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Customer Review

55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really Good Concept; Sub-Par Execution, January 16, 2011
This review is from: The Weight of Blood (The Half-Orcs Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
The Weight of Blood is the first book in David Dalglish's Half-Orcs series which, to the best of my knowledge, is intended to be a five-part series. I picked up the Weight of Blood as part of an omnibus set that included the first three books in Dalglish's series. The series follows the travails of two half-orc brothers, Harruq and Qurrah, as they are caught up in a dark wizard's plot to start a war between the humans and the elves of the land. As opposed to typical fantasy literature, however, the protagonists are not, at least so far, the good guys. Rather, they assist the dark wizard in bloodshed, war, and chaos. In fact, this is a brutal novel, rife with visceral slaughter and carnage. If you are uncomfortable with gore and violence, don't read this book.

As the title of my review suggests, the idea behind the Half-Orcs is pretty good. The problem is in the execution. Granted, the Weight of Blood is the first book in the series (and a relatively short one at that), so these problems may, and hopefully will, be ameliorated by future volumes. Dalglish has created a very interesting world. The problem is that he doesn't really explore it at all. The events of the novel, for the most part, take place in two cities, neither of which are really fleshed out at all. The world's history is explained in bits and pieces, but not thoroughly enough to give the world realistic feel. Time devoted to world building in the sequel novel would be time very well spent.

Further, the basic plot structure is rather appealing. Yes, Harruq and Qurrah are not good people. So if you only like reading about people you can really cheer for, than this probably isn't your type of novel. Harruq is developed very well throughout the novel. Qurrah, however, appears to be pretty much developed by the start of the novel, and the author provides us with snippets of the events that molded him in the form of flashbacks or lengthy explanatory dialogue. The main problem I have is that, when you have a novel that focuses primarily on one or two protagonists, those characters need to be likeable. Now when I say likeable, I don't mean that they have to be great guys that you idolize and cheer for. But they need to be characters that you want to read about. They need to be interesting. I thought that Harruq was a very interesting character, even if his development was someone predictable. But Qurrah was a very dull character. He is immediately unlikeable, has little personality, and his part of the plot arc was, at least in my opinion, by far the least interesting. Coupled with the fact that there is a dearth of substantial secondary characters, I found myself uninterested in large chunks of the novel. The first secondary character of import is introduced about a third of the way through, and doesn't play a serious role until more than halfway through. Once she became more important, however, the story became more interesting.

From a creative standpoint, as I said, the novel is pretty well conceived, even if the world and characters need to be substantially fleshed out. The weaker aspect of the novel, however, is in the quality of the writing itself. Dalglish typically writes in very short sentences which, at times, can be a major strength, particularly when trying to establish a fast or frenzied pace. But the prose did not flow at all. The sentences were very choppy. Reading the book was kind of like sitting in bumper to bumper traffic: it's getting you where you want to go, but there's a lot of starting and stopping before you get there. Dalglish demonstrates much greater proficiency when writing dialogue than when writing narrative. Finally, the novel felt very immature at times. I don't mean necessarily juvenile, because the themes of the novel are very mature. But at times it felt as though the novel were written by a young adult. Some of the scenes were simply silly (and not in a humorous way), sometimes the dialogue was laughably cheesy. And there was never a single moment where I was impressed by the quality of Dalglish's writing.

That being said, the most important thing I can say about a first novel is whether it leaves me wanting more, whether I want to pick up another book in the series or an unrelated book by the same author. I can honestly say that I intend to continue the Half-Orc series (particularly because I purchased the first three volumes in omnibus form). Dalglish has something that cannot be easily learned or developed: creativity. His weaknesses, however, primarily poor technical writing and insufficient world, plot and character development, can be improved through experience and practice. In other words, if Dalglish develops sufficiently as a writer, if his writing skills can catch up to his creativity, he could produce some excellent titles in the future.

I'm giving the David Dalglish's Weight of Blood three stars, although I think it more fairly deserves 2.5. The Weight of Blood was a quick, entertaining read, but the execution left an awful lot to be desired. If you are looking for a quick read to fill in the gap between major author releases, or if you're simply looking for something different than mainstream fantasy, pick up the Weight of Blood. It's far from perfect, but it's worth your time.
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Initial post: Dec 8, 2012 3:57:47 PM PST
What an excellent, intelligent review.
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