The Baker's Boy (Book of Words)
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2001
Looks like plenty of other people have covered the basics. Hmmm, looking over the highlights, this is how I feel about the story:
SHORT WORD FEELING: Gritty, excellent characterization, lacking in concept and structure at times
CONCEPT: Two fates collide at the castle of the King, a noble girl and a baker's boy. Both desire to escape from their particular lives and do so amid all the political intrigue. (Nothing really big actually happens in this story. Lots of intrigue and great characters but no spectacular spine to the story).
MARKETING APPEAL: This story was a best seller or so the cover said; I'm not sure for how long but it was well loved on Amazon, too. Very strong and gritty characters; the plot needed work; I think that, based on the story, this novel became more popular through marketing and word of mouth than just straight out concept (since it wasn't terribly interesting compared to many other fantasy novels).
SCORING: Superb (A), Excellent (A-), Very good (B+), Good (B) Fairly Good (B-) Above Average (C+), Mediocre (C ), Barely Passable (C-) Pretty Bad (D+), Dismal (D), Waste of Time (D-), Into the Trash (F)
DIALOGUE: A- STRUCTURE: C+ HISTORY SETTING: B CHARACTERS: B EVIL SETUP/ANTAGONISTS: B EMOTIONAL IMPACT: B- SURPRISES: C LITTLE THINGS: B+ MONSTERS: not applicable PACING: C+ OVERALL STYLE: C+ FLOW OF WORDS: C+ CHOICE OF FOCUS: C+ TRANSITIONS/FLASHBACKS/POV: B COMPLEXITY OF WORDS/SYMBOLISM/THEMES: C+
OVERALL GRADE: B-
HISTORY SETTING: Overall, this was good. The map sucked but that isn't the author's fault. During the novel, we learned about the Four Kingdoms, the adjoining cities and the seaport cities. And, we also learned about the knighthood, which seemed very commerce oriented. A pretty good job was done on the understanding the political structure of the king's court, as well as how the commoners acted towards the lords. The whole tumbling thing with bedmaids, who used the sex to rise in station made logical sense. A good job was done on explaining the seers of Larne, the prophecy of the coming boy of power, the swamplands to the south, the mannerisms of how people acted in the lands, the politics of Rorne and the adjoining Duke with his power interests.
DIALOGUE: Pretty good, actually. I could tell just by reading the dialogue that several of the characters had very distinctive voices. Just about everyone had different sentence structure and used different phrases to describe things. I really liked how she used her dialogue in also setting out the personalities of various characters.
PACING: I would say the story flowed pretty well the first 150 pages. Four confusing parts: (1) when years passed, it made no mention of it except in a sentence later in the chapter. Might have been good to have a date in the title or mentioned it in the beginning; (2) usage of he did this and he did that was a bit much. The author should have looked for a way to use different phrases but apparently she got lazy at times. Anyway, it slowed the story down because it happened so much that I began to get irritated; and (3) the author revealed way too much of what the characters were thinkings and then showed their thoughts. In other words, everything was spoon fed to us. This got irritating at times; and (4) the author went over things she had already explained a few times; it was really getting tiresome and readers should remember it. Characters would go over plans that they had hatched for the second time. Jumping around from character to characters was generally pretty good. A few times it was a bit too quick but other than that, it was fine. Actually, it helped hide the convoluted structure to the story in the last third of the book. In the last third, when there should have been a gradual climatic rise, the story was teetering out. Too much time spent on little details when things should have been moving forward. This may have been why some people at customer reviews claimed that nothing happened at the end.
SURPRISES: Not that good. Part of the problem was that the author revealed so much of what everyone was thinking that there was little room for suspense or mystery.
It's weird because a lot of these characters were quite interesting. The most entertaining were the villains and the mean ones. The main characters, Melli and Jack, really didn't stand out too much. I think part of the reason for it was that they didn't have any ADMIRABLE qualities you look for in such heroes. None of them were especially brave or clever. For most of the story, they were passive and running away from the villains. They would get caught, run away and then get caught again. In fact, Jack only got active when he broke out his cell really and Melli was always sort of helpless, which is fine. So, this is something new that I just learned. Make the characters striking and give them something powerful in personality. Otherwise, they will come across as bland in a novel.
CHARACTERS: Done pretty well. Jones spent a good deal of time giving us the details and making each character distinctive in appearance, mannerisms and dialogue. Even the guards who badgered over stupid things had their own dialogue and motivations. Most of the minor characters had these traits also which I appreciated. Sometimes minor characters get lost in the shuffle. Villains were done very well. The problem was with Melli and Jack for reasons listed above. They certainly were distinctive but they didn't stand out strikingly enough. Part of this reason might be because they were such passive characters for a good part of the story.
