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Beacon's Spark (Potomac Shadows) (Volume 1) Paperback – August 27, 2016
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Jim Johnson was born about the same time Apollo XII landed on the moon and shares a birthday with the Kindle. He is the author of the Pistols and Pyramids weird western series and the Potomac Shadows urban fantasy series. He's also written a bunch of other stuff in and around the SFF genres and pen and paper RPGs. In rare moments when he's not writing or publishing, Jim plays board games and card games, eats more pizza than he really should, and makes a brilliant bowl of popcorn. He also likes to live dangerously by running last click. Jim lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, son, and three cats. You can learn more about him and his writing at www.SCRIBEINETI.com.
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Top customer reviews
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I won't give out more of the plot because you really need to read this one yourself.
Something is eating souls.
Someone now has special powers.
A young woman grows up and starts to take charge of her life.
The beginning of a story arc not to be missed. I really want to see where this one goes from here.
But the characters are just so flat and unrealistic. The main black male character is at once thuggish, ignorant of how to deal with street matters, and absolutely suicidally willing to involve a white girl in said street matters. That is literally the best way to get himself killed by cops. Just having white people in the area makes "the street hot." Putting a white girl in a potentially violent situation is most likely to result in the police killing every black man involved and sorting it out afterward. And he _keeps_ doing this. I've literally never known any man to ask anyone as reluctant and just plain douchey as the main character for emotional and strategic support as consistently and persistently as he does, let alone a black man doing that with a white girl who obviously isn't deigning to share useful information with him.
Which is another main aspect. All this weird stuff happens, and while the main character is worried about what the inexplicably idiotic and violent young black man will do with his newfound powers, she decides not to pass along any but the smallest drips and drabs of information out of the wealth of training she gets. She certainly doesn't try to get him a teacher, even though she has _two_. Her actions assert her supremacy by keeping him ignorant, which she openly admits is due to her fear and mistrust, even though he's done absolutely nothing but trust her implicitly. She's selfishly patronizing, enabling his poor decisions rather than empowering him. Which basically comes off as the author making her a Mary Sue.
Her girlfriend is a cardboard cutout, as are the detective and main antagonist. She has a ton of roommates who mostly don't add to the plot and aren't given any significant characteristics beyond one being mean for no apparent reason. The only characters beyond the main one that are more than predictable stereotypes are her teachers. The ones she selfishly keeps to herself, so we only see them interact with her. The author develops
their characters as little as possible, and has them affect as little of the other characters and events as possible.
The only one interacting with all of these characters is the main protagonist, and she's whiny, insecure, aimless, self-centered, and just plain boring.
But all of that might have been bearable if so many of the ideas she comes up with didn't have her main teacher responding, "Of course not. This is real life, not fantasy." Repeatedly. Which would have worked really great if in point of fact those ideas were the stupid ones that are unrealistic regardless of magic system. Like, of course people have complex goals, or of course you can't solve most major problems by just hitting someone, or of course having a new skill that most people can't even know about won't fix any of your employment or income problems. Nope, the villain has simple goals, problems are solved with simple violence, and her main teacher has indicated that she can get very well paid for being a psychic superhero. Her "stupid" ideas are ones that aren't in anyway stupid given the magic system.
No, I don't even think that's the major issue. I think the major issue beyond the characters is the plot. It's basically just the protagonist and antagonist fighting again and again. The only benefit of the first encounter not being the major fight is that the protagonist gets to power up. The protagonist acquires new skills, but doesn't seem to learn much about her own character. I've read 20 page short stories events that drove more development.
A critic I once watched made a really important point about action scenes that I think can apply to this whole book. He said that good action advances the plot and character exposition and development as much as a good conversation. It shouldn't just be "they fight." This book is a series of "she trains" and "they fight."
This wasn't nearly the worst book I've ever read. The writing was good enough for me to finish (which a whole lot of books on Kindle just plain aren't). It didn't have the worst characters I've ever read, let alone the most offensive. Mostly I either have to finish a series or can't get through all the typos, terrible word choices, and horrible story structure of a single book in the first place. This book has most of the elements necessary to keep me reading. But I find the main protagonist so very boring, and the author seems to enable rather than challenge her. She's active, but so much is just handed to her. And the author wrote multiple indications that even more will be handed to her in the future.
The two teachers are the most interesting characters, but they're essentially passive. They explain things to the protagonist, who then can immediately and without practice do what they tell her about.
I think that this book would be OK for someone more interested in magical fights than in character development or story arc. And I really hope that the author gets better at both.
Thanks to the author for the e-book which I read voluntarily. This exact review will be posted on both Amazon and Goodreads.