Assassin’s Vendetta, by J. R. Urie

assassins-vendetta-by-j-r-urie coverGenre: Modern/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: No Stars!
Book Review by David Hart

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This is a first novel, published on a print-on-demand basis. Its setting is a world where magic and high tech co-exist, where vehicles are powered by magic ‘fuel-cells’, for example. A few years ago, an epidemic of a retrovirus caused some people to metamorphose into such forms as elves, orks, gargoyles etc. If at this stage you’re thinking that you’ve heard this sort of thing before, you’re right.

So the setting is all right in itself, but completely lacking in originality. Let’s try the plot. Matherion lives with his family in a drug-infested slum. His father, whose motivation is poorly explained, sees a high ranking drug dealer and decides to kill him. Though he is successful, the dealer’s brother retaliates by killing all the family bar Matherion and one of his sisters. They run away but get separated. Matherion is injured but acquires a rich protector who puts him through Assassin school. The protector’s reason for doing this makes no sense. Ten years later, Matherion qualifies top of his class, and starts killing his old enemies, who have been considerate enough not to change their habits or locations. Once he finishes them all, the story just ends, leaving two threads hanging. Perhaps feeling this was not good enough, Urie then adds another 50 pages of “What would have happened if the father hadn’t shot the dealer”. This second attempt manages to be even less interesting than the original.

So you won’t be reading this for the setting or the plot. How about for the characterization? It’s minimal, and what there is of it is poor.

So that leaves the writing, which is bad in every respect. The printing is double-spaced. There are many simple misspellings; Urie evidently couldn’t be bothered to use a spell-checker. There are a lot more simple grammatical errors: phrases like “He went to door” and “A squad will be dispatch in several minutes”. In fact there are so many of these that I wondered if English is not Urie’s first language. Not if his bio on the publisher’s website is to be believed: it says he’s a 32 year old accountant who has lived in the US almost all his life.

These sorts of errors are annoying but tolerable. Much worse is the plethora of adjectives. A noun is seldom allowed to exist in isolation; instead it has to be accompanied by at least one adjective, and usually several. And these adjectives won’t let go: once a ladder has been described as a rusty synthetic metal ladder, a rusty synthetic metal ladder it continues to be called every time it’s mentioned. The most a poor noun can hope for is slight variety: in the space of three pages a room is referred to as orangish-pink three times, pinkish-orange once and finally pinkish. This excess of description occurs all through the book.

Of course it’s not just adjectives; adverbs too are used to excess, and there is a lot of Turkey City Lexicon‘s ‘Tom Swiftly’. Another beginner’s mistake that features is ‘Brand Name Fever’: rather than a gun, it’s always a Mira 10s light automatic, or a monstrous Heckock 21G semi-automatic. Note the ‘monstrous’, one of Urie’s favorite words. Others are ‘pernicious’, ‘expeditious’ and ‘glimpse’. Unfortunately he thinks that glimpse means the same as glance, so his characters keep glimpsing over their shoulders. There are many other similar examples of words misused.

By now you probably think that I’m just being picky, no writer can be that bad. Judge a paragraph for yourselves; I’ve transcribed it accurately. Matherion is in a bank.

“Next!” Screamed the female bank teller at the third window, wearing light cheap synthetic wool outfit with glasses sat at the brim of her nose, standing one point five meters tall, and appearing to weight a hundred and ten pounds. Her gorgeous eyes were large and profound green and her satiny hair was from dark brown to luminescence brown with light-bleached strands expanding delicately around her neck. “Yes, may I help you?” In strenuously and wearisomely voice, the question was more of a necessary demand than a question.

Despite all that description, the bank teller plays no further part in the story.

So the setting is derivative, the plot trivial, the writing a disaster. I have tried very hard to think of something positive to say about the book, but without success. I would normally at least compliment an author for having the stamina to complete a novel, to encourage him to try again. However Urie has done so already, and the first chapter is appended to the end of this book. It shows no improvement. I can’t help feeling that the kindest advice would be: stick to accountancy.

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