WHY IT WORKED FOR ME: Loved the character details, as well as the dialogue. In the first 150 pages, the story moved along pretty fast. I was impressed with the spying and political intrigue, as well as with the multitude of characters all about. History of the area was good and I enjoyed the concentration on the local folk and their perception of events. The two guards who told stories were good, but half of the stuff they spoke about seemed redundant. The Archbishop was a pretty interesting character, too. Loved the way he tormented his aide and showed off his gluttony. Some of the details, such as dress and food, were interesting. And, the way bread was baked was kind of interesting, too. Maybor, Baralis and the Queen were all interesting in various degrees. The grittiness with the sex and violence added some flavor to the book, but got a bit crude at times, like when (CENSORED for delicate ears . . . :D Hard for me to believe that this was a fantasy bestseller since certain components of the novel seemed clumsy or half written. Apparently, it became very popular through word of mouth.
COMMENTS: This book had potential to be better than it was, but I think the author got caught up in the characters and keeping the story going. Perhaps she wanted more pages in her book than she could fit, forcing it to become larger. I don't know. If the plot and style had been the equivalent of the characters, this would have gotten a solid B or even a B+. As things stand, it was a B-.
GRADE REASON: Pretty much for reasons stated above. The characters were done very well in certain regards, but since I didn't connect with them, it was hard to rank her higher than a B. The dialogue was very good but the pacing, overall structure and surprises were mediocre to just above average. This is about the average grade I give to most fantasy books. Some are certainly worse and some are better or much better.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Okay, so if you were snooping around in the fantasy circles circa 1995, you are indubitably aware that this trilogy generated an enormous buzz. That in itself was surprising, since The Baker's Boy was Mrs. Jones' very first novel. In addition, it was published by Aspect (Warner Books), an imprint not particularly renowned for publishing bestsellers.
In any event, to a certain extent taking the market by storm, the series was an instant success. The three volumes were all national bestsellers, which is quite unusual. They all topped the Locus Bestseller List. Okay, so it's not the New York Times, but it is still quite an accomplishment for a new author.
Like a lot of people, I bought the books when they came out. Unlike many, I didn't read them yet. The hype was too strong, and I didn't want it to influence me when I read the series. Of course, I didn't really expect to wait nearly 9 years before reading them, either! For some reason, even though Mrs. Jones wrote 3 more novels since the publication of Master and Fool, she never did create waves the way The Book of Words trilogy initially did. Now was the time for me to see what the buzz had been about. . .
As is usually the case, the series did not live up to the expectations the buzz had created within me. Hence, I'm happy to have waited before reading the novels. Otherwise, I would probably have been VERY disappointed by this series. With the enormous number of books I've read over the years, I'm afraid that I have become definitely hard to please. . .
But although the trilogy suffers from several shortcomings, in all objectivity I must admit that it is still a relatively good read.
My main problem with the series is the fact that it appears to be aimed at a younger crowd. In my mind, it seems to be aimed at readers who are under 18. Being 30 (yes, I AM getting old!), I couldn't quite get into it. But I am persuaded that if I had read the series when I was 16 years of age, I would probably have loved it. There is a certain innocence inherent to the characters and their views of love, honor, obligation, etc, that makes the whole thing not ring true to my "adult" perspective.
The biggest shortcoming of the series, however, is the fact that the characters are far from being three-dimensional. As a matter of fact, they are not "real." The author fell into a popular trap, namely creating "cliché" characters: the innocent boy with immense potential, the beautiful and spoiled young woman who turns out to be stronger and more courageous than she believed herself to be, the evil mage, the power-hungry prince, etc. And some characters are just caricatures, case in point being the Archbishop Tavalisk. And yet, having said that about the characters, they are still a likeable bunch. Which, in the end, helps you enjoy the books.
Several plotlines had a lot of potential (the knights of Valdis, the Seers of Larn, Jake's parentage, etc), but they were not exploited to their fullest. Had they been, this series would have been much better. Mrs. Jones took the easy road instead. . .
In light of all this, I have to admit that I nevertheless like J. V. Jones' writing style. She has a witty way to write, which I truly enjoyed. I think that she must challenge herself a little more with her storylines, and explore a bit more those concepts that she creates. It would certainly give ner novels more depth, which in turn would make them more enjoyable.
I believe that J. V. Jones shows great promise and could be a bright voice in the fantasy genre. Hopefully her other novels will show just how much potential she truly possesses. . .:-)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2000
