I really want to like Snow City by G.A. Kathryns, but had a few problems with it that kept me from fully engaging. There are bright spots, but also some murk that overshadowed them. I apologize if this review sounds overly harsh, it’s not intended as a hit piece, but shed light on some of the errors we can make as authors if we haven’t dialed in our focus.
The cover attempts to be unique and grab ahold of the reader, but ultimately fails to make the mark. The artwork is all fine and good, but that font threw me. Up until I went to write this review I thought the title was Snowy City (with a Y). There is no Y in Snow and while the cross from the T loops around and connects to Snow, the title becomes illegible and hard to locate (I actually had to search it by ISBN to find the listing which showed me where the failing was). The title should be easily read, even as a thumbnail, according to industry standards. But that’s just the cover.
The text waxes between being far too generic and being overly descriptive. You can read the title’s description for an example of this. We get the character’s name, “Her name is Echo Japonica and she lives in Snow City.” (Which is a cool name, but we need more.) Something vague happened and she went to someplace vague to get away from somewhere not discussed because of circumstances not defined. Snow City might be a dream, or not, but it makes Echo have feelings, even if she is not Echo? We’re not sure yet. But even though it’s her haven/refuge/sanctuary it’s not. (That’s the book description and it tells me nothing except that there is a person this book is about.) If you missed the description, it’s on the back cover. Right after the title page, it starts, “Her name is Echo Japonica…” I actually feel a little brain dead at this point, having read that same problematic piece three times, now. The one page prologue has some new, flowery prose, but it is still so vague that it has given us nothing new but some colorful words to describe feelings that someone has had… we don’t know who had these feelings, but they seem bad, and the feeler might not be a person, and if they were a person they might’ve changed his/her/it’s identity. I dunno. Then chapter one. “My name is Echo Japonica,” and I set the book down for ten minutes quite angry that I need to refresher on our protagonist’s name. It follows with two very long chapters giving detailed descriptions of the Snow City and what it looks like in every season they have… and then Echo tells herself that her name is Echo (in case we all missed it.) After a brief and grossly passive statement that again communicates no real data there is this sentence (and this is the kind of sentence we all need to watch out for as writers—again, note that I am not trashing on this author…we have all written sentences like this! This reinforces the need to have editors and beta readers who have permission to skewer us when we do this. FYI, my review on Amazon/Goodreads does not mention any of this sort of stuff—if you follow this blog you know that it is my opinion that the reviews section is the wrong place to trash an author and I post it on my blog with the hopes that we can all learn from mistakes… and then make revisions.) Also, this is not anywhere near as bad as some terrifying prose sent to me by other authors requesting reviews (which I declined).
But I cannot shake my intimate knowledge of…before, and therefore at times like this, with the late-night rain at the window and the cars and the people outside passing by without cognizance of me or my gaze, the fear that such knowledge makes of me a kind of infectious blight that could all too easily mar the perfection of what I have made confirms me in my determination to remain apart and unobtrusive, to allow Snow City to live its own life with its own mix of human relationships, happenstances, misunderstandings, and even, yes, occasional tragedies…but tragedies that here, in Snow City, bring not continued sorrow and regret, but rather understanding and acceptance.
-Whew, that’s a 1-sentence mouthful and I could mark it up with editors notes, but you get the idea… it needs revision. I jumped to chapter two after this line so that I could finally get into the story.
Okay, okay. I’m just being mean. I want to point out that the story shines during the dialogue. Some of the verbiage choices really shine and help define the characters. Those characters do take on some great definition and the personalities are well rounded and believable—I also like that Kathryns used names that seemed to color the people in it and they cross pretty much the whole spectrum.
While the writing does pickup once you finally get into the story, it does suffer from some POV shifts and inconsistencies, as is common to first person POV books. It is still prone to bouts of passive language and purple prose as it tries to translate emotion (that’s a show vs tell problem and also easier to slip into in 1st person). I get it, the author is trying to go for a stream-of-consciousness kind of thing… but without anything solid to anchor the reader, it just kind of leaves us free falling.
Ultimately this is a book that really could shine if the author and/or the publisher invests in some good content editing to point out the specific problems I pointed out. I really did want to like this book, and there is a real story there… but the way that it comes out kept knocking me out of my ability to truly enjoy it. The publisher uses Createspace and so hopefully they can take the availability of the platform’s easy (and free) revisions access to make those future improvements.
I got a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. You can check out Snow City by clicking here.