Several weeks ago, I met a friend who I hadn’t seen in 14 years. “I thought you would have produced one by now,” she said to me. Ah, the dreaded ‘fruit of the loins’ question. While I racked my brain for a reasonable explanation (my astrologer told me that I would die a most hideous death the day my progeny saw the light of day etc.), my friend interrupted me, “of all the people I know, I thought you’d be the first to write a book.” Saved by the book. “I am sure you have plenty of stories,” she adds.
If writing a book was as simple as putting a story to paper, we’d all be authors. I am led to believe that publishing is in the winter of its existence. Nevertheless, the industry is more prolific than ever before in human history. Writers are seeping out of the unlikeliest places; cracks in the walls, commodes and the monotony of Texan suburbia. It’s the last of these that’s home to Michael G. Manning, a practicing pharmacist and avowed fantasy and science fiction reader.
A story, however engaging (and by this I am not saying The Blacksmith’s Son is engaging), is a wasted effort if it isn’t matched by an appropriate style. The Blacksmith’s Son is no different from the hundreds of fantasy books out in the market with a predictable plot with all the regular devices that writers of the genre can’t do without; a male protagonist, his chums, faux-medieval setting, magic and indomitable bad guys. But, Manning shuns the crowd and takes his novel to interesting depths in the ocean of mediocre writing.
The style is so immature that I wondered if the author had some help from his two kids. Manning relies heavily on an explanation driven narrative instead of focussing on dialogue. The story is narrated at times through the first person perspective of Mordecai, Manning’s smug hero and at other times in third person from the points of view of other characters. The result is extremely confusing and crude. The language is bizarrely anachronistic. His poorly developed characters implore each other with ‘gonnas’, complain about hangovers and order room service in a medieval castle. And is this meant to be teen or young adult fiction because ye olde rape scene that the plot seems to hinge on is pretty graphic.
Story and style are the yin and yang of fiction. This is Manning’s first book so I suppose some of the blame also lies with his editors for not giving him adequate guidance. My advice to him (if he cares about his readers) is to clean up his language and eliminate these stylistic flaws from the next book in the Mageborn series.