Friday, January 21, 2011

REVIEW: "The Eye of the Idol" by Paul Dayton

The Eye of the Idol. An incredible and mesmerizing artifact that has touched the lives of many. An artifact with a story and a history- cursed, perhaps, as those who touch it seem to suffer the consequences. North Korea on the warpath, a luxury ship sunk in the early 1900s, a thief forced to execute his own wife; all seemingly unrelated elements that are somehow connected in the most unusual ways.

Blending fact with fiction, Paul Dayton weaves a tale of intrigue that spans centuries. The author pulls seemingly unrelated pieces of history together in a fictional tale fueled by actual truths. I thought the concept was really interesting, and I was pulled in by the description. I was envisioning an exciting tale filled with historical facts and fascinating ties. I wanted to be drawn into the story, to escape into a fascinating tale of adventure. I really wanted to love this book.

While I was interested in the historical details included in the book, I just couldn't immerse myself in the story. I was confused by some of the exchanges and events in the story; perhaps because the characters all sounded the same to me. The conversations between characters didn't ring true, and I felt the characters were mostly one-dimensional. A lot of historical context gets explained by way of conversation between several RCMP officers, and, although the facts themselves were of interest, the conversation relaying those facts was dry. Adding to my confusion, there were several sentences with entire words missing, and the punctuation (including quotation marks) was incomplete in places-- this story would really benefit from additional editing. Some of the transitions to different time periods in history were clearly defined by chapters and headings, others were not defined at all, leaving me to wonder where in time I was. I felt the characters and the connections needed some more polish and substance. I think the potential is there for this story to be a riveting adventure, and the author has really done his research into these historical events, but the execution fell flat for me.

In the beginning of the story, there were numbers (but not hyperlinks) that I assumed corresponded to endnotes. Later in the text, there were hyperlinks that led to websites with more information. When I got to the endnotes after the epilogue, the notes had no numbers attached. It wasn't easy to see which note went with which item in the story. As I read most of this story on my Sony PRS-505, the endnotes and the hyperlinks were useless to me. I could click on the hyperlinks on my Droid X, and that was nice, but for ereaders with no touchscreen capability, it doesn't serve much purpose. I wish the author would have chosen either endnotes or hyperlinks: I vote hyperlinks, even though I couldn't access them on my 505, as they are less obtrusive. Endnotes make me feel I'm reading a history book, and this was meant to be a fictional tale with historical facts embedded. If I'm reading a novel, I don't want to be flipping back and forth (a frustrating task on an ereader, in particular). A hyperlink I can ignore or follow (if my device supports it).

In short, a great concept with real possibility, but it just didn't do it for me. Add in the need for further editing, and I gave this:

2.5 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Update: The author is working to hammer out the kinks I noted. I have a deep admiration for authors who take feedback seriously and take those thoughts into account. Some of the issues I noted with endnotes and such are to do with what's allowed by the publishing platform.

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