Negative Review of "The Bone Sword"

I was just surfing the web today when I came across this negative review of my book "The Bone Sword," and I'm curious to hear some responses to this review.  Naturally, nobody likes to read anything negative about their writing, but by the time you've gotten a book published, you're pretty much used to it.  I've really never heard any fairy tale about a writer who wrote something and submitted it only to have it be accepted by the first publishing house that looked at it, and then had it go on to win every award and gain the respect and admiration of every single reader who picked it up.

That's simply not going to happen folks.

The reason is actually a blessing in disguise.  People are different and diverse (and the world would be VERY boring if they weren't).  The things you write CAN'T please everybody, because EVERYBODY is looking for something totally different.

That being said, I believe everyone is entitled to his/her opinion.  In reading this review, although it makes a big show of being critical of everything from the cover to the opening map, I believe this reviewer secretly enjoyed "The Bone Sword."  Here's a quote from the review:

It’s a bit of a curate’s egg of a book, though; I was never in any danger of not finishing it, and not just because I didn’t want to miss the next nugget of appallingness. The plot is basic and entirely unoriginal, but serviceable and fairly well paced, and the themes the book poses (how much loyalty do you owe to an organization that doesn’t repay it? When do you have to take a stand?) are good ones.

It kind of makes me laugh to read that since the reviewer is so focused on injecting negativity that he can't realize that what he's saying is essentially positive.  But phrases like "I was never in any danger of not finishing it" are encouraging.  Honestly, if I HATE a book, I can't finish it.  Simple as that.  There are books that I have finished and not liked...and there are books that I have devoured and not liked (The Da Vinci Code for example).

In terms of plot, certainly, I wasn't attempting to write a plot-centered book.  I'm more interested in the new themes and characters that I can hang off that plot, and this reviewer writes it's "serviceable and fairly well paced, and the themes the book poses are good ones."

You know, one time I was sitting in a college class and my professor handed back an essay on which I'd received a 28 of 30.  My girlfriend at the time also got her paper back, and she'd received a 30 out of 30.  However, earlier in the class, the professor had made a transparency of an essay to use as an example of how a good essay should look, and for that he had picked my essay.  It struck me as funny that he found enough errors in my essay to drop it to a 28, but some part of him made him pick that essay over the one he had deemed to be a 30/30.

No, I don't think "The Bone Sword" is a perfect book, but I think it is successful at what it is.  First and foremost, people are going to be able to read it from cover to cover (which should be your number one priority because there are TONS of books out there that are impossible to read).  Second, you're going to find that it's a familiar style plot which will provide you with some reference points in the kind of world that I like to create.  I plan on getting a little more radical in terms of plot and character development in the sequels, but you just can't jump out of the gate like that (or nobody's going to accept your work for publication).

Anyway, I'm glad this reviewer shared his thoughts.  I'm going to take a couple of his comments with me and try to improve things.  What do y'all think?


  1. Well, I haven't read your book yet, but I'm absolutely impressed that you put this up on your blog and you're so positive about it! It really shows how much faith you have in your own work, and it's a professional attitude toward publishing. I've had some negative reviews of Cinders, but they were also mixed with positive feedback, which is nice. My experience has shown that any review that is completely 100% negative usually isn't credible. This guy says some positive things in here, you're right, and just so you know, my husband has your book on the top of his reading list right now. :)

  2. Thanks Michelle!
    The way I look at it, I'm more likely to buy a book based on a bad review than a good review, so maybe this guy did me a favor. When I'm on Amazon or something, I always read the 1 and 2 star reviews and ignore the 5 star ones :)

    It's like they say, there's no such thing as bad press!

  3. Well, I DO like the 5 star ones, too. :)

  4. I've promised myself that I won't read reviews. Michelle scoffed at my ignorance, but I have to try.

  5. Did I scoff? Hah, well, I guess we'll see what happens. Sometimes they are impossible to ignore, and you'll definitely want to read the positive ones.

  6. Honestly, I don't feel a huge need to read reviews either. I sort of shrug off the good ones and am bothered by the bad ones so it's a no win situation.

