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 Twenty Seven 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.
For today’s serial I read Sorcery in Boston by rubycona.
Sorcery in Boston is hosted on Royal Road Legends. My in-depth thoughts on the writing platform can be found here.
The Splash Page:
The description and pitch for the serial is an interesting one. I found myself very intrigued to start reading as the author describes the serials as being “about the theme of power – what it means to be powerful, different forms of power, and ultimately the meaning of the power to choose”. This is a good sign to me, as most of the other serials I have read do not seem to contain any overarching theme (to be fair, I do not stick around long enough to find out if they do) and as an avid reader who delights in stories with a subtext was excited to learn more. As an avid reader, I am not exactly used to being spoon fed said subtext in a description, but this level of pitch may be necessary given the nature of the platform that it is written on.
Much like the other serials I have read on Royal Road Legends, I was met with a near perfect score card. Though these score cards mean little to me at this point, the first time I saw one like this it had a lot of sway in my perceptions.
As of this writing the illustration that the author is using for their serial is breathtaking, it is not their own though, and it wasn’t commissioned by them, nor do they have permission to use it (UPDATE: The author has recently received permission from the artist and has a commission in the works for a new cover). As an illustrator myself (albeit, a very bad one) I am very wary of this kind of thing. To be fair, the author does give credit where due, and links back to the original. The author has also stated that they tried to contact the artist but got no response. I do not think that there is any malice in the author’s intentions in using this piece, but if I found my own work being used without my permission, regardless of the intentions, I would be pissed. If they do not have permission, they should reconsider using it.
“Flames of a thousand colors burned at my face and my soul, wrenching my body from where I had stood in my parents’ laboratory. Consciousness flared, dimming and twisting, leaving me dazed.” –Sorcery in Boston, Chapter One – A new World.
This hook has urgency, is incredibly interesting, and worked very well to get my attention. I have no notes on how to improve on this.
The story is told through the first person, and it is told well. I found the mid 1930’s Boston setting to be a very refreshing one as it is a tumultuous and inherently interesting time in our history. The fact that this is a sort of “fish out of water” story means that the main character has a reason to describe what she sees in detail. I thought that was a very good writing device that put a lot of my inherently weak suspension of disbelief at ease.
I enjoyed that the characters electing to help the main character are just as awed or flabbergasted at her as she is at them. Though there is some very heavy usage of magic that at times feels godlike and too powerful, it is offset by the otherwise mundane and grungy setting of Boston. This anachronistic contrast is a good one, and it helped to keep my attention.
The chapter does start with an odd note from the author asking the reader to imagine that the characters are speaking in a Boston accent. I did not feel that this note was necessary. There is also a link to a video with people speaking in said accent, though entertaining, linked offsite to YouTube which has every distraction ever. The last thing I would want to do is link offsite to a place that my readers can get distracted and not return.
Rubycona knows what they are doing with their writing. The prose is solid, the dialog feels natural, and the pace is just quick enough to keep me interested. Overall I have a very positive impression on their writing and I do plan on reading more. I am still left with an unease about the author’s unauthorized use of an illustration, but overall my experience was a good one.
Sorcery in Boston can be found at https://royalroadl.com/fiction/11324
Join me tomorrow for my impressions on Maromar’s serial Mystic Nan, or check out my own serial: