Initiate’s Trial by Janny Wurts

Title: Initiate’s Trial
Author: Janny Wurts
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Pages: 578
Published: 2012

First Line: All of his days began the same way.

I give up. I made it about 50 pages or so before I just couldn’t read another word.

No, really. Couldn’t. I wanted to. Kind of. But the font size in this 578 page novel is the smallest I have run across in years, and my eyes were getting pissed off. Here, take a look at the difference in size between this book and the hardcovers I am used to reading. I’ll even throw a couple of dimes in there to help add a little perspective.

[singlepic id=201 w=600  float=center]

I’m not a fan of trade paperbacks, but I read them now and then. It’s not the size of the font that usually bothers me, though – it’s the size of the book itself. I don’t have huge hands, but they do seem to swallow a normal-sized trade. But, I also have a stack of old paperbacks I haven’t got around to read yet, and I was curious to see if my eyes had actually deteriorated that far. Nope. The font is a good deal smaller than that of a typical trade paperback, too:

[singlepic id=202 w=600  h=400 float=center]

So, yeah. I give up.

But let me comment on the first 50 pages or so…

Initiate’s Trial is book 9 in The Wars of Light and Shadow series. And for the first 25 pages, I had no clue what the hell was going on. More importantly, I didn’t care. The scenes were interesting, but I had nothing to go on… I didn’t know who this anonymous “he” was that the 3rd person narrator was focused on. I didn’t know why he was in jail, or why he had amnesia. The conflict was immediate – escape – but it was granted magically and without reason by forces our anonymous amnesiac didn’t understand. So, yeah… I’ll go out on a limb and say that the first 8 books of this series are required reading. I’ll also say I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I typically enjoy a long, detailed series, but I’ve got too many going on at the moment to invest in another one (especially if the typesetting is as painful to read in the first 8 as it is in the 9th).

I will say this, however…

Ms. Wurts can WRITE. Personally, I prefer a lighter, sparser style, but her hand, especially with description, is extremely deft. That said, there were many times I thought it was too much. I wanted more action in those early pages rather than the highly prosaic description-laden opening scenes. Here’s a sample taken from page 1 of what I am referring to:

Unable to view his reflection, and with no outside window to relieve the monotony, he began with a survey of his own hands. Their structure at least prompted the insight that he was individual, with a claim to both history and character. His fingers were refined, almost delicate, the bones cleanly sculpted beneath his flesh. The left ones were tipped with calluses. Insight suggested the wear had been caused by repeated deft pressure to stop taut strings. First epiphany, he recalled the joyful making of music. But not how he had acquired the scars.

It’s good stuff, that description, but it’s so passive. I found the internal monologue of self-description in the opening scene tiresome, especially considering how the tiny print made me work to actually take it all in, and it just didn’t make me want to fight on through my ocular issues caused the typesetting (which isn’t her fault at all… that problem lays at the feet of the publisher and editor).

When all is said and done, were I to continue with Initiate’s Trial, I would need to go back to the beginning of the series and start with book 1 if, and only if, I could find it in a digital copy where I could adjust the font size. As it is, it goes back on the shelf with all those other books I probably won’t end up getting around to reading “one of these days.”

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