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SPSF2 Finalist Review: Hammer and Crucible, by Cameron Cooper


Team Escapist, has decided to hold off on posting actual scores for the time being. This review expresses my own opinion and not the opinions of other members of either Team Escapist, or other judges on other teams within the SPSFC2 competition. Also, this is my final review for SPSFC2!


Hammer and Crucible, tells the story of a grieving mother’s pursuit of answers surrounding her son’s mysterious death. Her daughter, and a few other characters, are along for the ride across galaxies and on the run from both family and the military. However, despite its intriguing premise, the book falls short in several areas, which may leave readers feeling unsatisfied and disconnected from the characters.


One of the most glaring issues with the book lies in its ending. The climax is marred by an overwhelming info-dump that unveils an excessive number of twists and turns. Unfortunately, these revelations are poorly executed, as they lack any foreshadowing or buildup- other than, they were an exceedingly long list of coincidences. The sudden barrage of surprises at the end, can leave a reader feeling overwhelmed and unable to fully digest or appreciate the impact of these plot developments.


Furthermore, the characterization, particularly of the protagonist, Danny, feels underdeveloped. Despite her central role in the narrative, Danny remains enigmatic and fails to evolve or elicit genuine empathy. The inclusion of the rejuvenation process as a plot devise raised questions about its relevance and purpose. Instead of serving as a means of character development or offering insights into Danny’s journey, it felt more like a superficial world-building tool that added little depth to the narrative. As a result, Danny came across as an unlikable and stagnant character, lacking the growth and complexity needed to fully engage me. And ultimately, in the end, it didn’t make sense to me why she never did the rejuvenation earlier?


Another drawback, was its approach to conveying crucial information. The book’s opening chapters suffer from awkward writing and confusion, leaving me struggling to understand the story’s direction. The sporadic info-dumps throughout the narrative, often focused on world-building rather than advancing the plot, exacerbate this issue. These extensive passages tempted me to skip ahead, disrupting the pace and further distracting me from the overall reading experience.


Additionally, the brief historical context provided before the story began felt out of place and disconnected from the main narrative. This information could have been seamlessly incorporated into the story itself, enhancing my engagement and understanding.


Ultimately, Hammer and Crucible, failed to deliver on its initial promise, leaving me disappointed and disconnected. The jarring and poorly executed ending, underdeveloped characters, clunk writing, and excessive world-building info-dumps detracted from the overall pacing and enjoyment of the book. Despite its potential, the book’s unfilled elements prevent it from reaching it full narrative and emotional impact.


In conclusion, I found Hammer and Crucible, showcases a captivating premise that unfortunately falls short in execution. It kind of left me thinking … the author chose the wrong journey to lead the reader to the ending. They started with one story, but ended with another. While the book’s concept holds promise, its mishandled ending, lacklustre characterization, confusing writing (at times), and disruptive info-dumps hindered my reading experience. Regrettably, the book fails to deliver a satisfying narrative and left me longing for a more cohesive and engaging story.

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