Book Review: Road to Shandara

Book-Cover-RoadtoShandaraRoad to Shandara (Ken Lozito)

Now, it’s fair to say that I stumbled across this book whilst looking for free opportunities on the Kindle.  So, at that price, what’s to argue with?  If I like it, I buy the sequel.  And if I don’t like it, I keep my money in my pocket.  Simple.

I haven’t ordered the sequel.  But before I deliver my views, I would like to congratulate Ken on not only completing this book and the rest of the series, but also getting this published.  I had a look at Ken’s page and noted that he writes what he, and his kids, like to read, so with endorsement like that, I offer an aspiring author to published author hat tip.

It is also worth highlighting early in this review that by the time I got to the end of the book, a spark of intrigue had entered me, and I was tempted to get the sequel.  But then I looked back at the journey I had come on, and I changed my mind.

I liken this book to a hike up a hill.  When you get to the top and take in where you are, and where you might go, you are quietly satisfied.  But when you look back at the path you have come on – recognise the rampant brambles and the rocky footing – you ask yourself: was it worth the effort?

So what is it that turns off the reader (or me in any case)?  Well, here are the key qualities that frustrated:

  • Grammar.  I’m not one to let grammar dominate a review when the story is sufficiently strong to outweigh the negative impact, but that is not the case here.  The grammatical mistakes are fundamentally jarring, and no strength of story will remedy that.  This trips you up right along the journey.
  • Lack of intrigue.  I’ve said above that by the time I reached the end of the novel, a sense of quiet satisfaction entered me.  The problem was that this didn’t occur until the last handful of chapters.  I think the story needs more earlier, to keep the intrigue levels up, and to drag the reader through.  I have no doubt that books 2+ will have more sustained intrigue, but I feel cheated.  I needed to know that one hundred pages ago.
  • Flat personalities.  I’m also not one that thinks that all characterisations need to be gritty, barely-likeable characters (as many modern fantasy characters are), but the problem here is that the key characters are just too … plain.  There is no obvious personal tribulations to overcome, no challenge for the human quality, just the general overarching story which only reveals itself at the end.  There’s just not enough to grip the reader.

These comments are quite general in the context of a whole novel, and I appreciate that they could be challenged with specific evidencing.  They are also (obviously) personal to me, and other readers may not see these issues in the same light.  I would certainly not actively deter anyone from reading this book, particularly because the first part of the series is free for readers to enjoy.  But in my view, there are better books to read.

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