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Elemental: Destiny’s Embers
August 28th, 2010 by Unamommer
Elemental: Destiny's Embers

Elemental: Destiny's Embers

In my last review I drew a distinction between fun bad and facepalm bad.  Fun bad books may have terrible plots or characters but there’s a baseline level of competency that keeps the book readable.  Sentences may be simple, but they are still constructed in a way that generally makes sense and the writing itself fades to the background, leaving you focused on what the actual story is trying to tell you.  Elemental is not one of those books.

It’s actually kind of a shame that the writing is so bad.  The story itself, while about as generic as it gets, only has a couple of hysterically bad parts.  However, when faced with run-on sentences filled with redundancies like this:

Row after row of houses, and huts; street after small street, a maze through which Henrik and his men lead them, always in the direction of the gold that Calis had seen gleaming in the distance, gold now revealed as the paint, the ornamentation, the decoration gilding every building in Galor’s palace complex.

And sentence fragments like this:

He was dressed for dinner as well. A long velvet cloak. A white laced shirt. Boots of shiny black leather. His hair had been styled as well; it sat high and magnificent on his head.

It’s pretty difficult going. Those aren’t even the worst examples in the book, I picked those out by opening two different random pages. Run-on sentences and sentence fragments are far from being the only issues with the writing. The author loves him some god-damned punctuation, especially em dashes.

A moment’s embrace, a few words of good-bye, and then she— and Mirdoth— were gone, and it was just the two of them— Tandis and himself— remaining in the Hall.

That’s right, a sentence with three commas and four em dashes. Again, this isn’t even the worst representative of the problem, just something I found flipping through pages. I’d say that the average page has at least three em dashes, which is absolutely inexcusable. I’ve been mad at a lot of books in my time, but this is the first time I’ve punched a book because of its punctuation.

But even that doesn’t cover all the issues with the writing. Have you ever played a tabletop role playing game that rewards players for describing their actions by giving them a bonus to succeeding on actions that they describe, like Exalted? Have you ever played one of those with a min-maxer with little imagination but who wasn’t willing to let the bonus go, so they try to describe everything by making a laundry list of actions joined by an infernal parade of “and”s? Then you have a pretty good idea of what reading every action sequence in this book is like.

He yanked the sword out of the first one’s throat and swung it at a second, the nearest one to him, gouging it in the shoulder, and the thing screamed, and slashed at Calis’s blade ineffectually, and Calis slashed again, and caught the creature in the face, and blood gushed, and it screamed a second time, and stumbled, but that was all Calis saw.

Count ‘em and weep, folks.

Now generally when you introduce an important character to the audience for the first time, you want to give a strong impression of that character, be it through personality or physical traits. This is what we get when pretty, pretty Princess Angenica is first introduced.

She was wearing a long cloak. Underneath it, he saw, was a dress.

The dress is actually my favorite character in the book. A few short pages later she is accosted by bad guys and they have a conversation about the dress. Her thoughts reveal to us the backstory and political importance of the dress. After she is rescued from the bad guys by the clever orphan boy she has a crush on and a handsome knight, she flings herself into her father’s arms while sobbing and he stops to notice the dress before noticing the knife wound on her neck. That’s how badass the dress is. Later in the story other dresses get introduced. The author even makes the mistake of trying to make them more attractive than the dress.

Yes, she had been wearing dresses those last few months at the Keep, but this was different. This was a gown. This was silk or something.

Silk or something can never stand up to the awesomeness of the dress and shame on the author for trying to steal its spotlight.

But I digress. This is the story of Elemental, a world that used to be filled with magic until some dudes from outside the world showed up and ruined everything for everyone. There used to be one single continent but now it is split into two that is joined together by a single rickety bridge that is made of magical wood. No, really. Now one continent is filled with nice white people, and the other continent is filled with monsters that were made from humans and the evil, horrible, olive-skinned people who sided with the mutants instead of the white folks, so they are called blood traitors. No, really. The whole book comes down to one Titan wanting to protect the white people from everyone else, and one Titan thinking that they should get the fuck out and let all the varieties of human and monster cohabitate.

No, really.

There’s even a point where one character, the lord of a white person keep built on the non-white people continent, has thoughts on how he would like to resolve the matter.

Build a fence, he thought. Build a fence, and keep them all inside it. And in the absence of a fence…
The ocean would do.

