The old adage goes that “you should not judge a book by its cover” and though it is a virtuous sentiment it is not one that is typically followed. Welcome to day four of my 31 Days of First Impressions Challenge! In this challenge I will be reading the first entry or chapter of a different serial (or web fiction) and then give my first impressions on them be they good or bad. In short: I will be judging a book by its cover.
Today’s serial is Crowmakers, and is authored by L. E. Erickson.
I was very impressed with most of L. E. Erickson’s website and layout. It’s layout is a little unconventional, but it is very responsive (it worked well with both my browser and phone) and is intuitive. By isolating the content of the site to a white negative space with the dimensions of paper Crowmakers’ site earnestly feels more literary. I found that it had the familiarity of a book and found myself eager to dive into the content. This feeling of literary familiarity may be what a lot of the online writing community lacks, and why much of it is still perceived to be lesser than its print predecessor.
There was only one technical design decision that I did not like, but I will go over that later in the article.
Kellen Ward huddled beneath the leaf-heavy branches of an oak. The other three members of the Crowmaker scouting party crouched close enough that she nearly brushed knees with them.” –Crowmakers, Chapter 1.1: The River Rising.
Simple and straight forward, this hook gives us setting and a sense of tension. The writing is tight, setting the scene with only the most important details. Though I normally prefer a sense of urgency in my hook, this still starts in the middle of a covert mission, so I appreciate the tension over urgency.
I found the chapter to be entertaining and its prose sharp and creative. I only had one major issue:
The author elected to feature a quote in the chapter and enlarge it like one would do in a newspaper or magazine article. Aesthetically, it looks great and it is very clean. In fiction though, I found it to be very confusing and incredibly distracting. It interrupted the otherwise great flow of the chapter and took my attention away from the story. After reading it I found myself less immersed in the writing as I was waiting for the moment for this quote to actually occur. What’s more is that this undercut the impression of professionalism that I gleaned from the layout of the website.
Aside from this, the author did a fantastic job at portraying both the beauty, and the misery of a Kentucky forest. The characters are also very colorful and unique, and I was happy to see a female lead. Just as I said in yesterday’s post, it is really refreshing to read a believable female lead.
Crowmakers is a very unique story with a very creative historic setting. The fact that the writing was good actually became frustrating as the featured quote was so egregious. My overall experience would have been excellent, and my final impression very good if not for that simple mistake. It was disappointing as my impression before it was one of the best so far. I would read more, as the writing really does shine through, but I may quit reading if the featured quote is a regular occurrence. The thing is, the quote does look really great and works on the splash page, but I felt like it had no positive function in the chapter.
Join me tomorrow for my impressions on JustinWenger7 (or sometimes4)’s EidolonBound, or check out my own serial: