Blood Song

Blood Song - Anthony  Ryan

I can't actually finish this one, I'm afraid. It's not that I wouldn't like to - the main character is good and the story, while cliché, is definitely readable.


My problem is the punctuation. And the grammar. And the spelling. Et cetera.


(I use that too much because Sephiroth said it once....sorry.)

(show spoiler)


I'm going to just highlight a few errors that I marked, and show you what I mean. Check out this sentence on page 27:


Dentos asked, he had taken bread roll was cramming pieces into his mouth, crimbs fountaining from his mouth as he spoke.


I assume the author meant to tell me that Dentos had taken a bread roll and was cramming pieces into his mouth, but okay. I can handle a few typos, all right? But this is what I found two paragraphs later:


Vaelin shifted in his seat, disliking the attention. "He fixes you with his eyes," he explained. "He stares, you stare back, you're fixed, then he attacks while you're still wondering what he's planning. Don't look at his eyes, look at is feet and his sword."


This is the main character, Vaelin, giving his fellow students advice on how to parry the master swordsman who's teaching them. And it's one of the stupidest things I've ever read. I mean, this swordsman, Sollis, tells them he'll keep them outside and practicing until one of them can manage to parry his blow. I'm sure he expected to be there for hours, But Vaelin, our oh-so-special little prodigy, steps up after only a couple of kids have failed, and instantly parries Sollis' first strike.


I would have been happier if Vaelin had missed once or five times, especially considering that he'd never held a sword in his life before. I mean, it's find if the author wants his hero to be ridiculously powerful - whatever. But at least try to make it realistic, please.


Anyway, back to the subject, Vaelin tells the students to not look at his opponent's eyes. If they do that, they'll get themselves killed, okay? Think about it - when a swordsman is going to feint at you, you'll see the movement in his feet or his arms or his elbows, or even the tilt of his shoulders or hips. If the swordsman you're facing is worth anything, you won't see it in his eyes unless he wants you to. But you won't be able to see the feint without looking at his eyes, because once he's tricked you he has to look at you to strike at you. And that is where you'll see his real intention.


Vaelin will get tricked by a simple feint someday, just a clever twitch of the knee or something, and he'll be slaughtered because he didn't watch his opponent's eyes. I understand the lesson to not get stuck watching your opponent's eyes. I mean, obviously you have to keep your mind open and watch everywhere, or else you won't even notice those tiny shifts in body posture that I was talking about. But you do not avoid your opponent's eyes. 


All right, rant over. Let me show you some other stuff that I found.


They sparred with wooden staffs of about four feet in length, later they would be replaced with the five foot pole-axe used by the Order when they fought en masse.


What's that comma doing in there? Shouldn't it be a period, a colon, a semicolon, a dash - really, anything but a comma?


The author does this a lot. I mean a lot, like almost every sentence. He strings three or four separate ideas together in one sentence, and actually you're lucky if you even get a comma. Sometimes he talks for three or four lines and there're no commas in sight. Mostly he just uses them to divide sentences like this, where he should have used something stronger. He's talking about their training now, in the present - and then he's talking about what will happen months or years in the future. He's talking about finding water, then he's talking about a circus, then he's talking about Vaelin's memories of his mother, then he's talking about horses, then he's talking about how to knead bread dough - all in one sentence, with probably two commas thrown in randomly. Stupid things like that.


They would lie for hours in the undergrowth, trying to remain hidden as Hutril hunted them down, usually within a few minutes.


Was it minutes, or hours? Make up your mind.


"Wouldn't it make more sense to burn their fleet?" Barkus wondered. "That way their wouldn't be any pirates at all."


I think you meant "there", not "their". And look, here's more:


"Where you there when the Meldenean city burned?"


I think you mean "were", not "where". But you think I'm finished? No. Lookie here:


"No," Sollis replied. "I was on the northern border then. I'm sure Master Grealin will answer any questions you have about that war." He moved away to thrash another boy who's hand had strayed too close to a coil of rope.


First, let me point out that the word should be "whose", not "who's". And second, let me warn you that unless you want to see kids learning under a violent and brutal set of teachers, don't read this book. These kids suffer a lot of pointless beatings.


Nortah followed him shortly after, controlling his evident fear with some effort, he said to Sollis, "Master, [....]"


Yeah, no. That's not a sentence. I don't even know what Nortah was actually doing - following another kid and trying to control his fear, I think, but the author took one heck of an imaginative way to tell me that.


Nature has a voice, Hutril's words.


I think he meant to say, "Nature has a voice, were Hutril's words." But he forgot something.


He fought a fresh bought of nausea [.....]


I'm cutting that sentence off only because the scene was a little graphic. Anyway, I think he meant "bout", right? Or do they spell that word differently in different areas? I don't think the poor kid meant to buy nausea, I think he was just feeling a surge of it.


Night seemed to fall in an instant, probably because he dreaded it. He found himself seeing bowmen lurking in every shadow, more than once he leapt for shelver from assassins which turned out to be a bushes or tree stumps when he looked closer.


They turned out to be a bushes? I thought bushes was a plural word, so you could safely have gotten rid of the "a" altogether, but okay......


He turned around, unslinging his bow and notching an arrow, before beginning a cautious advance.


First, you don't need a comma after "arrow". Second, this use of the word "notching" is annoying to me. Let me explain: a notch in an arrow is a little cleft on the back end of the shaft. It's the part that you put onto the string, which I think is what the author was trying to get at here. However, the official term for this action of fitting the arrow to the string has been called nocking for a long, long time. Notching is what you do when you're carving the notch into the arrow, okay? Nocking is what you do when you put your arrow on the string. Any master archer, like the guy who was teaching them, would use the word nocking. But for some reason, probably because the author thought it was more poetic or something, he didn't. And every time a character draws his bow, I have to suffer through seeing the wrong word. Ugh.


A sudden, overpowering chill of realization gripped him, fearing he would faint as the forest swayed around him and he fought down a gasp of horror, the sound undoubtedly an invite for a quick death.


I don't even.....where do I start with that? I think he's feeling nauseous again because he realized something terrible. He's trying not to make a sound, because his position might be given away and he might be attacked if he's heard. But I'm not entirely sure, because no matter how many times I read it, that sentence looks a lot like gibberish to me.


His head was twisted at an sharp angle to his shoulders.


My fingers are literally rebelling when I try to type these things in. I end up typing it out correctly and then going back and editing it to show the errors. An sharp angle? Really? Tch.


"Tell no one, Sorna." There was a note of command is Sollis' voice, the tone he used before he swung his cane.


There was a note of command "is" his voice? You mean "in" his voice, right?


Brown's are bigger and nastier. Black's don't come near men mostly.


You don't need to use apostrophes to describe different types of bears. You can say Browns  and Blacks. No one would mind, trust me.


"Oh, I think they'll be mysteries aplenty in our future."


You meant "there'll" be mysteries, right? Because "they'll be mysteries" doesn't make any sense.


And so on it goes. I assume it continues through the next five hundred pages that I didn't read. I hate to give up, but I just can't take anymore silly typos or incomplete sentences - and commas. Ugh. The worst thing about this book's punctuation is the frightening scarcity of commas. The author uses them to divide up sentences like I showed you, but other than that he seems to forget about them all the time. I literally got excited when I saw him put a comma in the right place, since it happened maybe once every five pages.


I understand that everyone does commas a tiny bit differently, but this was unforgivable. I punctuated better than that when I was ten years old, and believe me, I was bad at punctuation then.


So, unfortunately, I'm finished with this book. Maybe when it goes through a well-programmed spellchecker and a good round of editing I'll try it again.