What am I sporking? Water Keep, the first book in the Farworld series, by J. Scott Savage. Here’s a link to its lovely cover.

The synopsis on the inside cover reads:

Other people may see thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas as an outcast and a nobody, but he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer. In fact, his favorite dream is of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes, and where trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place- Farworld.

When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change the fate of two worlds. But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass’s secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld’s only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals- water, land, air, and fire- and convince them to open a drift between the worlds.

As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them- Summoners, who can command the living and the dead; Unmakers, invisible creatures that can destroy both body and soul; and dark mages known as Thrathkin S’Bae. Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers.

Well then…

Chapter 1 – Bonesplinter

We begin with an…odd…scene.

Bundled safe in her underground burrow with eight fuzzy babies snuggled against her warm body, the ishkabiddle woke to a curious rumbling.

Isn’t it a bit redundant to say an underground burrow? The word burrow implies that it’s underground, but maybe I’m just being picky. I have no idea what an ishkabiddle is, either, but hopefully we’ll find out more. The ishkabiddle gets startled by a loud rumbling and crawls out of her burrow to go check it out.

Somewhere far off a bird screeched, but that wasn’t what was making the ground tremble so the tops of the grass shivered to and fro.

Well, that was awkwardly worded. The ishkabiddle sends out some specks of something from her body that supposedly help her to detect nearby predators. The process isn’t explained too well- the description made me envision a mushroom releasing its spores, which may or may not be what Savage intended.

She doesn’t find anything and is about to go back to her burrow when THE GROUND EXPLODES. It’s a giant snake! Whose body as thick as a “mature tree trunk”! It slithers over to the ishkabiddle.

“Boo!” the snake said, and the ishkabiddle’s muscles turned to water.

Boo? How intimidating. The snake then transforms into a man in a hooded cape. The cape is described as flowing, but I fail to see how a cape can flow. He has a forked staff! He must be Evil™!

“Lucky for you, I’ve already had dinner,” he whispered with dark mirth.

Not just mirth, but DARK mirth. He’s definitely Evil™. The guy goes to a rocky outcropping and he uses his staff to open a pathway into the rock, which he then goes down into. Oh yeah, he has dry lips and night vision. More signs of Evilness™. Although night vision can also be a sign of Sue-ness, too.

He walks into a room where a figure that’s said to resemble an owl is standing. It stinks of rotten meat and is covered in mold. That’s some pleasant imagery to draw the reader in with. The owl creature and the man exchange some standard issue underling to underling chatter about the man hurrying to meet their “master.” He then goes up a staircase and some rabid bone dogs come out of nowhere and walk alongside him. He comes into a hall that’s really hot and makes him sweaty. He goes to the center of the room and kneels down and speaks to an unseen person.

“Approach,” said a voice that sounded like the sizzle of hot steel plunged into icy water.

I have no idea a voice like that would sound like.

He gets up and walks foward through smoke which clears when he reaches some steps and lets him see a pair of weird looking animals who are “watching him hungrily.”

Summoners. Terrifying creatures of mythic power. Even with bony wings folded against the sides of their red, serpent-like bodies and thick, magicallly-enhanced chains locked around their necks, they made the spit in his mouth dry up.

Was “they made the spit in his mouth dry up” really the best way Savage could think to show he was afraid of them? It really just sounds disgusting. But hey. We get a short recap of the stories told about these Summoners and their magic powers, which include driving people insane with only a glance and making the ground swallow up people. He’s impressed because his master can control both of them, which supposedly shows that he’s really, really powerful.

“Master, what is it you desire of me?” he asked, dropping to his knees. He tried to hide the eagerness in his voice, but he could do nothing about the way his heart thumped like a trapped animal in his chest.

That doesn’t sound dirty at all. Nope. His master spends an entire paragraph talking about something he’s been looking for in an incredibly vague way. Even the man doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. He has to spend a minute trying to remember. He finally figures out his master is talking about a mysterious child who apparently suffered “mortal” wounds but didn’t die. And then he reveals he’s found not only the child, but another one as well!

