I picked up The Bonehunters, by Steven Erikson, at the library over the weekend. I try not to judge a book by its cover very often, so instead I’m going to judge this one by the first 50 pages. That’s better, right?
Within three minutes of picking up the book, a 15-letter word with an apostrophe in the middle assaulted me. Surrounding this word were multiple other apostrophe-laden words, most of them places, some of them people, all of them confusing. These words dominated the first few pages, and then left, presumably never to return.
I have a thing about apostrophes. I hate them. I hate them and everything they represent in my history of reading fantasy writing. Superfluous apostrophes are lazy Elven gibberish meant to make names sound exotic, foreign, and Elven again. Is that what they are doing here? I have no idea, honestly, I’m only 50 pages in, but I cringe every time I see a fantasy word with an apostrophe somewhere in the middle.
Why did I presume I’d never see those words again? Because, fifty pages into this book, I have changed viewpoint characters and scenes about seven times, and I have yet to return to the same character. These characters are introduced rapid fire, little to nothing said about their backstories or even their appearances, and then they are gone, leaving me flailing in a desperate attempt to figure out who that was and if it was important.
I do know their names. In fact, I know the names of everything, though I would be lying to say I remember a single one of them. The first four pages of the book are maps, covered in place names. The four pages after that are all names, names of people with a few-word descriptor after them. I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say that there are at least a hundred names on those pages. I haven’t counted, because I’m honestly still kind of stunned. Most of the scene breaks start with City, taken by Army in Year, from Army who had held it since Age through Age and Age, with a little bit of This and a whole lot of That and Whatnot and now here’s Dude, son of Dude, friend of Dude and Dude, and it goes on like this. And then they are gone and I have no idea if it’s important or not.
I’m going to read this for at least twenty more pages, as I have adopted the 100-age page count system for when to give up on a book. But I don’t expect to keep reading this after that.
It has come to my attention, thanks to reading Wikipedia, that this is book six of a series. My copy says nothing about that, anywhere on the cover or in the first few pages. I couldn’t even get a list of his other books to figure it out on my own, so I thought it might be like Discworld, where there’s an order but you can really read them by themselves as they’re all stand-alone. That still might be the case, but this is as bad an opening as I’ve seen in a long, long time.