Yesterday, I finished reading Jon Del Arroz’s short story Knight Training, a small steampunk piece that’s part of his For Steam and Country universe. I won’t post these first few paragraphs at Amazon, but I feel it necessary, given the criticism I receive every time I mention Mr. Del Arroz on this blog, to say something about him, or at least how some folks perceive him.
About a year ago, another author, Jim C. Hines, wrote a scathing criticism of Del Arroz that he titled Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing. I was doing some research on Del Arroz via Google and came across the missive (and it’s the only reason I became aware of Mr. Hines and his writing since he otherwise was not on my radar). If all this is true, it makes Del Arroz a pretty terrible person.
On the other hand, Del Arroz’s fellow writer Richard Paolinelli says he’s a pretty good guy. I like Richard and have no reason to doubt his word, but I must admit, I see two sides to a man who calls himself “The Leading Hispanic Voice in Science Fiction.”
For a while now, I’ve been interested in reviewing one of Del Arroz’s books or stories. I did read his contribution to the To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity anthology, which I reviewed on Amazon but apparently not on my blog. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of my favorites.
However, Del Arroz said he’d provide a free download of “Knight Training” to anyone who signed up for his newsletter. So I signed up and now his short story is resting comfortably in my Kindle Fire.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading, but found his writing style comfortable and smooth. Yes, the book is short, roughly 90 pages if it were in print, but I zipped right through it.
That said, I had a hard time liking the main character James Gentry, who is an apprentice training to be a Knight (I know, not typical steampunk). It’s not that the author didn’t try to make him likable, and that’s the problem. He’s too goody-goody to seem realistic. His fellow apprentices don’t like him, and often taunt him because he’s more or less “teacher’s pet,” and unfortunately, I kind of agree with them. In fact, it seemed that the good guys were too good and the bad guys were too bad. No surprises from the characters.
While the story was easy reading, there were a few problems. I don’t blame James for making a bunch of errors in judgement since he’s a kid, but the way he’s assigned to a dangerous mission to capture a rogue knight, in the company of a journeyman and two foot soldiers, seemed pretty implausible.
There were other holes, such as how James, with an injured arm, managed to tackle a guy to the ground and come away unscathed, or how, James having revealed to the bad guys that they’d found their hideout one night, didn’t result in them escaping before the good guys could regroup and sneak back the next day. And why does a trained soldier, someone no doubt the veteran of many battles, fall asleep on guard duty…twice?
Sorry, but that’s how my mind works.
It’s a nice fantasy adventure tale on the order of Young Adult fiction, and while it is a proverbial page turner, I didn’t quite get into the world according to Del Arroz. I would recommend it for “tweens” or young teens, since that seems to be the target audience.