“Two children?” The man licked his lips, trying to decide what to make of the unexpected news. How would this play out? Was the Master giving him another chance to prove himself? To show he could be trusted with more responsibility?

This revelation has no meaning to us, because we have no idea who they’re talking about. His inner questions make no sense, and they’re choppily written. Because we don’t know anything at this point, this entire scene has little gravity to it. It’s much like the scene at the beginning of Eragon, where Arya is pursued by Durza. It could have been a dramatic, tense scene, if we had had any knowledge of or emotional investment in the characters.

Also, the man has a scar on his face. I imagine we’ll learn more about where he got that from, since he keeps touching it all the time. His master then commands him to go to Earth and capture “the boy.” A withered hand comes out of the darkness and the man kisses the ring on one of the fingers.

“Bonesplinter,” the voice said, and the man thought he heard the sound of a tongue rasp across paper-dry lips. “You have been my most faithful Thrathkin S’Bae for many years. Once you find the boy, do as you will with him. Just be sure he is dead when you are finished.”

And so, we learn that the man is named Bonesplinter, which is quite an Evil name. He’s a Thrathkin S’Bae, but the meaning of the term is not given in the chapter. Looking back to the synopsis, a Thrathkin S’Bae is supposedly a dark mage. Bonesplinter’s mission is to go and kill some boy that we haven’t seen yet. Why? It’s not explained. Hopefully it will be soon. Also, I’m starting to think Savage has a fetish for dry lips.

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  1. Requiem on 7 April 2012, 02:17 said:

    The Gtesch is responsible for this, I feel. More sues, come they may.

  2. Mingnon on 7 April 2012, 04:38 said:

    I have a feeling this will surely hold me over till whenever the heck the next Maradonia book comes out. .

    But yeah, it seems the meeting of evil seems rather fetish-tastic. ._.;

  3. Pryotra on 7 April 2012, 08:54 said:

    Aw, so we have broken on of the rules from the Evil Overlord’s List right off the bat (I will not turn into a snake, it never helps) I’ve never once seen that before. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see some villain decide to be original and turn into a chipmunk or something?

    the man is named Bonesplinter

    I’d have turned evil too. Seriously, what is with people on their terrible naming skills? Paolini had Galbatorix (which I didn’t even have a clue how to pronounce for a while) Glo had the buzzard claw guy whose name I can’t spell. I’m starting to be reminded of this saturday morning cartoon called Mucha Lucha where the villain’s name was pretty much impossible to pronounce, and finally one of the characters looks at him with narrowed eyes and asks “how do you spell that?”

    Seriously, weird names doesn’t make a character more sinister, it makes them more silly.

  4. Sweguy on 7 April 2012, 10:42 said:

    :D I’m excited! Wanna know what happens next. Though Savage’s got some heavy work to do; it’s not an easy task to topple the magnificence of Gloria Tesch.

  5. Kyllorac on 7 April 2012, 11:35 said:

    Are the typos in the excerpts (“In face” instead of “In fact” and such) actually present in the original?

    If not, you should correct those. There’s no real point in adding more flaws to the work than already exist.

  6. BlackStar on 7 April 2012, 11:56 said:

    @Kyllorac, I didn’t notice the typos. While the book does have typos, those were my own fault. Thanks for pointing them out- I corrected them.

  7. Fireshark on 7 April 2012, 14:20 said:

    I think this is what Maradonia would have been if GTesch had waited a few years to get started.

  8. Erin on 7 April 2012, 14:34 said:

    Marcus is 13. The big secret has been hidden for 13 years. I WONDER IF THAT MEANS SOMETHING!