Yes, he wants to build a border fence to keep the dark people and mutants out, and if that doesn’t work, he wants to burn the magical bridge. These are the good guys. To be fair, we do end up meeting a village of very dark skinned people who aren’t evil, just simple and trapped in their valley. One of them offers to have sex with the orphan in the most awkward way possible, a moment that is mercifully interrupted by a giant monster attack.

So anyway, the story follows a couple of different people around. There’s the Clever Orphan and the Magical Princess who are off to find some sort of magical artifact that is a circlet that is also an orb. Along the way they pick up The Bad Guy’s Henchman Who Is Not Half As Clever As He Thinks He Is, a golem, and a Thief With A Heart Of Gold who has been cursed to be unnoticeable to everyone except the orphan because the orphan is, obviously, special.

There’s also the Handsome Knight Who Is Secretly A Titan and the Token Member Of The Minority With Special Powers whom he has raised since his mother, I swear I am not making this up, Queen Magesta, was killed. He was also trained by a rock-throwing guy named Uthirmancer, so he’s been surrounded by silly names all his life. There’s also the Lord of the Keep and his Magician who is Secretly Not A Good Guy, but also not allied with the people from the bad continent.

They generally just run around doing exactly what you would expect, passing the idiot ball back and forth as the plot dictates. Both the Clever Orphan with Special Powers and the Magical Princess end up with alternate love interests so they can both act like idiots and be jealous of each other. The Token Minority ends up meeting with the ancient and paranoid King Galor and becomes the heir to the country after swearing a blood oath to be loyal to him always. The Secret Titan Handsome Knight meets his brother on the field of battle and they have the talk about joining the races or protecting the white people and much stabbing goes on. The Clever Orphan uses his special powers to retrieve the McGuffin orb/circlet and the book ends with him and the Magical Princess flying away from the battle on dragon-back with nothing resolved.

I don’t know if that means that the game picks up at that point, because I have not played it. I’m praying that’s what it means, because if there was ever a book that didn’t need a sequel, this is it.

Now I was inclined to go kind of easy on this book for a while. The name on the cover is Bradley Wardell, who is not a writer. He’s a programmer who runs his own game company/publisher. I was prepared to direct the brunt of my ire at Del-Rey for publishing someone’s vanity project without editing it. Then I got to the Acknowledgments section at the back to find out that the book had a second writer who was also the editor, and that he actually is a writer by trade. And that Del-Rey had assigned a project manager. So there’s plenty of people to blame for 529 pages of random punctuation and sentences without verbs.

To make the obligatory Monty Python reference, this is not a book for reading. This is a book for laying down and avoiding. However, people are going to buy it because it has a code for DLC on the back flap. Innocent gamers are going to purchase this to get an additional campaign for the game and be assaulted by someone’s 8th grade creative writing assignment. That’s the real tragedy here. Someone think of the gamers.

His face twisted into an ugly sneer.  And then, without warning, he slapped her.  A backhanded blow much harder than the one she’d given him.  It spun her around and sent her hurtling to the ground.
She landed hard and felt the sleeve of her gown tear.
She stood up and ripped it the rest of the way off.
“You want a fight?” she said, and took a step toward Jacob.

Someone think of the dress.


39 Responses  
Sharp writes:
August 28th, 2010 at 11:20 am

Wait a minute. There is a professional writer/editor involved in this? As I read your review I was thinking “She’s being a bit harsh, since Brad isn’t a writer per se.” But if there is an actual, professional writer that had real input into the book (enough to be willing to put his name on it), that is unforgivable. I would fail my students for turning in a paper like this. The grammar is just that bad. You picked these at random? Amazing.

Avoiding This writes:
August 28th, 2010 at 11:44 am

I was thinking about buying this book for the code but I don’t think it’s worth it now.

I don’t want to play the adventures of King Racist and the border patrol.

Sharp writes:
August 28th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

You sure? I think it could prove to be a nice litmus test for whether building a big wall would really keep out the darkies!

BTW, unamommer, is it possible that a lot of the fragments are stylistic fragments, which are allowed in creative writing? The example you give doesn’t fit a stylistic fragment very well, since a comma would have worked just as well, and no extra emphasis or anything else seems to be added by separating the description of the slap. But maybe some of them are justified stylistic choices? I’m just trying to help.

Unamommer writes:
August 28th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

There are cases when it does feel like the author is trying to either get you inside the character’s head or perhaps trying to use a conversational style while writing, but it slingshots back and forth without warning. So it’s difficult to really interpret if it was an intentional stylistic choice or just really poor writing. I’ll give another example.

