Anabar’s Run by Will Grainger
This is my first review of an e-book. I was guided to it by the author, whom I met on LinkedIn. That points to the need for independent writers to promote their work.
I liked Anabar’s Run: it has a simple, very clear style well suited to younger readers, particularly boys. It evokes the style of grade-school readers: simple words, mostly short sentences and a straightforwardness that paints vivid pictures.
This rite-of-passage story is a metaphor for the journey every boy has to make into manhood. That in itself is refreshing—the majority of new commercial fiction seems to be aimed solely at preteen girls. Is the publishing industry now so sexist that it believes young men do not read?
What I liked:
Anabar’s Run opens like a fairy tale, with a description of Anabar’s home: a beautiful, fertile valley, isolated and therefore protected from the rest of the world. It’s simultaneously familiar and foreign—character names like Tom and Ralph make it seem homey, while the fantasy element is brought in with names like Pompor and the names of the two countries on whose border the valley is set: Semdela and Ricamerath. The time is pre-industrial: weapons are swords and knives, travel is done on horse.
Anabar is sixteen, on the brink of manhood, an orphan raised by his two neighbours, the pompous Pompor and the simple Tom. These two are deftly drawn. With little description, the author has created believable characters.
Anabar begins to explore beyond the boundaries of his world, but on his first foray outside the valley, he meets two dangerous men and barely escapes—again, something that every man can identify with. He returns home with a few injuries, but the outside world in the form of a mysterious scout named Omalof has noticed him. Omalof follows Anabar home and presents him an opportunity: become a Scout like him. However, it will require tough training and several tests.
The plot proceeds quickly with increasingly difficult challenges. Anabar meets more people and enters a town for the first him in his life. His reactions and inner dialogue are very clear and believable, and he shows himself to be an admirable person.
It’s really only half a story. The author explains that he wrote a long novel and decided to break it at a logical point into two shortish novels. This makes each book seem less daunting, but it feels like there should be more. Yes, it’s smart for a writer to make the reader want the sequel, but it feels a little like I’ve been short-changed.
The only other problem is that it needs a good, independent copy-edit and proofread. There are a number of typos, missing words and punctuation—nothing that interferes with reading the story, but it does show that every writer needs an editor. (On May 25, author Will Grainger posted on his blog that he is correcting the novel as much as he can.)
So, I’m giving this story 4 out of 5, and I’m going to read the sequel, Anabar Rises.