Book Review: The Princes of Panajin

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,

xoxo Charlotte

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14 comments

  1. I haven’t read it but I’ve been in the exact same situation. I steer away from self-published books until they have 100+ reviews on Goodreads. I have absolutely ZERO patience for poor editing; if you are going to put the effort into self-publishing, see it through!! I hope the next book is better 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly! It’s like, if you put THAT much effort into writing a novel, got rejected by that many agents (which is often the reason people choose to self-publish), then why would you not go the extra mile to make sure the finished product looked just like a commercially published work?

      I felt so bad writing this review, honestly. But there really was no excuse for so many of the problems with it. A (better) editor could have easily corrected all of the spelling and grammar errors, as well as added time descriptors at the beginning of each chapter to let the reader know when the narrative was jumping around in time. And even the POV violations would have been a somewhat easy fix; simply omit anything that couldn’t have been known by the subject of the close third person narrator.

      Alas. I’ll be moving onto my next TBR soon and hope it is better!

      Like

  2. You are an amazing book reviewer-very professional and knowledgeable in your opinions. I am not a huge fan of this genre, but I am a fan of good grammar. I am with An Historian, poor editing of a published piece is inexcusable. This is why I was so irate when the “magazine” I “wrote” for made a massive grammatical error in my paragraph in their first ever edition. I mean, I was seething as I obsessed over how many people would read it and think I was the idiot who didn’t know simple grammar rules. When I come across these kinds of errors in published books, it’s like nails on chalkboard for me. Any editor who lets something that obvious slip through the cracks should simply not be an editor. Period. Whew. I think I feel better now 😂😬

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As self publishing is a route I may one day have to head down, I took this review seriously. I’d like to think that all errors you pointed out don’t appear in mine. The whole story is told in third person, the characters have back stories and grow as people throughout, I think there’s always an explanation as to why things happen; nothing is random. I was making mental checklists as I went along. How much do you charge as a proofreader? Haha.

    Honestly, I’m disappointed that the story turned out so lacklustre because it sounded like it could be really good from the blurb. As you say, fair play to Logan for having the fortitude to throw his story to the wolves, but it makes you wonder whether he wrote it in a rush and/or is somewhat too confident in his abilities. As for the editor, they need to be shot quite clearly! Not a chance I wouldn’t thoroughly reread my manuscript post edit if I’d paid for an editor’s services. Any mistakes present would be met with a reduction in their fee whether they liked it or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am really glad that this review is hopefully helpful to you and any others who read my blog and may consider self-publishing. You might be interested in a new series of posts I am starting later this week (first one will debut Thursday or Friday) looking in depth at of each of the issues I found in this book. I doubt you’d actually need much of it, since from what I’ve seen of your writing it is pretty spectacular. But I think you’d enjoy reading the series nonetheless. The first entry will be about avoiding expository writing (there was a fair bit of that in this book). This book was so strange in the sense that it had SO much potential, but all of the various writing pitfalls got in its way. So in a sense, it’s the perfect specimen to pick apart and examine for do’s and don’t’s. If I’m honest, I’ll be writing this series of posts for myself as much as for my readers who are also writers. In addition to “show and don’t tell,” I’ll also be covering the topics of character development, dialogue, point of view, and maybe some others if more topics come to mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I caught that first post today. It will be a series that I pay extremely close attention to as I’m beginning to realise just how perfect an author I am not. My novel writing style differs from what you see on my blog and there are many basic rules I’ve neglected to follow because I wasn’t aware of them when I started. The “70,000 word” rule for newbie authors is perhaps the real killer as my novel is a little over 300,000 and there’s no way I can reduce the size to meet 70k. Not without turning into a story so lean that there isn’t even bone remaining. Just marrow! There’s dialogue rules I haven’t followed either. This is the problem starting to write a novel so long after leaving school. The basics get lost in the ether. Time to acquire a copy of Creative Writing for Dummies methinks…

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve just taught me something. I had absolutely no idea that there is a 70,000 word rule of thumb for new authors. I’m quite glad to have gotten this advice.

        Have you read Stephen King’s book On Writing? I have heard time and again that it is a must-read for writers looking to publish. I really need to hunker down and pore over it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I wish somebody would have told me about the 70k rule before October 2015. I’d have written the novel in such a way as to turn it into a three parter.
        I’ll have to look at acquiring a copy of the book you suggested. If anybody knows what they’re doing it’s ol’ Stephen King.

        Liked by 1 person

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