My Plotting

Welcome to Red Pen Reviews! I'm a freelance editor and a devoted genre reader, and this blog exists to help with hunting for good fantasy and sci-fi books. Prowling through Amazon ratings will net you a decent look at average quality, but when you're at the bookstore then you will inevitably encounter That One Series, the one with the moderately interesting cover and maybe compliments from an author you already like. But the text on the back is awful, you're not sure about the first page, and so you'll remember to look up the title for next time...

If only it wasn't pulled from the grab bag mix of fantasy words, something like Shadow Blood Peril Wizard Quest Night Magic Death. You'll be looking at it again in a few weeks and making the same mental note. My mission is to sift some of those really prevalent books and sift the good stuff out from the sadly forgettable background, writing both as someone who loves reading this stuff and as someone who is this close to marking up some books with a red pen.


I won't stick to many restrictions, but there won't be any major spoilers largely because I always want to deck Amazon reviewers (and back of the book summaries, for that matter) that spoil the first big plot twist. There will be some obvious things stated: if a Mysterious Woman shows up in a tavern and intrigues the male lead, they're like going to become love interests. If the main character is Luke Skywalker Rand al'Thor a kid living with his aunt and uncle (or father) out in the sticks, he's the Chosen One. That's not a spoiler, that's a trope.

For my main Thursday reviews, I'll also be reviewing only books that are out in mass market or trade paperback because hardbacks are expensive. Since people gravitate towards different aspects of the genre and not everyone has friends shoving the Great New Thing at them within a month, I'll be doing a mix of very visible books and more obscure ones from authors who haven't gotten a lot of attention.

The key useful-to-you sticking point is that I will only be putting up books that stand on their own or are the first in a series. Starting mid-series tends to be annoying, even if the author has allegedly designed the books to not need continuity, so I'm going for things you can actually swoop off the shelf and read without digging into any other books first. That said, it is fun to have a nice pile to dig through if you want something similar, so I have a section to discuss that book's prospects and associated recommendations, which I'll be adding to quite a bit as I do more entries and note similarities. This will go slowly, since I don't recommend things I haven't read and enjoyed at least somewhat, but it should net you a nice pool of suggestions.

The opening section of each review contains a premise instead of a summary, largely because summaries tend to contain spoilers. Summary/teaser text on Amazon or the back of the books themselves has a nasty habit of blowing the huge allegedly shocking plot twists; this was a nasty experience for me more than once because I spent the book braced for that twist. Unsurprisingly, this tends to kill the anticipatory fun of reading.

Books here get five full stars when they come and pry them from my numb, awestruck fingers. If I gave five stars to a book I honestly enjoyed that still had a handful of noticeably distracting flaws, it would means less when I gave five later on to something so good that I stayed up all night, completely unable to look away from the page.


Asking friends and closing my eyes to find targets only takes me so far, so if you've been eying the same one for a while, or are just short on reading time and want me to take a look, feel free to comment or e-mail me. I'm open to suggestions about what to review, offers of advance copies, constructive criticism, and requests to edit your manuscript. If you think your work could benefit from my editing, by all means send me a sample chapter and we'll talk.

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