J. M. Martin
Cover by Peter Ortiz, interior illustrations by Julie Dillon
ebook 0.99, paperback $5.99
There's been a lot of discussion online over the last year about the quality of what are called indie published books by their proponents and disparagingly called self-published books by the publishing, agenting, and critical establishment. You can probably tell from the title of this post as well as how I worded the previous sentence which side of the issue I come down on.
So, rather than simply discuss the merits of the story and the writing itself in this novella, which I will do, I'd like, begging the indulgence of the author and artists, to go beyond that and discuss the qualities of the publishing as well.
Most opponents of indie publishing will try to scare you with Chicken Little-esque cries of "You won't be able to find any quality; you'll be buried in a sea of crap!"
Like we aren't now. Sturgeon's Law has never been repealed and never will be. For those of you who don't know, Sturgeon's Law, after the science fiction and fantasy author Theodore Sturgeon, simply says that 90% of everything is crap. I submit for your consideration what's on most bookstore shelves.
Fortunately, Tisarian's Treasure is in the 10%. We'll start with the story and the writing since those are what will ultimately make or break an ebook. (I'm going to confine my comments to the ebook since that's what I have.) Problems of formatting can be fixed much more quickly and easily than problems of story and writing.
The writing is fluid and smooth, in the style of an old fashioned pirate novel, which is what this essentially is, with fantasy elements thrown in for fun. Mr. Martin paints in both broad swathes and in detail, and his prose is lyrical and highly readable.
It's the story of Dr. Alexandre Mallory, who finds himself marooned on an island with a handful of other survivors of an attack by the pirate Thadieus Drake. Dr. Mallory has recently been in the service of said Captain Drake, although unwillingly. Also with them is Oberon Teag, a pirate who has a tattoo on his back showing the location of the famed Tisarian's Treasure. It's on the island they on which they've taken refuge.
Also in the group is the woman Katalin, who has mild prophetic powers. She's brave, beautiful, strong-willed, and one of the most interesting characters in the novella.
The plot, the characters, and the dialogue are all first rate. The characters exhibit courage, treachery, ambition, and sacrifice. They grow and change. The ending is satisfying, and there's room for more installments. (That's a hint, J. M.)
This story is set in the author's world of Khaladune. I'd like to sail these seas and visit this world again. Fortunately, I will. There's a Khaladune story in the anthology Dark Heroes, which I hope to finish and review sometime next week.
Now, let's look at the production values. The cover art is gorgeous, of a professional level I'd expect from New York on a major fantasy novel. The b&w interior illustrations are a nice added bonus, and while Ms. Dillon's views of the characters don't exactly match mine, they are well done and add a level of value to the book.
The formatting on the epub (Nook) version is better than what I've read in ebooks by major publishers. There were no missing line breaks between paragraphs because there were no line breaks between paragraphs. Instead, the paragraphs were indented, just like in a print book. I can't tell you how much I appreciated that touch. I hate line breaks between paragraphs when I'm reading fiction. None of the lines extended off the page like those of a certain publisher I'll not name sometimes do. In fact, the only odd thing about the formatting was that occasionally a page number would skip. That's a page number, not a page. And it wasn't a big deal.
In short, Tisarian's Treasure had everything I'm looking for in an ebook. Captivating story, highly readable prose, professional art, and well-done formatting.
Tisarian's Treasure is available for both Kindle and Nook, with a paper edition available for those you haven't gotten an ereader. This is one you will want to check out.