  9. Sen on 7 April 2012, 15:29 said:

    Thrathkin S’Bae

    Our friend, the apostrophe! Who makes everything so wonderfully foreign! :D

    And the use of “Summoners” is making me think Savage has been playing Fable or something…

  10. Soupnazi on 7 April 2012, 17:00 said:

    Our friend, the apostrophe! Who makes everything so wonderfully foreign! :D

    Though as far as I can tell, that’s actually a legitimate use of them—as opposed to “Sbay,” where you’d be pronouncing it rushed, I’d think the apostrophe makes it “Suh-bay.”

    And it’s a shame this book is being sporked—judging from the synopsis, it actually sounds interesting (if mostly typical).

  11. Soupnazi on 7 April 2012, 17:05 said:

    Also (sorry for the double comment, by the way), I think the spork would flow better if you separated excerpt reactions and summaries; it makes it sound like you’re continuing to discuss the excerpt, and then you’re just explaining what happens. But that might just be me.

  12. LoneWolf on 7 April 2012, 19:22 said:

    Yeah, the similarity with Maradonia (both books start with evil characters discussing two children, who are the protagonists) is amusing. The writing hadn’t been that bad so far, though this

    Other people may see thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas as an outcast and a nobody, but he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer.

    is a bit of pity-begging from the author, especially considering that according to an Amazon review, Marcus’ parents died when he was a baby and he was born with some deformities. However, it’s better then

    Although Maya had several problems, she was a highly unusual girl in many ways. She was a very spiritual and a very serious person.

  13. Mangraa on 7 April 2012, 19:54 said:

    Don’t forget how useful the [sic] notation is, used when quoting typos or other errors found in the original text. Helps to delineate if a typo was due to the author or the person quoting. Unless the tops hit GTesch levels, in which case, screw it since it’d just be a pain.

    Looking forward to more!

  14. Oculus_Reparo on 8 April 2012, 01:01 said:

    Oh no, not another Master! I bet he won’t approve of things!
    Torgo theme plays

  15. Taku on 8 April 2012, 04:24 said:

    He goes to the center of the room and kneels down and speaks to an unseen person.

    “What is thy bidding, my master?”

    That doesn’t sound dirty at all. Nope.

    You have a dirty mind. What could be remotely dirty about a man dropping to his knees in front of someone he calls “master”, licking his lips eagerly and trying to ignore his heartbeat?

    Thrathkin S’Bae

    That’s almost as bad as, if not worst than, Paolini’s infamous ‘Shrrg’ or ‘thardsvergûndnzmal’. How exactly is the apostrophe between the ‘S’ and the ‘Bae’ supposed to be interpreted?

  16. VikingBoyBilly on 8 April 2012, 11:45 said:

    “…Once you find the boy, do as you will with him. Just be sure he is dead when you are finished.”

    That doesn’t sound dirty at all. Nope.

  17. Fireshark on 8 April 2012, 14:15 said:

    Honestly, I’d rather we left apostrophes alone. I know they could be used as a cheap way to make things look foreign, but I think we should give authors the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re just there to tell us where the syllables are separated.

  18. LoneWolf on 8 April 2012, 14:24 said:

    “…Once you find the boy, do as you will with him. Just be sure he is dead when you are finished.”

    I assume the author actually wanted to hint at child rape here. Doesn’t really make sense otherwise. “Adults will be even more horrified by the villain, and children wouldn’t understand the subtext anyway”!

  19. swenson on 8 April 2012, 21:48 said:

    Re: apostrophes. There’s two uses for them in the real world. The first is to indicate missing letters, like in English contractions (don’t = do not, so the apostrophe stands for “o “, etc.). The second is to indicate a glottal stop, like in Hawaiian. (That’s the sound in the middle of “mitten” for most people, if you don’t distinctly pronounce the t’s.) Those are entirely legitimate uses, and I would be OK with it if he really did mean to indicate a glottal stop in the middle of S’bae.

    Unfortunately, I suspect he just meant for it to look cool and fantasy-ish, in particular because “sb” is a really, really awkward thing to pronounce, even if you do put a glottal stop in.