The Tattered Banner
The Tattered Banner is the story of an 18 year old man (Soren), who is a street urchin lifted to become a student in the most prestigious sword training school in the Dutchy. He faces threats from his peers and other unknown forces.
The beginning of the story is a fairly standard trope where Soren attends a military school. It is similar to Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son or John Jakes’ North and South. In addition to the standard trope, Hamilton, in The Tattered Banner, makes a good start at characterization with Soren. So, between the standard trope and interesting main character the book had a comfortable start. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.
By the 30% mark, I didn’t know what the stakes were, what the point of the story was, or have any way to anticipate what I might experience next.
Another problem I had was the lack of scenes. Instead, the book read like history or a list of facts. There were too many places where it felt like the author was describing situations rather than showing action and dialogue in a scene. At about 40% of the way I started skimming for an advancement of the story (which is a sure sign the pacing is bad).
In addition to the way the story was told, there were several anticlimactic scenes. One in particular was where Soren is in his first real battle. He rushes forward, sword in hand… then the scene ends. The next chapter starts with him waking up. Seriously? We don’t get to see the protagonist’s first battle? Ouch. In another scene, Soren was battling the forces of a mage. The scene describes all of the things he was feeling, then we get this sentence, “Like a glass dropped on the pavement, the spell was smashed in an instant. He didn’t know how or why…” As a reader, we’re left wondering why it happened too. One second Soren is fighting for his life, and the next, he’s just fine (with no apparent reason – it never got explained in the book).
The book also had some plot holes and lazy writing. One major plot hole that I noticed was that the main character sometimes couldn’t access his power (or feels very slow). The author made a callback several times to the problem, but never explained why (so what was the point?). On the lazy writing front, imagine a successful pub owner who has been in the same location for over ten years, then suddenly stops paying protection money to the crime boss. This just wouldn’t happen in real life (or even a good fantasy book), but the author needed something bad to happen so he made up a lazy excuse. There were enough instances of plot holes and lazy writing that the plot gets almost no points. Here’s one more egregious example of lazy writing: The king and his army are marching to meet the enemy. On the day battle is to ensue, the king decides to stay back in camp for several hours with only a few body guards. He does plan to catch up before the battle starts (wink, wink). I’m sure you all know what is going to happen next. Yep, you guessed it. The king is attacked without an army to support him. Ask yourself, in what universe is this possible? Lazy, lazy, lazy. And there are more (but I won’t force them on you).
In the prose and grammar departments there was both good and bad. The writing was mostly solid, but the prose was overwhelmed by adjectives that often devolved into clichés or trite phrases. Pronouns also abounded in several places where two people of the same sex were in a scene, leaving me as a reader confused as to which “he” or “she” was acting (usually until far into a sentence or paragraph).
I do believe the author intended the book to be exciting though, simply due to the number of exclamation points! Unfortunately, they changed the tone of sentences! Which made characters act out of character! If you see what I mean! On the bright side, I did have to look up three words in the dictionary. This doesn’t happen often so this adds back a prose point (lost from all the exclamation points)!
The end of the book was a disappointment as it had no climax and ended on what I suppose is a cliffhanger. However, it wasn’t interesting enough to matter.
The Tattered Banner is a good story, ruined by plot holes, lazy writing, and an anticlimactic ending. Avoid this one if possible.
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