    In writing, you just have to find the 1,000 or 20,000, or 2,000,000 people that like your style and write for them. Everybody else is clutching some version of "The Elements of Style" and is going to nit pick every diversion you make from the "established" form.

    So, it's probably smart to endeavor not to read reviews. But when somebody puts one right in front of your's hard not to.

    By the everybody at Rhemalda required to be named Argyle?

  7. Awesome attitude, Walter. I dread the negative reviews but I, too, will try to put it in perspective. I write about what I like and figure there must be someone else who likes what I like so I am writing for that person (hopefully 2 people;) if it is any consolation, I enjoyed your book. It is a fast and entertaining read. You are inspiring in your handling of this review.

  8. Thanks Doug! I appreciate it. We all dislike negative reviews...but hey, even "The Catcher in the Rye" got bad reviews when it came out. If a book that good has its critics, then I guess we're all going to have them!

  9. The review itself was one of the most unprofessional I've read in a while. Not only was it grieviously unbalanced, it childishly scrutinized elements of the novel that have little to do with the story itself. It sounded like a teenager with a macbook, pounding out a random series of sentences to attach to a grammar asignment in school. You know the sort, "write a sentence containing the word exile" and so you pen some absurd bit about an elephant and cheese, throwing on the required word at the end.

    Clearly, she didn't care for the novel. She should have left it there and not torn apart every element of it she could identify. It was a lengthy, rambling, poor excuse for a post.

    She could have at least had the decency to be entertaining in her sarcasm.

    Wait...I think she might have actually tried that.

    Reviewer fail...

  10. lol. I love your last post on the issue. It leaves off such a powerful end to the conversation, until my little unpublished self came along. >.< Anyway, Walter, I admire the way you approach this to, but you know that from Rhemalda's Public Forum. :D I only hope that I can be the same when I get published.

  11. It shows great courage, awareness, and maturity to cover the good with the bad. Even if the review was 100% off the mark, Walter did an outstanding thing by highlighting it with the same level of attention he does to everything else. By responding back, in a professional but disagreeable way, the author shows how you can increase potential readership even from a negative review. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I liked the review (more on that in a minute) but I liked your response to it even better! You handled that with a huge amount of maturity, professionalism and tact.
    Now, why did I like the review? She pointed out some things she liked. The choice of Malik, she liked Jasmine, the plot was serviceable (I've heard plots called a lot worse things). She finished the book! The liked the Camden Guard, though took issue only with the name.
    I thought the bit about picking on the map was a bit much...the map doesn't have to be a work of fine just needs to show you where stuff happens.
    She did provide three nuggets that I thought any of us authors could probably strengthen.
    1) She mentioned some passive voice stuff...everybody makes a few errors with stuff like this. You're right, none of us meet up to Strunk and White, but we could almost always write a bit tighter.
    2) She pointed out some areas of cliche. Hard to avoid in fantasy, but always worth realizing when you are relying on it. Sometimes you have to. Sometimes you can depart and sometimes you can put your own spin on it. Helpful though to know how it comes across to an unsympathetic reader.
    3) She talked about the cover. Readers buy all too often by the cover. It's good to get an objective view on cover art. If cover art reminds people of books they have read that were less than stellar, then they go into your book with some predisposed ideas. Not the authors fault, but good information nonetheless.

    How would I take it this review? I would hope to take it just like you did. With gratitude that someone read it and then try and glean the positive elements I could. Then I would take a deep breath and move on with my writing career.
    By the way, this review actually makes me want to read your book. It sounds like a cool storyline.

  13. Thanks Joel! I agree with you 100% If you decide to pick up the book, don't hesitate to write me with your review (good or bad)!

  14. Walter, you've done exactly the right thing. Read the negative with the positive and take what you want from both. Of course you're going to get readers who don't like your work - that's why we read books, to find authors we like. No one likes everything and it would be highly suspicious to find a book that got NO bad reviews. But to write such a contradictory review shows lack of conviction and writing talent in the reviewer, in my opinion. So I don't think you have anything to worry about. Kudos to you for using this review to further promote your book!