Am I too harsh? See my introduction HERE
A story with potential, inexpertly handled by a heavy-handed and condescending author.
I was recently lucky enough to be handed an advanced reader copy of Steen Jones’ “The Door Keeper”. It’s the first book of a trilogy that will span worlds and – if the epilogue is anything to go by – generations. It is, unfortunately, hounded by the jarring and relentlessly middle-class voice of the author.
For those of you thinking my second sentence was a spoiler, worry not: the entire book is a spoiler. Each metaphor is spoiled by the painstaking explanation that follows it – just in case you aren’t bright enough to get it on your own. Each instance of symbolism is dissected, for readers who are unable to recognise it without help. I’m not exaggerating:
“Storm clouds rolled in. They were thick, dark, and ominous. I couldn’t help but feel like it symbolized the oncoming shift in my life.”
But then Ms Jones throws around specific dress vocabulary as if everyone should know what a “light cream, flowing maxi dress with spaghetti straps and a semi-plunging neckline” is.
Jones has the ability to create scenes like this one:
“I heard my name called behind me, and the figure before me broke into a million pieces and floated away. Tiny, silver pieces, as thin as paper. They flew through the last remaining sun’s rays, like pieces of ash. I watched, painfully, as the memory of her floated across the lake until I could no longer see the tiny particles.”
As we travel across both the world we know and through others of Ms Jones’ creation, several of these paragraphs pop up. They paint really quite visceral images of what the author no doubt sees in her own head, but I was constantly jolted out of these worlds and back into my sitting room by the intrusion of Ms Jones herself. It feels strange to read words like ‘ginormous’ and ‘tizzy’ used without a hint of irony. At one point, she uses not one, or even two, but three questions marks.
In a row.
And yet, a distinctive voice is important. Authors without one are never truly loved, and always quickly forgotten. But there has to be a balance. There has to be a balance between genre and the author. This is a modern fantasy novel, but I don’t get that sense of wonder and surprise that people who read this genre expect. Instead, I feel only the naivety of the author – the same naivety of a middle-aged book club truly believing their pseudo-intellectual “insights” are original or even worthwhile.
Should a first novel appear naive? I’m not qualified to answer that question, I think, as I have yet to publish a novel. If and when I do, Jones is welcome to read it and tear it to pieces.