There seems to be a lot of debate on social media when it comes to whether someone, especially an author, should write and/or publish a bad review (as in, a 1 or 2 star review). For me, I’ve never been one to coddle anyone. As an author, I know I can’t please everyone, and there are going to be those who hate my work. But for a reader to refrain from providing a bad review simply because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or because they feel they are helping the author somehow, remember: it’s always better to get an honest review (especially if it points out exactly why a reader thought it was bad) than to have zero reviews or get a lot of fake reviews simply to bolster the rating. In my opinion, if an artist publishes a book, releases a piece of music or puts out a new film, they are ready to receive criticism, both good and bad. Nothing is perfect. There isn’t good without evil. There isn’t yin without yang. Heck, not everyone loves The Godfather. With that being said, prepare yourself, because as you may have guessed, my review for Alvin Atwater’s novel, Fragment, isn’t going to be all honey and roses.
The book isn’t necessarily bad, per se; the ideas Alvin plays with have great potential. The problem comes in the execution of those ideas. The writing feels juvenile at best, and failed to grab me with any sense of wonderment or excitement, which is what I believe he was attempting to elicit.
Jonas is a human swordsman that we don’t really get to know very well before he travels to Olympus to participate in a tournament, the winner of whom will acquire Zeus’s power and his control over all the mythological realms. The reason he leaves his quiet home is because he stumbles upon a magical sword that endows him with special powers. Alvin wants us to believe he was chosen for this task (whether by the sword or by fate or by some other magical entity), but he never follows through on this idea. With the sword, which he eventually names Fragment, Jonas is provided the means to compete against the likes of Thor, the Prince of Asgard, as well as the evil Abaddon, who seeks the bearer of the sword in order to break the bounds of his own existence and return to full power and rule the realms. Abaddon has a gaggle of fiendish cohorts, none of whom seem to do all that well against Jonas, even though he is, after all, just a human.
One of the major flaws I found with the story overall is the lack of character development. Alvin starts the book so far in media res, it feels like we’ve skipped a few chapters that would have provided more depth. Jonas is thrust into his hero’s journey before we even get a taste of who he is and how he lives on his own world. The only thing we really know about him is that he doesn’t want to marry his betrothed, Veronica. We’re given a few petty reasons why, but we’re never given an opportunity to know them as individuals or as a couple to effectively convey true emotional impact. The relationship is so rushed and underdeveloped, in fact, that when we reach one of the major twists later in the book, the power it should have is dead on arrival. Not only that, once Jonas arrives in Olympus, we’re introduced to a bevy of familiar characters from Greek, Norse and Christian mythologies without getting to know who they are within the context of Alvin’s vision, which inadvertently leaves behind some very simple stock characters who may be mighty in stature, but are ultimately weak in execution.
Then there’s the writing itself. I’m all for adding a bit of comedy or levity to a piece, or giving characters traits that we wouldn’t expect them to have (or give us something a little unorthodox and unexpected — like Medusa, who doesn’t turn anyone to stone, and doesn’t once mention the curse). However, to do this, one has to be consistent and set this style up in a way that makes sense to the overall world. We know the majority of gods are going to be, in some ways, narcissists, looking out for themselves and doing so in an arrogant, condescending sort of manner. But when the author devolves these character traits into what amounts to a gaggle of ruffians who argue and belittle as if they are part of some high school hierarchy, it diminishes their characters more than it should.
This childish attitude comes across in both the prose and the dialogue, neither of which are very clean. The book feels very much like a second draft — there are more than a few grammatical and spelling errors, which I can normally overlook, so long as the story and the characters are strong enough to overcome them. With Fragment, the mistakes only enhance the weaknesses surrounding it. One example is Abaddon, who’s abruptly introduced in the third chapter. At this point in the story, we’ve hardly been able to get to know Jonas, and so his appearance seems out of place. Then, with every new appearance, his character becomes much more laughable than feared, as the way he speaks and the way he and his minions interact is silly and toothless. He doesn’t feel at all like a character that would frighten the gods inhabiting the book; he’s just another teenager rebelling against his parents.
Where the book showed a glimmer of hope was in the tournament games. The writing improves somewhat in these sequences, and I was hoping for a lot more of this type of energy. When Jonas and his assigned team are sent to compete in a type of football, capture the flag-style game, the writing becomes more genuine, leading to moments that add character and a sense of attention the rest of the book isn’t given. Especially the plot, which labors through over forty chapters only to speed through several encounters between Jonas and Abaddon that would have been a lot more effective had they been spread throughout the book. And with no true beginning or end, Alvin telegraphs (early on) that Fragment is simply one chapter in a larger story that ultimately goes nowhere and fails to entice me to read any further.
My Grade: D+
Alvin is a Florida-born fantasy enthusiast who seeks to nourish your entertainment craving by combining humor, fantasy, suspense and thriller.
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If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list. I will be doing one independent book review per month, so not all requests will be accepted.