacing; distinct, meaningful characters; simple yet sufficient worldbuilding; awesome premise; thematic parallels; complex yet understandable plot that both entertained in the moment and set up the next books nicely.

Cons: It didn’t bother me, but some people will HATE this book/series because of its obvious ties to Hunger Games. Like they are really, really obvious at times during book 1. And you know what? I liked the book even better for showing that its not necessarily a mind blowingly unique premise that makes a book awesome, it’s the execution.

 

Golden Son – 4.9 Stars

The sequel is really very good. One of the best sequels I’ve ever read, probably. And to be so consistently awesome with his pacing, Brown had to start somewhere he could launch right into the next portion of the conflict that mattered. But the character relationships that weren’t “on screen” for the first several scenes felt neglected. Particularly the primary romance sub plot. Overall though, it was incredible. Still lost a ton of sleep to this book.

 

Morning Star – 4.5 Stars

By the third book, the frequent plot twists pulled off by the character started to become obvious. Brown kills off just enough beloved characters off that you worry a bit about who is next, but by the third book you are pretty sure it’s not going to be any of the characters that the author has fallen in love with himself. I like happy endings as much as the next guy, but if I’m being honest, it started to feel like more of the same.

The friends turned villains theme didn’t work as well as I wanted it to, either: the outcome of the MC’s conflict with the “bads” could have been a lot more satisfying.  I get that the author is going for a realistic interpretation of how a group of friends torn apart by conflicting ideologies would/could act in war, but something about the Roque/Cassius storylines just felt… contrived. Roque’s storyline made some sense but could have hurt the feels a lot more instead of having your MC just turn into an emo bitch. And we all wanted to see Cassius come back to the fold. But the way it happened just felt sudden, and too easy.

Oh and the pacing took a hit in the third book. It was still good, better than almost any other book out there. But the break-neck speed of the other books took a back seat at times to long descriptions or exposition from the MC.

It was still an awesome book with a great ending, but at the same time I was glad that it ended after 3 books. Hence the 4.5.

 

These are the types of books that inspire me to write. The kind that drags you along for the ride, whether you like it or not. The kind that sticks with you, consumes you, perhaps even changes you in some small way.

Thank you, Pierce Brown. You talented bastard.

The Second Book

I’ve heard people say that the “sophomore novel”, particularly the second in a series, can be the most difficult book an author will ever write. Until I started writing mine, I thought that those claims were exaggerated. To some extent, I still do, but the second book does present some unique challenges.

The writing itself isn’t any harder. The process is the same, or at least very similar. I am a much better writer than when I started my first book, so in fact this book should be easier to write. I believe that it will be much easier, faster, and a better product when it’s done, but there are a few challenges that I didn’t anticipate.

The first challenge is motivation. I write because I love to create with words, I’m making progress, and I’ll likely finish at least three books in this series regardless of the outcome of any submission to publishers. But I’m a results-oriented man, and I can’t wait to get a contract and be able to see my publishing future clearly. Until that point, which will hopefully happen sometime in the relatively near future, I’ll likely spend as much time dreaming up my next project as I do writing the second installment of this one (Scandinavian/Native American Mythology themed contemporary fantasy, anyone?). Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but I would like my focus back 100%. The “Infusion” world that I’m currently writing in is awesome, and deserves my undivided attention.

The second challenge I’ve come up against is indecision. Do I structure the book in the same way that I did the first to deliver a similar reading experience while furthering the overarching plot and character arcs? Do I let my characters take the book over and allow the series to devolve into a GRRM/Wheel of Time-esque monstrosity? Somewhere in the middle? My current plan is to use roughly the same structure as the first book to keep the writing tight and deliver another fast-paced, engaging story. But I am going to give other characters more screen time and explore the world slightly more than I allowed myself in the first book. Hopefully as time and my writing career progress, I don’t fall into the trap of letting my world take over the story. Keep me honest on this, people.

So, what do you think? What are some of your favorite sophomore novels, particularly that fall in a series? I’d love to hear about them and why they worked for you. I’d also love to hear what you’d be interested to read about on my blog…without a book out for you to read (or even a sample…hopefully I can provide that much before the book is out), I often struggle to come up with a blog topic that I think people will be interested in. I love to write these, though, so if you’d like to see a blog post on something specific, please comment or message me.

Initiation

I’m Scott. I write novels. Fantasy novels.

Soon, I’ll be finished with my first complete work, and I’ll put a sample up for everyone to (hopefully) enjoy.

I’ll also do my best to document the ups and downs that accompany the process of writing, becoming a better writer, seeking an agent, being published, and doing everything possible to build a permanent home in the coveted locale known as the “bestseller list”.

So. Why fantasy? I’ve been asked this question more than once, and gotten enough strange looks to feel that an explanation is warranted. I don’t see why people are so surprised, really. I’m a mechanical engineer by profession for Pete’s sake, you’d think that a little introversion would be expected (note: not as many engineers/scientists are main-stream “geeks” as you would think).

Anyways, people think I’m a whole new flavor of weird when they hear that I write fantasy novels. Unless I tell them that my book is like Harry Potter. It’s not, really, other than that it has people in it and is written in English, but it gets people to stop staring at me.

The real reason that I write fantasy, besides the fact that I have a several-decades long addiction to the genre, is that in fantasy, anything is possible.

“No kidding,” I hear you say. That’s the point of fantasy, to be able to make up whatever awesome gobbledygook you want, right? Sort of, but not for the reasons that might immediately come to mind.

Authors like David Eddings, Robert Jordan, L.E. Modesitt Jr., Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Brad Thor (I know he writes thrillers, but I had to include him), and J.K. Rowling have achieved something incredible. They have helped enlighten and improve humankind in a way that I believe is truly unique to fantasy, and I want to contribute as well.

Yes, other genres, both fiction and non-fiction, can be wonderful. They discuss great themes, have great stories. We can be better people for reading (some of) them.

But fantasy doesn’t just preach or relate a life lesson. It lets you live it, breathe it, and adopt it as your own in a safe environment, removed from the pressures and norms of our own world. And herein lies the true power of fantasy fiction: I believe that works of fantasy come to be so powerful because it allows the author a safe place to bare their soul and truly express not only their ideas, but the core of their beings. Every little part of their novels comes from within.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I write fantasy. I don’t deny that I write with entertainment in mind, but my novels are also my safe place where I can show you who I am, more intimately than through any other method (that I’m willing to engage in). I bare a piece of my soul on every page that I write and meticulously edit.

-Scott