DNF Q&A: The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Title: The Winds of Khalakovo

Author: Bradley P. Beaulieu

Series: Lays of Anuskaya #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 1/5 stars [DNF]

The Overview: Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future. When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo… –Goodreads

The Q&A:

Inspired by Nikki at ThereWereBooksInvolved, this is my favorite way to discuss DNFs. As my list of “amazing books to read” continues to grow, I find I have less and less time and patience to devote to the books I’m just not enjoying. I never would have considered DNFing a book ten years ago, but then I came across a quote, “Read the best books first, for you might not have the chance to read them all,” and have since made it my personal mantra. So let the Q&A begin!

Did you really give The Winds of Khalakovo a chance?

More so than I normally do for a DNF – I made it to about the 50% mark before finally throwing in the towel. It had a lot of potential, so I kept hoping it would get better.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre before?

Yes! Arguably many of my reviews are skewed in favor of books with strong world-building elements. I’m always drawn to the ones with exotic covers (to varying success, as many have amazing covers with text that just doesn’t quite measure up to those promises). Here are a few books with awesome covers that actually panned out (don’t judge me on the Glenda larke, haha. I loved the variety in flora and fauna it promised):

While I think the basic premise of Khalakovo was original and interesting, it lost me on execution.

Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

Yes, as mentioned I was expecting rich world-building, trading politics, and lots of adventure and excitement! It ultimately delivered on none of those things by the time I put it down.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

When it was clear none of that dynamic politicking, fun adventures, and epic world building was happening, I contented myself with just diving into this character-driven novel. The trouble is, even with characters as really the ONLY focus of the book, they were surprisingly thin.

I believe part of the problem was in the structure of the plot. It’s seemingly designed to keep a lot of important info away from the reader in favor of some reveals later (I’m assuming the payoff is there even though I lost patience before making it that far). The author didn’t allow the reader to see what motivated any of the characters, save the main bloke. Nor what connected one character to the other (we knew they were important, but never why). And, essentially, why the reader should care about these people and what they’ve got going on. After the umpteenth intimate dialogue scene between two characters without me having any more info than I started with, I’d had enough.

The writing style was also unnecessarily clunky. The author was clearly going for a particular style of formal communication between characters (possibly to help establish his world-building), but for me the formality, even in the thought-patterns of the characters, was excessively wordy, effectively keeping them feeling like caricatures rather than real, relatable people.

There was also a lack of contractions in the text (like can’t and wouldn’t) that contributed to the story feeling drawn-out. I realize some authors prefer the sound of their story when all words are fully written out, but to me it comes across a bit condescending, reminiscent of the types of sentences in my Kindergartner’s practice reading books.

I would argue that adjusting the language and cutting out all of the unnecessary words would’ve reduced the book by about 20%, making the pacing much more enjoyable, and increasing connection to the characters tenfold. But that’s if it were my book. Beaulieu’s success in the fantasy market proves he’s doing something right. But it’s clear his tastes and mine do not align in this instance. I had trouble with the writing in the Twelve Kings of Sharakhai as well, but gave the benefit of the doubt that it might have been more a pacing issue due to the abundant flashbacks in that story. Now I’m wondering in hindsight if my weird disconnection to that book had anything to do with the the basic writing itself…. We’ll see, if I ever make time to reread and continue that one.

Was there anything you liked about The Winds of Khalakovo?

What world-building their was (air ships!!) was a ton of fun even if it wasn’t prevalent. The action scenes were exciting (all two pages of them between every 50 of dialogue). And I still really loved the overall conflict of this “blighted” land introduced very early on in the book – it gave the main character a personal investment in the issue, which was pretty cool. However, at 50% he had made exactly 0% progress on trying to find answers.

Would you read anything else by this author?

Yes, I will probably read his novella The Burning Light and also reread the Twelve Kings of Sharakhai with the intention of getting further in that series. Atm I’ve no interest in continuing this one.

So you DNF’d the book – would you still recommend it?

Surprisingly, yes. The thick language probably wouldn’t bother people as much as it did me. Some people like those types of plots where nothing is made easy for the reader. And the overall atmosphere was cool enough that I think it would keep more patient readers engaged, especially if they like the characters. It wasn’t poorly written, it was just written completely opposite from everything I personally look for in my books.

by Niki Hawkes


The Obsessive Bookseller’s Q&A with Anthony Ryan!!

The Obsessive Bookseller’s Q&A with Anthony Ryan!!

First off, I’d like to thank Anthony Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions, and the publicists at Berkley Publishing Group & Daw for making it happen! I was so excited for this opportunity, as Anthony Ryan has quickly become one of my favorite authors. My questions may not be the most original, or even the most compelling, but they are the things I most wanted to know about this author and his Draconis Memoria series. Hopefully you’ll find his answers as delightful as I did. :)

1. Where did you get the idea for Draconis Memoria?

The inspiration for the series comes from a wide variety of sources, but most especially my reading of 19th century history, particularly the economics of colonialism and the industrial revolution.

2. Which character’s perspective did you enjoy writing the most?

In all honesty I like them all equally for different reasons. Lizanne is a lot of fun because she’s always in motion, once she has a goal there’s no stopping her achieving it. Clay has a rouge-ish charm and a particular way of talking that I always enjoy. Hilemore lets me play out my military adventure fantasies, even though I know I’d probably be pretty useless in a real war.

3. How many books will be in the series?

The Draconis Memoria is a trilogy, so one more after The Legion of Flame. The third volume has been written and is with my editor. No decision on what the title will be yet.

4. Do you have any other projects on the horizon?

I’m currently enjoying some downtime but I’m certainly not short of ideas, at the last count there are about fourteen novels in my head waiting to be written. I intend to return to the Raven’s Shadow world at some point, but can’t say when just yet.

5. What does your writing process look like?

I try to stick to a routine as I find forming habits is the best way to ensure a high productivity rate. I start in the late morning by going over the words I wrote the day before which I find useful in ensuring the prose in the first draft is of a decent standard. I then write in 30 to 40 minute sessions throughout the day, drinking a large amount of tea in the process. I usually aim for 2000 words a day but don’t always get there, although for my last book I was averaging 3000 for the final month of writing.

6. Any advice for aspiring writers?

Just the usual: Don’t give up and read a lot. I’d also advise any complete beginners not to get too hung up on word counts. When you’re starting it out it’s more important to concentrate on finishing what you write, however long it takes.

7. Outside of your own, what are some of your favorite books?

I’m a big fan of David Gemmell and his ‘Wolf in Shadow’ is probably my favourite. Robin Hobb is another fantasy author I’ve always admired, particularly her Assassin books. I also read a lot of crime fiction in addition to fantasy, especially James Ellroy, his novel ‘The Big Nowhere’ is brilliant piece of work. Recently I’ve been catching up on Stephen King’s output and thought the Bill Hodges trilogy, which starts with ‘Mr Mercedes’, was terrific.

I still have a US Giveaway running for Waking Fire:

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The publisher has graciously offered up a paperback copy of The Waking Fire for me to give away to one lucky US resident (I’m very sorry to all of my international followers – you guys are important to me too!). To enter, just take a moment to fill out this rafflecopter giveaway form, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway Ended – winner has been contacted. :)

US Residents only, please.
I didn’t think this needed to be said, but if you lie about your friendship/following status on any of your entries, all of your entries will be disqualified. #sorrynotsorry
The giveaway will run until Midnight on Thursday, July 6, 2017 MST.

by Niki Hawkes