Harbinger is the first novel by Shea Ford, and it’s a decent fantasy romp. Ford definitely has promise, and I will likely try some of her future books.
However, Harbinger itself was just shy of excellent. I enjoyed reading the book, but there were several things that made me less than enthusiastic:
- The main character is constantly pushing aside his love interest for very little reason. Granted, his upbringing was not conducive to a positive self-image but come on. It’s one thing to have a character act like an idiot and then learn from it. It’s another to have a main character act like an idiot over and over to the point that you realize that it’s not the character’s fault, it’s the need for a plot. Not cool.
- Although a big conflict in the book was cleared up at the end, everyone started off on the first steps to the Next Big Thing, clearly marking this as the beginning of a series. Leaving your readers wanting more is one thing, but this was suspiciously close to a “to be continued.” And there is nothing I loathe more than stories whose authors don’t have the discipline to keep things contained.
- The author falls afoul of what I like to think of as the Eddings Race Fallacy: that is, there are several distinct lands whose people are largely homogeneous (extremely physically homogeneous, although Ford manages to avoid the emotional homogeneity that plagues Eddings), despite the lands being relatively small and close together. Each land is additionally dominated by a single geographical feature (“the mountains”, “the forest”, “the sea”, “the desert”, etc.). Although it is certainly possible to distill things down to make a point, for this novel it just feels like laziness on the author’s part. The characters are complex and interesting enough that the simplicity of the world stands out badly.
All that said, on the continuum of self-published novels that I’ve read recently (and even for some professionally published novels), Harbinger was actually a bright spot. I’m not sure if I will continue with the series once Ford publishes more, but I did enjoy my time with the book and I really liked the characters (main character’s juvenile “she’ll never love me, so I must push her away!” actions aside). The copy editing was also very good; I vaguely recall one obvious mis-spelling, but that’s on par with a lot of traditionally published fiction. If you are bored and don’t mind mild cliff-hangers, you could spend a couple bucks in a far worse way.
The plot summary contains spoilers! Show it anyway.