As far as romantic epics go, the story of Sacrifices, book one in the Embraced by Darkness series by Tarah L. Wolff, is as good as Rhapsody. I started reading this novel with the hope that it would prove even better, and in some ways it succeeded, but in many, many other ways, it failed . . .
The story of Sacrifices unfolds as it follows the lives of four female characters: Osondrous, Jezaline, Karalay, and Constance. They all have some gift that makes them special. The first three women are leaders of the Human species, known as Wards. Their stories diverge near the beginning, as Karalay and Jezaline set out on special missions, while Osondrous remains at the castle of the Wards to rule and protect their people. The King Ward has been missing for some time, and come to find out, if he dies and a new Queen or King Ward is enthroned, then the rivers that protect the Human borders will become weak and passable by the dangerous creatures to either side of the middle realm. With other threats such as the Grim posing to strike, a great sense of the end creeps into the mind while reading, in a land full of peril and enclosing doom.
The passion of the characters drove the story forward, and I liked that about Sacrifices. Each character is explored in detail. You get to really know them, and why they make the choices that they do, even if you don’t understand how anyone (outside the characters) would come to make the choices that they do. The Human interaction with the other species was fun, and Wolff definitely knows a thing or two about horses, which she flawlessly incorporates into her unique cast of Centaurs. Horse culture dominates the bulk of details in Sacrifices, and I was glad to learn more about the animals by looking up terms, such as the definition of a bay horse, which I did not know before.
Sadly, though, the book is riddled with errors. There are so many errors and inconsistencies, to the point I had a difficult time staying focused on the story the characters, as I tried to figure out what the author really wanted me to know. The errors pull the reader right out of the story, which is where it fails, and fails hard. There are so many sentences that run on without taking a breath to pause, you just want to give the author a bag full of commas and say: “Please use these!” There are sentences without subjects, as if Wolff didn’t want to start another sentence with ‘She did this and she did that,’ and didn’t know of another way to structure the sentence. An example that incorporates both of the above: “She poured herself a cup of milk and out of a floor cabinet she drew a wooden tray with a loaf of dark bread, butter and cheese. Sat down on the bed with it.” Commas are missing where there are natural pauses in the sentence, so the reader ends up just reading without any breaks, and this happens on probably every page.
Word confusion pops up often enough to make you put the book down. For instance: “Your destiny was changed by a prophet, Grim; now another prophet is trying to interfere. That much I can deduct.”—He’s not doing a math problem. And: “Some falling down, some laying down.”—The Centaurs are not being put down by anyone; they are lying down themselves. There are also strange sentences like: “Dragons attacked the towers like wasps.”—It becomes apparent that the author didn’t take the time to reflect, asking: does this make sense to the scene? Are these dragons using their tails like stingers? No. Are these dragons swarming the towers like a group of wasps might do? No, there’s only a baker’s dozen, which would be hard to argue is a swarm. There are even errors that a simple spell check would correct: “Made a clear cut across the corner, so she would would know which one was his.”
But the worst of the errors is the point of view violation. Wolff sets up Sacrifices like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, with chapters titled after the character it is supposed to follow, but the chapters aren’t from those characters’ POV at all, as the whole book is written from an omniscient point of view, jumping into the heads of all kinds of characters in the scene, even the horses. One of the worst ones was a short, two-paragraph segment in part three entitled Osondrous, yet the whole thing is about Eikian the Centaur! It is cool to have an omniscient point of view, but if you write like that, then there’s no point in entitling chapters after characters, it’s useless, and eventually (and by eventually I mean very quickly) it becomes annoying.
If the sample of book two reads the same when it is released, I won’t bother continuing with the story. A decent plot with emotional characters, but it’s a hard read that could use another round of edits, probably from someone other than her aunt. I give 3 stars for the plot and characters, though it may more appropriately deserve only 2 for poor writing and editing.
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About John Hennessy
I'm a twenty-three-year-old self-published fantasy writer. Life Descending, part one of The Cry of Havoc, an epic fantasy series, is my debut novel. I just graduated from Western Washington, now I am looking to get my book out there, wanting to see what people think about it, so far it has received three five-star professional reviews. Find my book at http://www.johnhennessy.net/John_Hennessy/Books.html. You can also read the reviews for it there, and also on Amazon.