This book was not very fresh; the main ideas have been played out numerous times in numerous other books (an orphan boy with no apparent life; finds that he has super duper magical powers). The characterization of this book was not great either; truth be told there really wasn't much about this book that was interesting.
I read it, just because I had nothing else to do. I started to the book and finished it because I hate to start books and not finish them, but finishing it was a task. The story is one of a baker's boy who finds he has magical powers and must run away. An evil sorcerer is scheming for the throne and mixes foul concotions and potions (as most evil sorcerers do). The boy runs away, find someone to teach him something about his power, and eventually is going to come back and challenge this sorcerer.
This book was very ho hum, and not on the top of this field at all; if you are interested in fantasy you should not read this book, unless you have exhausted all other outlets and authors before this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2001
I was prepared to not like this book. Good fantasy epics are hard to come by. This one is a promising start to a new one for me. I won't rehash the plot. Since there are so many of these epics out there, they all kind of share 3 or 4 plots. What sets this book apart isn't the plot, it's the little moments in the plot that make it stand out. Some examples-Jack, the baker's boy is moonlighting as a scribe even though he can't read or write. In his first effort to copy part of a manuscript, he pours ink on a blank page and tries to write into the ink. On his odyssey through the towns and forests of the Four Kingdoms, he offers to bake bread for those who help him since that is the only means of repayment he knows. There is the ongoing feud between the evil chancellor Baralis and the conniving Lord Maybor. Each sets traps and snares for the other only to be foiled--like an endless duel of 2 Wile E. Coyotes. Baralis drives an innocent dove to starvation by using it as a magical seeing eye. The Seers of Larn are an awesome creation who I would like to see in the further episodes. All in all, this is a fine 1st offering in this trilogy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
After an amazing prologue The Bakers Boy proved to be a most enjoyable read. I found the characters to be likeable, realistic and not run-of-the-mill , especially Baralis. Definately a man you will love to hate! The book has plenty of suspense and loads of humour in Bodger and Grift, whose words of wisdom once heard should never be followed! All in all a good start, Julie Jones writes extremely well and certainly has great flair and style. My only criticism is that Jack and Melli seemed to spend all their time escaping and then getting caught again, however the settings are excellent and the plot is otherwise very engaging. And believe me the series just gets better and better.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
More like 3.5/3.75 stars. I really really loathed this book when I started it & was resentful of having to shell out the dough to obtain the other two installments of the book. However, in retrospect, the images & incidents in this series stayed with me. The Seers of Larn linger in one's imagination. And it strikes you later how complex the political system is which Jones created. It is not the best written, nor does it have the most complicated characters in the history of fantasy, but if you are a fantasy fan, then it is certainly worth your time to see some of Jones' intriguing devices & ideas.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 1999
This novel had a typical story, that of a common kitchen boy who discovers he has magical powers and reasons out that for everyone's good he must run away from home. A noble girl's escape from the castle coincides with his, and they flee together. Meanwhile, both an evil sorceror and the girl's father are sending out mercenaries and soldiers to find them, and far away a knight is sent out to find the boy and thus fulfill an ancient prophecy. This was a very fast paced book, never dwelling on a given character more than three or four pages before switching to the next POV. It doesn't spend huge amounts of time on every little detail like some other authors, yet somehow the story doesn't seem to progress that much over the 552 pages. Also, there is a large amount of rape and sadism, especially towards women, which surprised me, considering the author is herself a woman. This dissapointed me a little, because even though it is not a children's book, I know that many youngsters do pick up fantasy novels to read; I was among them. (Maybe there should be some kind of rating system for books like on computer games and movies and cds) However, there was no real strong language. I really don't have that much to say...to sum up, if you want a sex-riddled but fast paced and decently fun book, pick this one up. Don't be expecting large amounts of sword and sworcery though, as you won't find them. The characters are pretty believable, although they don't grow much.
P.S. -- I almost forgot about the archbishop! An excellent character. Always sampling some new and exotic food, torturing his servant with tedious tasks, and concocting new schemes and plots to get him ahead in the world. A wonderful character. Also look out for Bodger and Grift.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2004
J.V. Jones knows how to give the character's depth, which was shown quite well in The Baker's Boy. I was able to relate to and enjoy some of the characters, thus allowing me to feel their pain, sorrow, happiness, and every other emotion expressed.