“Except that Lord Ambrose had declared the wood off-limits a month earlier. On the day the Knights had ridden in from the West, the Keeper— and his Council— has issued several proclamations. Times have changed, Lord Ambrose said. Things are no longer as they were. In order to ensure the safety of the keep and all its residents, I hereby make, in the name of the King, the following proclamations. The wood, off-limits to all but those on the Keeper’s business. Etc., etc.”

I have a difficult time deciphering there from the character’s editorializing, the memory, and just bad writing.

Sharp writes:
August 28th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Yeah, I see what you mean. I like how you found another with the em hyphens too. Thanks for the review. Keep them coming. They have saved many minds.

Theodore writes:
August 30th, 2010 at 6:31 am

Hi Angie. It is Angie, right? I was reading the M:OM thread on Qt3 and saw you got angry about it. I am banned so I can’t reply! :(
Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as Matt and that Princess person were saying. I mean, the writing and characterisation is genuinely awful, some of the worst I’ve seen in any medium, and it *is* sexist – but it’s a banal trying-really-hard-not-to-be-sexist anime kind of sexism as opposed to an outrageously offensive kind of sexism. Like, Samus kow-tows to a male authority figure to because … he treats her with respect ‘even though she’s a woman’. Also she really screwed up a long time ago and wants to earn back his trust.

Theodore writes:
August 30th, 2010 at 6:32 am

It’s a clumsy mish-mash of mixed messages and confused sexual politics with some unforgiveable character butchering, but it’s *okay* – it’s not as bad as the hysterical (is that sexist?) review made it out to be. Samus has always been a troublesome mix of powerful, independent badass and striptease cheesecake and M:OM is just an extrapolation of that by somebody who can’t write for beans. It’s more eye-roll-inducing than rage-inducing. Give it a shot.

Sorry this is in two posts – your spam filter sucks >:(

Theodore writes:
August 30th, 2010 at 6:56 am

Awesome review, btw.

Elusive Pastry writes:
August 30th, 2010 at 7:42 am

Hilarious! Sadly, the game is just as bad as the literature.

Raskolnik writes:
August 30th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Having played the game, I’m not surprised in the slightest. It’s a bad, cliched mess, so it’s only appropriate that the novelization is too.

Dethedrus writes:
August 31st, 2010 at 1:42 pm

As mentioned above, this mockery of middle school English (at best) obviously had the same level of QC as the game. And the same garbled “creative process”.

Dave writes:
August 31st, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Is this review in response to the fact your husband stalked Brad and got banned from some forums?

Unamommer writes:
August 31st, 2010 at 4:04 pm

That’s some pretty innocuous stalking, posting in threads on a message board. But no, I pre-ordered the book before any of that went down. A couple of friends asked if I would read the book and do a Unamommer review and I figured “why not?”

Dave writes:
August 31st, 2010 at 5:53 pm

8 months after the last book you reviewed you decide to review a book you know will be questioned due to the stuff with your husband. Either you have really bad taste, or your doing this out of spite.

Kalle writes:
August 31st, 2010 at 6:18 pm

No, I’m fairly certain Angie didn’t know that Stardock fanboys would use her husband as a way to try to discredit what she wrote. She might have anticipated some backlash from mouthbreathing fanboys but either way, if Bradley wrote a bad novel then maybe you should suck it up and accept that before your misplaced persecution complex makes you look really stupid.

Dave writes:
August 31st, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Boy Kalle…that sure comes across asa reasonable arguement in her favour. I have no idea if the novel is bad or good, I stand by my feelings she should not have reviewed it two days after her husband got banned, it seems bitter and spiteful.

GE writes:
August 31st, 2010 at 9:37 pm

So you think when her husband got banned she just started to read like a demon, or what? Did she go back in time and replace the original manuscript with that em-dash-ridden twaddle as revenge? Because I’d say the quality of the writing speaks for itself.

Cid Meyer writes:
September 1st, 2010 at 2:38 am

The ulterior motive is that Destiny’s Embers is a bad book. She is posting this review because it is a bad book. If she gave Twilight a bad review would you say she had a grudge against Stephanie Meier and is bigoted towards Mormon vampires?

Mark writes:
September 2nd, 2010 at 6:46 am

I’m really enjoying the game Elemental: War of Magic, despite it being a little rough around the edges. Once it has been patched some more it will be an excellent game. It is a shame they can’t patch the book though, because by the looks of those quotes the English is more than a little rough around the edges and I can’t stand that. I will definitely be doing some reading in the book store before I consider buying it.

