reviews

Rise of the Tobian Princess (Sword of Cho Nisi Book 1) by D.L. Gardner - Book Review

Write on: Sun, 19 Sep 2021 by  in SPFBO 7 Read 272

I’m afraid I struggled with this one. While the characters are interesting enough and there is some nice worldbuilding - especially in the skoura (winged demon monsters) and mountain giants who materialise from fog - I found this first book in the Sword of Cho Nisi series very difficult to get into.

The premise is not unfamiliar: Erika, the youngest daughter of King Tobias is a fiery redhead who is more interested in fighting than courting. On a mission with her elder brother Barin, she accidentally kills the king of Cho Nisi - an allied island state. Determined to make things right, she sets off, against her father’s orders, for Cho Nisi, initially intent on making herself a prisoner but, somehow, then convincing herself it would be better to conquer the island for her father.

On the island, however, she encounters the hitherto unknown son of the dead king, the newly crowned King Arell. First impressions are not ideal, but then… well… things happen. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but the overall arc is whether these two kingdoms, divided by the death of Cho Nisi’s king, can work together to fend off the impending attacks of legendary evil wizard Skotadi and his aforementioned monsters.

There are also a number of love-related tropes to be had - all things that the right audience will enjoy - and I would probably say it fits in the YA genre.

In terms of the story itself, there were some niggles. Erika’s killing of Cho Nisi’s king is the inciting incident for the tale, and yet it comes across as quite implausible. In short, while tracking a skoura overhead, she fires into a bush where she believed it to have dived, only to accidentally hit the king, who she did not know had arrived at the site. Now, I’m not against coincidence - most stories hang on some kind of coincidence - but I struggled to suspend my disbelief from the first chapter and that rather set the tone. Thereafter, there is a lot of agonising over how to explain it and whether it should be kept secret and so on - but the obvious answer always seems to be staring the reader in the face, while the characters remain oblivious: it was an accident in battle, just tell them the truth.

Other issues around the story involved characters seeming to swing wildly back and forth over their intentions and acting in ways which sometimes seemed so contrary as to be confusing. Sometimes it felt like character actions were being driven by the plot, as opposed to really making sense for their situation.

And there were unfortunately other problems that also got in the way.

While my own thoughts on some of the writing needing an editor are entirely subjective, a proofreader was undoubtedly missed. It would be harsh to say the book was ‘littered’ with errors, but there were enough in every chapter to pull me out of the story repeatedly. Typos, missing words, grammatical errors, changing from past tense to present (sometimes within a sentence) and missing paragraph breaks had me rereading sentences to work out what they were intended to say or, in some cases, to figure out who was speaking. All of this prevented me from being able to just immerse myself in the story and the characters.

The sad thing of it is, I genuinely think there’s an interesting story in here with some likeable, engaging characters and imaginative worldbuilding but the (subjective) need for a strong editor and (objective) proofreader made it impossible to really enjoy, for me.

Justin

Justin was a professional writer and editor for 15 years before his debut novel, Carpet Diem, was published in 2015. He wrote restaurant and theatre reviews, edited magazines about football and trucks, published books about fishing and gold, wrote business articles and animation scripts, and spent four years as the writer editor, and photographer for an Edinburgh guide book.

Justin now writes full-time and is a partner in his own publishing company. He also writes scripts with his wife Juliet, who he met through the BBC Last Laugh scriptwriting competition.

His novel, The Lost War, won the sixth SPFBO.