Jun 7, 2013

Book Review: Downtown by Daneina Roltren

Book Cover: Downtown by Daneina Roltren


by Daneina Roltren

Age: Adult
Genre: Historical Fantasy

Format: Ebook, 381 pages
Published On: February 17, 2013
Publisher: Crooked Chimney Books
Source: Accepted review request

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First Sentence: Vittoria Goritz trotted a finger over the columns of tiny text on the back few pages of the Downtown Daily, absently stabbing at a dish of white asparagus flecked ball bearing-sized pepper corns as she did so.

Summary for 'Downtown' (from Amazon)

People are vanishing in Venice-like Skendgrot, and Vittoria Goritz, antiquities dealer and solipsist, is the prime suspect.

Yet Vitti is far from the sole culprit behind the strange disappearances. Skendgrot's militia have been quietly purging the city's undesirables, and the effects of this are reaching critical mass: the spaces left by the vanished criminals and ne'er-do-wells are being filled by an unstoppable flood of the hazy, semi-corporeal people nicknamed the inchoate.

But despite the warnings of the city's esotericists and natural philosophers, the militia are planning a mass vanishing, with a disastrous aftermath only Vitti can remedy—if she finally acknowledges the true extent of her ability.

Downtown is a steampunk novel to appeal to fans of dark fantasy and the new weird.

I read only 50 pages (13%) of Downtown. I know that a lot of people do not post reviews for books they did not finish, but I like to read what didn't work for people in some book and that's why I am also making my list of things that didn't work for me in Downtown.

1) Didn't like the writing style.

Sentences were too long and complex. Some sentences are more than half a page long!!! Reading Downtown was a constant frustration because often I had to go back and re-read passages because I could not understand what the hell happened.

2) Too many unknown words

To make Downtown even harder to read there is a lot of unknown words used. I had to use built-in dictionary in my ereader for at least one word per sentence. That definitely didn't make my reading smooth, and then sometimes I would lose the track of the sentence's meaning and had to re-read that paragraph again (because of problem #1). To make it even worse some words were new/invented for the world of Downtown so making a break for dictionary search was all for nothing.

3) Descriptions are crude and left me feeling uncomfortable

Here are some examples (underlined in quotes):

Just last night an impromptu gathering of cultureman had welled up like a spool of blood from a wound agitated by an admissions nurse, and has stained the intersection of Folty Lane and Jenderlyne Street with their dandy sensibilities and '20s-style organ-grinderish air guitar.

If narrator is not working in a hospital (and he is not) there is surely a better way to describe this. I am not expecting 'like ducklings stumbling out of warm nest' but blood/wound comparison is a bit too much and has no relation to the events that are happening.

Feliks began peeling back the pyramidal squares of armour of a pineapple using a thick blade, juice spurted stickily on to the counter, inviting a cloud of obese chorny flies, whose arses wriggled with greasy white maggots.

Why it could not have been a cloud of obese chorny flies and then dot aka. the end of sentence? That last bit was unnecessary and gross.

But then as abruptly as they had descended, the birds fled, their rapier sharp beaks having seized on fould blobs of verminous carrion, or the shrivelled remains of a batter-sausage. Their bald heads, dark and wrinkled like scrotums, bobbed as their backwards-hinged wings sent them up violently into the air.

Just... No comment.

Although I liked the idea of reading about alternate version of Venice with steampunk and strong female main character, Daneina Roltren's elaborate writing style, overuse of strange terms and tendency to grotesque and gruesome descriptions just didn't work for me. My recommendation would be to read an excerpt to make sure if Downtown will be an enjoyable read for you, before you buy the book.

My Rating: 1 out of 5

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