Desolate – Amy Miles (Netgalley)

I’m afraid I didn’t get terribly far in this book. Even after so many books which have done so much to change my opinion, I still don’t like the present tense. It fights me as a reader. It’s – well, it’s like so many other things – done well, it’s irreplaceable, and done badly it’s unreadable.

So that was my first negative reaction. The book begins after something terrible has happened at a wedding – and it’s not a good sign that what I was thinking in the midst of blood and carnage was “a white wedding in 1690?” (Because they weren’t, usually.) A few minutes later is mention of “the clapboard homes nearby”… I don’t know. My immediate association with “clapboard” is New England, but who knows? Maybe it’s plausible in 1690 Romania. Unfortunately, my trust in the author had already deteriorated by that point, and I didn’t buy it.

I’ve said before that if I highlight a lot a book it’s either a really good thing or a really bad thing – either I’m expressing appreciation for phrasing or I’m collecting errors. Here’s some of what I highlighted in the small amount I managed to read of Desolate, and I don’t think it’s hard to tell which was the case here:

“My leg muscles coil and I am sent careening backward”

“A rusty nail impales through Petru’s shoulder”

“My bronze hairs feel heavy laden”

“stunted horror”

Then of course there were the outright errors “the ringing of the bells that peeled” and “leaching blood” and such. The narrator mentions feeling “the dull ache of remorse”, when there is absolutely no reason for her to feel remorse. I think the author might have meant grief or mourning or something like that; remorse was what I felt over choosing this book on Netgalley. The beginning was so unrelentingly grim, yet almost comically badly written, that I kept thinking of all the other books sitting waiting on my Kindle and just couldn’t spend any more time on it.

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