Jack is an apprentice to a baker. He has grown up with little knowledge of his parents, and is treated, by the people he works with, with disdain. His journey does not begin until he turns back time, catching the eye of an evil sorcerer, Baralis.

Tawl is a knight with a distressing past. He has obtained two of the three circles needed to become a full Knight of Valdis. The two are tatooed on his arm with an interesting mark through them. To obtain the third circle, he is sent to a wise man who needs to find a boy, an unusual boy.

Melli is the daughter of the richest noble in the Four Kingdoms and has been arranged to marry Prince Kylock of the Four Kingdoms. Although, there is something about him that she does not like and decides to run away.

Melli and Jack meet up once they have both run away and become two extremely close friends through all of their trials and tribulations. J.V. Jones writes from all perspectives, both good and bad, so you are allowed some insight into the evil sorcerer's mind, along with Tawl's, Jack's, and Melli's.

The only problem I found with the book was that there was no ending. The book felt like it just stopped without any big bang and some hint towards the future. I probably wouldn't have read this book if it wasn't for the fact that the other two in the series were so highly praised. So, if you can get through this one then you will be pleasantly suprised with the next two.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2002
"Baker's Boy" kicks off the exciting, "Book of Words" trilogy. These are JV Jones first published books and already she had penned down all that we as fantasy lovers enjoy most about our genre.
Picturesque settings, dangerous cities, noble and mysterious heroes, three-dimensional villains, plotting royalty, charismatic rogues, and it's all seasoned with just the right amount of sorcery.
I was introduced to JV Jones with "A Cavern of Black Ice" which I enjoyed so much that I found myself reading all her books.
Jones has an unsurpassed story-enhancing gift for detail that many writers over-look. Lovable peasants cook up mouth-watering meals in their cozy little cottages. Rowdy back-street taverns make you thirsty for a cold-one. Two-fisted action brings to mind Robert E. Howard's stories (which for me, like many others, were our first introduction to fantasy). There isn't a dull moment in this trilogy. Even the steamy love-scenes kept me hooked (that's something I thought I'd never say). They burn with passion but never cross the line.
Jones creates a real depth in all the characters, even the most insignificant. Those of honor can be guilty of very grave actions and the most despicable can, at times, show genuine kindness. Like in all of Jones's works, these stories have many incidences of charity from strangers, which is almost unheard of in the genre.
I noted none of the writing flaws that most new authors are guilty of and JV Jones stories are only getting better. With her only having five books out so far ( "The Book of Words" trilogy, "The Barbed Coil", and "Cavern of Black Ice", the first of "Sword of Shadows" trilogy) its been thrilling to follow this writers promising career.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2009
A thoroughly enjoyable fantasy adventure from J.V.Jones. This book, the first of a trilogy, was penned in the mid 90's. I came across it after having read the author's more recent 'Ice' novels.

In many ways this earlier effort, although not quite as well written*, is more enjoyable to read than the more recent "Ice" series. This story flows a little better and the mood and geographical surroundings are not so bleak and dark as Jones' latest effort.

This is the story of Jack who is an apprentice to the castle baker. But unbeknown to Jack, he has some magical abilities that he is unaware of, but soon to discover; abilities and powers that are jealously coveted by others. Throw in some clandestine plotting, interesting quests and some flirty romancing and the real tale of 'The Baker's Boy' unfolds. In addition, there are several other characters with side stories that are just as intriguing as Jack's, and that are of course, remotely related.

Conclusion:
A great novel; a well written and captivating fantasy adventure. I'm looking forward to the next 2 installments of this trilogy. Easily 5 Stars.

Ray Nicholson

*P.S.
The one thing I did notice was that although Jones' story telling has remained first rate covering the span from this initial book to the more recent series, the quality of the prose in the 'Ice' has improved from this earlier work...let me explain...some sentences in this initial book have a short, abrupt quality to them, resulting in almost a 'bullet' like, point by point effect. And although this doesn't detract from the magical tale that Jones has to tell us, it just doesn't read as 'smoothly as the more recent 'Ice' books. However overall, this is a minor complaint.
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