Drain Clogs – 09-02-2010 | Politisink writes:
September 2nd, 2010 at 2:43 pm

[...] CEO of Stardock is a crazed Wingnut who publishes pseudo-white nationalist fan fiction as official novels for their video games. More here: So Stardock CEO, Brad Wardell, wrote a book [...]

Dirtyfinger writes:
September 4th, 2010 at 3:56 am

Well, some of his forum mods are hardcore rightwing gun-nuts with a social agenda signed by Palin and the Tea Party, and Brad himself is no liberal either. It didn’t really surprise me that his (unconscious) convictions suddenly leaked out with his artistic endeavor and led to this fantasy Aryan Nation book.

Sparky writes:
September 5th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

“…a white laced shirt. Boots of shiny black leather. His hair had been styled as well; it sat high and magnificent on his head.”

It’s ELVIS!

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September 19th, 2010 at 4:30 pm

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IceToad writes:
October 15th, 2010 at 5:09 am

Wow, and I hated Wardell *before* I read your review! To be honest I didn’t think I could dislike the man more, but here we are and there it is. Too bad L.R.H. is dead; they could have collaborated.

ksiazki writes:
January 18th, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Ksiazki elektroniczne, a godnie urzadzenia oraz aplikacja do ich pobierania a odtwarzania, maja szereg zalet, tudziez tez pewne wady – wymowa tych ostatnich maleje tymczasem sposrod kazdym rokiem, na skutek niezwykle szybkiemu postepowi technicznemu oraz malejacym kosztom.

golfwife writes:
June 16th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

There are so many books written with grammatical errors since spellcheck came into being. I would gladly proofread if publishers were still hiring such personnel. Since they are not, I will ignore the errors and enjoy the stories. However, if any publishers are reading this, you know where you need to concentrate your future hiring.

shoes off writes:
September 2nd, 2011 at 6:51 pm

naturally like your website however you have to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to inform the truth then again I will surely come again again.

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September 22nd, 2011 at 12:15 pm

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Canof writes:
September 27th, 2011 at 12:29 pm

The vast majority of people in the West who characterize others as “racist” and border fences as inherently evil, etc., are small-minded smearmongers, as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of people so labeled do not at all deserve the label.

The book very well may be a bad read, but there is zero reason whatsoever to trust your “interpretation” that it or its author are racist in any way whatsoever, especially since you and yours have shown your rather extreme, prejudicial bias in this area before. Further, the point made about your personal connection to the author is a very, very good one, whether or not you think it is. (It doesn’t matter if the judge TELLS us he’s oh-so intellectually honest and impartial, if he’s got connections with the guy on trial, even if those connections were made after the trial was scheduled, he should recuse himself!)

Therefore, your entire review is thrown into question, and your intellectual honesty in matters politic is not just in doubt, but demonstrably based on smears and emotion, not fact. It’s psychological projection: You are the perpetrator of hate, not the so-called “racists” you and other commenters here rail against (who happen to have the same racial makeup as the country as a whole, per Gallup, I might add).

Nerem writes:
October 20th, 2011 at 3:37 am

Generally border fences aren’t seen as ‘racist’ unless specifically there to keep out ‘undesirables’, doubly specifically if the large reason they’re undesirable is that they’re dark-skinned…

Canof writes:
November 1st, 2011 at 9:28 pm

You seem to be implying something, Nerem. Why don’t you come right out and say what it is you’re thinking instead of couching it in such vague language like an intellectual coward? Smugglers (of drugs, people and/or otherwise) and other lawbreakers (illegal immigrants are by definition lawbreakers, no matter how much spin you apply and how many euphemisms for them your ilk conjures up) could be considered “undesirable,” but there’s absolutely nothing “racist” or otherwise improper about wanting to keep them out. Face it: You’ve zero credible evidence that skin color has anything whatsoever to do with our immigration policy. The race card is vastly overused and people are catching on to the fact that those who play it oh so often are the real problem. Those who play it do so simply because A) they have little else that’s persuasive to anyone not already in their fold, and B) they’re unscrupulous and therefore don’t care that they’re being intellectually dishonest smearmongers.

Avery Sattlefield writes:
November 8th, 2011 at 1:16 am

I think so. I think your article will give those people a good reminding. And they will express thanks to you later.

The 5 Books That Changed My Life | Greetings from Hellsinki writes:
January 22nd, 2012 at 9:06 am

[...] I’ve never read this book. I’ve had no other contact with this book other than read this review and some internet discussion about it. The reason it has had such an influence on my life is [...]

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