Self Publishing and Disappointment: a review of Kris Kramer’s The Wind Riders

One of the great things about the internet is the democratization of media. No matter what you do, (write books, draw comics, make music, etc) there’s a place for you to share it, and even try to make some money off of it.

I remain predjudiced, however, as I’ll listen to indie music all day long, but when it comes to independent/self published books? I’m far, far more leery. I think a lot of this comes from the time commitment; a band can draw me in with a three minute song, but books take much longer to enjoy.

Still, while I was at Comicpalooza last year, I picked up The Wind Riders, since the ‘publisher’ (or whatever you call a loose confederation of authors) had a booth. Support local artists, or something! Finally got around to reading it.

…and now I know why the major publishers passed on this one.

The Wind Riders is a fantasy novel about a wizard named Galen and a dude named Iago (he’s the Skyrim looking dude on the cover) who go on a quest for the magic MacGuffin crystals that are needed to make their airships fly. Now that I think of it, for a book called The Wind Riders, nobody actually rides on the wind. False advertising!

Instead, over the course of the next two hundred pages, Iago and Galen (and some other random dudes whose names I forget because they get no characterization) hike through the wilderness, have a random encounter with some trolls (which are called “Gard,” here, because this is Fantasy), get to some big city, talk to some people, and then they’re captured by the bad guys (who are called “Clerics,” because I guess Kramer thought the class was overpowered in D&D).

And that’s it.

The book just sort of ends. It’s supposed to be a cliffhanger, but the problem with a cliffhanger is one has to actually care about the characters to know what happens to them next. Not to mention the fact that the cliffhanger hinges on the fact that Iago has betrayed the Wind Riders. I’m not sure if I’m more bothered by the fact that the wind riders trusted a dude named Iago, or by Kramer being ridiculously lazy with his naming conventions.

There’s just the faintest glimmers of characterization here and there (Galen is young and inexperienced, Iago is mysterious), but most of the book seems bogged down with the minutiae of traveling overland, with a bunch of nonsense Fantasy names like “Lharsil” and “Happaran” thrown in here and there. It all comes off as terribly generic.

I suppose I’ll be unfair, and compare the book to Tolkien. Or maybe I’ll be slightly less unfair, and compare the The Wind Riders to Brooks. In both fantasy novels, the action starts off in an idyllic place that, while not our world, is identifiable enough. This eases the reader into the crazy fantasyland hijinks, showing them what’s ‘normal’ in comparison to the adventures to come. The Wind Riders doesn’t do this at all- it just throws us in like it’s the first quest of an MMO. Heck, the driving force of the plot is the fact that the Clerics have their own airship, which they use to massacre the Wind Riders- and we see all of none of this. Kramer could’ve started with a rousing, swashbuckly action scene, and instead, we get…Iago just sort of laying around being thoughtful.

Ostensibly, The Wind Riders is a Young Adult novel- I mean, that’s how they describe it on the website. However, it doesn’t really read like a Young Adult novel- there’s no love triangles, there’s not much of a dystopia, and the main character doesn’t even read as very teenager-y.

So yeah. All and all, The Wind Riders is an underwhelming book. At the very least, at least the book isn’t offensively racist or sexist or anything (even if it fails the Bedchel test pretty hard). I was even hoping for The Wind Riders to be a lot better than what it was, so I’d have a new independent author to follow…but hey, I can see why the book wasn’t picked up by anybody. It’s pretty much one of those reads that tells you everything you shouldn’t do when writing your novel. Ah well.

In any case, I’ve got a lot of cool stuff geared up for Feburary- OwlCon’s this weekend, and then there’s even a Doomsday Wrestling event at the end of the month. Stay tuned!

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