Why Brian S. Pratt Sells So Well

Fantasy writer Brian S. Pratt is one of the most popular authors on Smashwords. Yet, while he generally gets good reviews overall, many people have panned his novels for their bad grammar, poor character revelation, and skimpy plots. (I believe that he had cleaned up his spelling atrocities before I discovered him.) I’ve read only the first book in his lengthy Morcyth Saga series, but unless he has improved dramatically, I have to agree with his critics. To make matters worse, his writing style is clumsy, repetitive, and lacks imagination. With all this going against him, you have to ask the obvious question:

The Unsuspecting Mage - Cover

Pratt’s heroes have sound values and genuine courage.

Why does he sell so well?

To answer that question we have to start with another: who reads Pratt’s novels, anyway? I think it is safe to assume that his audience comes mainly from the young. These readers, while enthusiastic, are not sophisticated; they lack the broader reading experience needed to tell the difference between a well-written book and a clunker. However, that’s not the same as saying they are stupid. We humans are born with an instinctive feel for story. No one – sophisticated or unsophisticated – wades through a full-length novel unless they gain some genuine satisfaction from doing so.

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Review: Rebellion by Rachel Cotterill

This review was originally posted in the Smashwords and Goodreads pages for Rebellion.

Rebellion - Cover

This uninspiring book cover hides an exciting adventure fantasy with a female hero and a martial arts theme.

In spite of the shared surname, Rachel Cotterill is not a relative. I was attracted to her work by the novelty of seeing my own (rare here in Canada) name on a published fantasy. My curiosity overcame my aversion to the book’s horrible cover. Yes, I know it looks like some dreary leftist literary novel about Hispanic poverty in the American South-West, but the book is actually a lively fantasy adventure with a mythical setting, an interesting female main character (named simply Eleanor), and a strong martial-arts theme.

Much of the novel’s abundant action takes place at a kind of Hogwarts for assassins. These assassins resemble medieval knife-wielding poison-toting secret agents who venture out on dangerous missions in defence of a shadowy Empire that straddles a forested archipelago. Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice comes to mind. If you liked Hobb’s book you will probably enjoy Rebellion as well. The story moves along quickly and fight scenes are abundant. The knife fights are especially good, as are the tense climbing episodes where Eleanor – never short on courage and endurance – scales prison towers or castle walls with only the scantiest of toe and finger holds. Weaponry includes throwing stars and these add a pleasing ninja touch to the young assassins. There are imaginative puzzles to be solved, unusual competitions to be won, occasional glances at Eleanor’s ambiguous feelings towards a certain young man, and for good measure, some deep-seated grudges among the students, which mean scores to be settled. These elements provide more than enough variety to ensure a good read.

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