A few weeks ago, I read an essay which expressed exhaustion with the generic fantasy realms that so many fantasy books are set in. Using the same old locales and species as shorthand in place of actually creating a world for themselves is easy, but boring.
So the magical world of Windmere is only magical in that there’s technically magic in there – it’s not so much magical in the sense that it utterly fails to excite any part of me. I usually try to find something I like about whatever I’m reviewing, but Beginnings of a Hero is, I’m sorry to say, not very good.
The use of present tense gives the book a kind of RPG feel, like it’s being narrated by a DM (or GM, if Pathfinder is your game). I’m a fan of RPGs, but unfortunately what works when you’re playing a character in a game is insufferably dull when it’s in a book. It reads like a high school boy’s first attempt at a self-insert fantasy, which makes me wonder if Beginnings of a Hero, or indeed the rest of the Legends of Windmere series, was ever edited by anyone before it was published.
Rather than letting the story speak for itself, Yallowitz pumps it full of flowery descriptions and lengthy, clunky expository passages thinly disguised as characters talking to themselves, thinking to themselves, or not disguised at all. The descriptions are over the top – do we really need to know the exact floor plan and decorating scheme of, for example, the Lich’s castle? Every other paragraph in the book breaks the cardinal writing rule of “show, don’t tell”.
It seems that Yallowitz has an issue with pronouns too. For example, the main character, Luke, is alternately called by his first name, “the half-elf” or “the forest tracker”. Annoying, but not a deal-breaker for me. A deal-breaker is his dog Stiletto. Not just Stiletto, but constantly referred to as “the dog” or even worse, “the noble shepherd”. Seriously.
While the story isn’t bad, it isn’t good enough to be worth slogging through all the lengthy, flowery prose and heavy exposition. A valiant attempt at the fantasy genre, but one that falls woefully flat.