SPSFC2 Finalist Review: Aestus, Book 1: The City, by S. Z. Attwell
Aestus was very action oriented and moved forward with purpose and world-building, and character study’s intertwined nicely. At least, in the beginning.
It was after the prologue where things started to deteriorate for me. The short chapters were nice, but there was no apparent reason for where they started or ended; giving the book an overall disjointed feel. And what I like to call the ‘training montage’ was long winded, and I had some issues with realism, (especially during this training section) with what information was given out to cadets when only two weeks into their training? This entire section is where I will agree with another judge who felt like it started to read like a YA novel.
Overall, it became a disappointing trek through superfluous pages.
Aestus presents a promising premise with clean and well-written prose that initially engages readers. The book follows a familiar trope, and while the overall concept holds potential, it failed to deliver the impact I had hoped for. Despite its strengths, this novel fell short due to its extensive length and an abundance of inconsequential details that detracted from the overall enjoyment of the story.
I really was excited to give this book a read. But like I said, due to its length, (its physical size in paperback to which I purchased is huge), it got put aside the moment it arrived at my doorstep based on the commitment level I knew it was going to need. As much as I wanted to read it, I had to put it aside for when I had enough time.
One aspect that initially drew me to Aestus was the author’s skillful writing style. The prose was clear and polished, allowing the narrative to flow smoothly. Additionally, the central idea behind the story exhibited promise, although it was not entirely original. I appreciated the potential for an intriguing plot twist, but sadly, it was telegraphed far too early, robbing it of ay surprise or excitement. Then, to spend so many chapters, so much time, with Jossy not telling or sharing her discovery with anyone … anyone … was a little hard to swallow.
However, the book’s significant flaw lies in its length. Aestus spans a daunting 700 pages, which could have easily been condensed into a more manageable 300 pages without sacrificing the essence of the story. Unfortunately, the excessive length led to numerous instances of regurgitated information and scenes that failed to propel the plot forward. It felt as though the author struggled to discern which aspects were truly essential, resulting in a tedious reading experience.
The narrative frequently became bogged down by an abundance of inconsequential details. Countless pages were wasted on scenes that added little to the overall story progression, leaving me yearning for a move focused and streamlined narrative. It became increasingly challenging to maintain interest as the novel meandered through these superfluous passages. Aside from being a daunting book to simply look at or carry with you to work or whatnot, when I put the book down, it was hard to pick back up when I considered the slog it would be to get through the long, unneeded, lengthy, repetitive scenes to get to the actual story.
While Aestus may appeal to those who have a preference for extensive descriptions and a leisurely narrative pace, I found it difficult to overlook the book’s inability to edit out extraneous information and details. Unfortunately, this detracted from the overall enjoyment and impact of the story.
It is disheartening when a book with potential falls victim to its own lack of editing and narrative conciseness. People/writers/bloggers and readers, talk about editing all the time, like it’s some all encompassing one ‘thing’. It’s not just one thing. Editing means many different things, from spotting typos to grammar mistakes to line editing to content and developmental editing. Editing doesn’t just mean taking out a few passages that you think are your ‘little darlings,’ or rearranging chapters or scenes. It also means knowing what needs to be in the story and what needs to come out- as in, whole characters, whole sections, whole plot-lines and side stories. And noticing which plot points and story elements have already been covered … in some cases, ad nauseam.
In conclusion, Aestus ultimately fails to deliver on its promising premise due to its overwhelming length and an excessive amount of inconsequential material. Despite the well-written prose, the book becomes a tedious read that left me longing for a tighter and more focused storytelling approach.