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A novel of Caligula's Rome

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June 7, 2017 | from Sherry Christie's blog

BY THE SWORD (SPOILS OF OLYMPUS) frustrated me. From the three book awards it has won, I expected a high-quality, well-told story (per the back cover blurb) about a young Greek warrior’s experiences following the death of Alexander the Great. But within the first few chapters, SWORD reveals itself to be the kind of book that gives indie publishing a bad name.

First, a disclaimer: the story may well be as terrific as the award judges thought. But I couldn’t get past the first couple of dozen pages, which assail a reader with:

Punctuation issues: Hyphens instead of dashes (“a fist fight that I believe we won- that explains my sore cheek”); commas missing from dialogue (“Good night I trust boys?”).

Research errors: The god to whom Andrikos’ family had a shrine would have been Dionysos, not Dionysius; his uncle who was supposedly “separating clay amphora” must actually have had multiple amphorai (or amphoras).

Odd word choices: “The store was stoic and neat” (should this be “Spartan” or “plain”?);“Aren’t you supposed to be looking out for things like that while I’m predisposed fighting some deviant on your behalf” (“preoccupied”?); “[The women’s] appearance was hoarse and weathered through years of mistreatment” ("coarse"?); “She… was adorned with… a hair beret to signal she was no commoner” ("barrette," surely?); “the cacophony of misery combined to create a pungent odour” (noise creates a smell?).

Mr. Kachel, please hire a copyeditor! Chances are, you’ll win higher marks from readers and judges both.

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