A Review of The Jade Owl . . . but more

This is not the first review of my novel The Jade Owl, but this is the first one that has add commentary on Indie Publishing and POD. I thought it would be interesting to share it on Publetariat.

Edward C. Patterson
www.dancaster.com

 

"From Aricia’s Gay Book Blog

review by Aricia

http://ariciasgaybookblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/gay-mystery-and-ancient-chinese-magic.html

 I was asked a while ago, will I review POD books … and the answer to that is a resounding yes. I’ve said this several times before, and it’s true: some of the best fiction being published today is coming out in POD form, where it’s direct from the writer to the reader.

However, the first thing I need to do is make sure to qualify this statement! "Direct from writer to reader" does not mean the book hasn’t been edited, proofread, labored over, illustrated, layout-designed and so on. The best POD books have had every bit as much work as a book issued from a traditional publishing house. Sometimes more.

I applaud when a really talented writer has the courage to go it alone, because it’s going to mean work such as a non-writer can’t imagine. (Mel Keegan states the case better than me in this post: POD Publishing: why do it? And why not?")

So I’m delighted to be reviewing The Jade Owl by Edward C. Patterson, which is available from Amazon. com as a paperback, and also in Kindle. It’s also available from Smashwords in several formats. (I have the PDF for reading on my desktop because I haven’t yet saved enough of my pennies to get an ebook gadeget. Soon. Very soon.)

The story falls into the same category as the "urban fantasy" novels of writers like Charles de Lint (Yarrow, Greenmantle and so on) and Jan Siegel (the Prospero’s Children series). It takes place in the real world … but one of the foundation stones of the book is, paranormal artifacts do exist, and the powers are real. (The same foundation stone is holding up everything from Indiana Jones to the Mummy movies. It’s come to be a Hollywood staple.)

In this novel, the artifact is an ancient Chinese object, a six inch piece of Jade carved in the likeness of an owl — and it’s actually a key that opens a box known as the Joy of Finches. What’s in the box? That would be telling! But everybody wants the key.

The first thing that impressed me about Jade Owl was how knowledgeable about Chinese antiquities the writer is, and about China itself. Shanghai and Beijing are described with the same amount of detail and enthusiasm as San Francisco — and never having been to either China or the USA myself, I really appreciated the "local color." Many writers, when setting their plots in London, New York, what have you, seem to think that everyone’s been there and knows intimately every secret of the city. Not true. So, the first level where Jade Owl succeeds is in "selling me" San Francisco, which is the setting for the first long segment of the book.

Then it’s off to China, and in the second half of the novel the adventure really kicks in. The first half is more of an exploration of culture, personality, even history. There’s not too much "action" in this part of the story, but I liked having the story built up properly from the ground up, so that all readers are on the same page when the knock-down-drag-out adventure begins.

The characters are, for the most part, excellently drawn, with only one or two of the lesser players falling back on "stock characterization." Edward C. Patterson’s dialog is very believable, you can "hear" voices saying these lines. But it was the paranormal aspects of the story that hooked me … I love this stuff anyway, and the Jade Owl does it well. I know a little bit about things Chinese, since I grew up with a huge crush on Bruce Lee and read/watched everything I could get my hands on over the space of about ten years! Jade Owl is a real treat.

It’s a crying shame this book had to be self-published, and you have to ask yourself what the publishing world is coming to, when gifted writers everywhere are having to fly solo. Jade Owl is not just "competently" written — it’s only one thorough, ruthless edit away from being on a par with the top-notch writers who sell in the gajillions. (Trust me on this: I’ve been a pro "proofie" for decades and have seen the best and worst that professional writers can turn out … and some long-time professional writers I could name churn out unpunctuated drivel that has to be bashed into shape by line-editors who get paid about $10 an hour!) There was a time, maybe 20 years ago, when a publisher would take in a manuscript from an inspired and gifted writer, and would assign an editor to do the final work, then the book would be jacketed and sent out there with posters and hype galore. (Doesn’t happen now. A manuscript can be received that is absolutely gem-perfect, and it’ll still get turned around and sent back unread … sad to say, I’ve worked in the industry and seen what happens: it’d shock you).

But — I digress! The Jade Owl is an extremely good read. It gets off to a slightly shaky start, but the style settles right down after a few pages and is very readable. You’ll like the central characters of "Rowdy" Gray, Nick Battle and his partner, Simone. In fact, you ought to love Simone, who’s a drag queen from the Castro, indomitable, very human, very "real." There’s enough gay content to keep GLBTI readers reading — and more than enough action of other kinds (sensual, paranormal, cultural, comedic) to keep straight readers reading.

It’s also hellaciously good value for money, at $15.45 for the paperback, $3.19 in Kindle, and $3.99 from Smashwords … and this is a major novel, over 200,000 words. And here is one of the great things about getting a book direct from the writer: because there’s no publisher to accommodate, the price can afford to be much lower than you’d think.

Does the book have a downside? Well … maybe, but it depends who you are, and what your "ear" is like! The writing style can be a little erratic at times, but many readers would also call this one of the book’s charms. So there you are — as with so many facets of so many books — it’s actually your call. I found the PDF ebook easy to read, but halfway through I longed for a "proper" ebook reader to get away from the PC — not the author’s fault! When I get myself an iLiad, or Bebook or something similar, I shall be reading Jade Owl a second time in the comfort of a hammock chair at the bottom of the garden.

I should also note that there are two more books following on from The Jade Owl , the first one of which is available now, the second, on its way. I still have to get to the second, so can’t talk about it here.

Recommended on many levels. AG’s rating: 4 out of five stars — with a "gold star" added for incredibly good value for money."

 

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