When skill fails, hope the story is good enough.
As I said in a previous post regarding Michael Chatfields Emerilia series, I love this world. I love this Series of stories and I love that there is a metric shit-tonne of it! BUT I am now 8 books in and I have to say a few things about Mr Chatfields skills as a writer.
For those who are un-aware the Emerilia series is the story of a man named Dave who plays a fantasy video-game and oops, looks like its reality and Earth was the video game! - Your usual Lit-RPG nonsense. But this one is actually pretty great because as the series goes on is starts to develop its own fantasy-science-fiction-vibe that just makes it better and better as you read. There are a few characters who take it from Lit-RPG shovel-ware to wonderfully good natured romp. The science-fiction aspects of the story are drip fed to you, being a sliver of plot for the bulk of the series but also being a promised pay off at the end (I’ll check back in when I finish book 11.)
One of the great things about these books is that each one starts pretty much the moment the last one finishes. Its like one massive book. I half think the writer just finishes a chapter and goes “yeah, that can be a book” and then carries on. I honestly think its written as a single work. I love it.
The problems however are in the writing not the ideas. When I was only one of two books deep it had not dawned on me that there were some habits that the writer had. But 8 books in, I can’t ignore them.
- “Thinned” - Everyone’s eyes thin, for like two books peoples eyes thin when they look at things. It’s actually a nice visual wording that I like. BUT once Mr Chatfield finds “thinned” in his Thesaurus he just riffs on it for ages.
- “Snort” - What the fuck does it even mean? When someone “snorts” a sentence at your or “Snorts” to themselves. WHAT THE FUCK EVEN IS THAT??? I’m like 40 years old and in my whole life I have only snorted once, and it was when I laughed too hard while drinking milkshake. It came out of my nose and I made a sound that I would describe as a fucking Snort. I also once had a dog that snorted. It’s dead now (unrelated to the snorting) - The snorting is so rife in Emerilia that I opened the EPUBs and checked the count. 23 times per book on average, trending upwards as you get deeper into the series. Literally did that… I call it the SPB (Snorts Per Book) factor.
- “Antics” - Oh fuck me sideways, everyone is “snorting” at everyone’s fucking Antics. Also, I’m not sure if the writer knows what “Antics” actually ARE. Because at at least one point your girlfriend having a chilled conversation with you is considered “Antics” and for fucks sake, everyone has to shake their head at them “Antics” every fucking time.
- “The smile never made it to his/her/its eyes” - He discovered that phrase part the way through book three and the smiles stopped being notable in book 5. Luckily though he seems to have managed to move past that one.
- “She cast all of her spells simultaneously, at the same time.” - This is just one example of the dodgy sentence structure that Mr Chatfield engages in. He re-states things in ham fisted ways that lacks any poetic thought. This happens more and more as the series goes on.
One of the other issues I have with the writing is the way that on occasion I suddenly have no idea what’s happening. This happens mostly when the characters are in combat but the word soup suddenly reaches a point where I just have to accept that it can not be followed by a human. He should have just written “ACTION HAPPENS! BOOM! OOOOOO! BANG! WHAM!” and gone back to the character stuff that he’s not half bad at (mostly)
The final major critique I point at the series is the flat female characters. Mr Chatfield does a great job at writing female characters who have agency and equality. The problem is that every woman in the book seems like the same person. They are all very confident, a little sassy (terrible use of the word sassy there, I would have changed it but its still a better choice than some of the “Snorts” in Emerilia and they sell, so fuck it) and “cute”, for lack of a better word. They are passionate and strong and I respect the shit out of them all but they are all basically the same personality and it takes the edge off them all.
STOP READING THEN!
I can’t because despite all of this, the characters are wonderful, the world is great and the plot is engaging. I love this series but I just wish it was done with a little more care. A good editor would have fixed all of my gripes with ease and a really good editor would have pointed out to the writer than he was developing literary habits that were hurting his over all story telling.
No-one reads Lit-RPG novels for the amazing writing. They are easy to read sci-fi/Fantasy trash by design. Its the genre but usually they are badly written in less obvious ways.
I love Dave and his friends and want to know if they kick the arse’s of the gods or not. I want to see how extreme the insane power-creep gets and I want Mr Chatfield to keep on spinning these yarns, I just want him to be better at it!
I even started buying them in print. I like them THAT much. I want more. Actually I think I want them to keep going forever (No, there is only 11, I checked)
With the exception of Scott Mayer’s Magic 2.0 series I have not enjoyed a pile of books all set in the same universe as much. Usually I enjoy one-shot, stand along science fiction works. For Emerilia to suck me in, while being mostly fantasy (with a twist) is actually a testament to how good it is. Its just a shame the writer can’t level up and push it over the line into greatness.
For those who have read it I would like to say - I do love Bob! also, Fire is hottttttttt.