I wanted to like this book so badly. I wanted to praise the endearingly quaint and wholesome story that clearly sprang from the heart and imagination of a self-published family man.
But I can’t. I have to give it the massive thumbs down it deserves for its error-riddled writing, flat characters, lack of story arc, jarring point-of-view violations, and shoddy storytelling.
Harsh words? Perhaps.
I almost feel like I am reviewing a book written by a child. It’s cute. I want to give them praise and tell them what a wonderful story they wrote. But such praise comes with the caveat for: “It’s good for a child’s writing.” “It’s not bad for a first pass.”
Such praise would be disingenuous, however, for a published novel by an adult who has written a fantasy series, because naturally, my expectations are much higher. And, regrettably, Ryan Logan’s debut novel did not even come close to passing muster.
The Princes of Panajin tells the tale of Thanan, the youngest of seven princes in a mythical kingdom, who discovers a sinister plot to overthrow his father’s kingdom. As Thanan grows up and discovers the magical powers imbued in his lineage, he must choose whether to use his power for good or for evil.
Sounds like a standard fantasy premise, no? But, even if we strip away the numerous grammatical errors and jarring POV violations (I’ll get to those in a minute), at its core, the problem with The Princes of Panajin is that the story is never fleshed out. There is no meat, only bone. And bare bones, at that.
You can’t just wave your hands like a magician, say a few words like “Thanan discovered magical powers,” and call it a day. You can’t just say “He felt tempted by evil” and leave it at that. What magical powers does he possess? What are the rules to said magic? Why does the magic only pass through men in his family, and no one else in the entire world? What does being tempted by evil mean? How does temptation arise?
Very quickly into reading this book, I could tell that Logan had little idea of a fleshed out story himself. How he managed to fill 355 pages with essentially a premise and no story arc is beyond me.
As if the complete lack of a story arc weren’t enough, the characters are so flat as to be comical. In a sense, the cast of characters reminded me of archetypes from children’s fairy tales, where each equally flat character merely represents a virtue or vice. Even Thanan, the protagonist, was so two dimensional that I never got a sense for who he was as a person. For most of the book, he is obnoxiously pious. In fact, thinking about him more in hindsight, I cannot think of a single character flaw. Not a single added dimension to make him a real person who loves and hates and grows and learns anything.
And if the lack of a story arc and the flat characters weren’t enough, then the odd pacing, time jumps, POV violations, and grammatical errors made things all the worse.
For one thing, chapters end very abruptly, almost as if the printing press accidentally got cut off after a random paragraph. Of course, not every chapter needs to end on a cliffhanger, but virtually every chapter in this book ends at such a strange juncture, where nothing additional has been added in terms of plot or character development.
Furthermore, throughout the entire novel, Logan breaks the cardinal rule to keep the same point of view in each section of narrative. I don’t care what anyone says about how rules are meant to be broken; with this rule in particular, breaking it only comes across as sloppy and confusing. The narrative in this book flitted wildly from close third person to Thanan, to close third person to other characters in the next paragraph, to omniscient narrator in others. Quite often I had to re-read a section just to work out whose thoughts or feelings went with which sentence, so quick were the breaks in POV.
Grammatical typos also riddled the novel. “His saw the reflection” is one jarring example, as well as “Her interested was piqued.” Logan thanks his editor in the book’s foreword, but based on such copious and inexcusable errors that still made it into the final copy, I hope he didn’t pay the editor much.
Finally, the ultimately frustrating thing about this book was the lack of rationale behind characters’ actions. Nobody’s motivation for doing anything was explained. Why does the bad guy want to overthrow the kingdom? Never explained. Why does a foreign society of forest-dwellers lovingly welcome Thanan, a complete stranger (who, by the way, is armed), and give him food and shelter? Why does anybody do anything? If Logan knows, he certainly didn’t share it with the reader.
As I said in the beginning, I wanted so badly to enjoy this book. I strive to support self-published authors. And I do commend Logan for doing what it took to get his work self-published. He clearly has an active, child-like imagination; that much shines through. Now, he just needs to flesh out his premises, turn them into actual stories, and learn some key writing techniques.
Until then, I think I’ll pass on the other two books in this series.
Tell me, have you read The Princes of Panajin? If so, what did you think? I am aware that it has received wonderful reviews on Amazon (much to my shock).
Until next time,