The People of the Sea by Scott Marcano is billed on the back cover blurb as
“A fantasy novel in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. In that it is a tale of fantasy, I would have to agree with the assessment. However, if it means that it is comparatively on the level of those, I would disagree wholeheartedly. It’s the fashion to try to compare books of various degrees of writing levels to ones which are extremely well-written famous bestselling books - just look at how many are being compared to The Da Vinci Code, for example - but that doesn’t mean the books being compared are at all equally good. Such is the case with The People of the Sea, which has some epic adventure elements, but is in almost every other aspect not comparable to (and shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath with) the aforementioned fantasy books. To be fair, most books cannot match up to the excellence of writing contained in these examples - Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is one example to the contrary; the only reason it’s done is to try to increase sales.
Before I get into a critical discussion about the book, I’ll mention briefly what it’s about. There are some strong plot themes in The People of the Sea, a story about eight disparate tribes who collectively call themselves “the People.” Forced to flee the land by an invading enemy with an appearance “somewhere between that of a human being and a wolf” (the People call them the “Invaders,” though they call themselves the Chuiiloro, or “”The War Dogs”), The People have built themselves floating islands to live on. Each tribe lives separately, for the most part, though there is some mixing of them and commerce that goes on. It’s a loose confederation that will generally cooperate in times of war and are on fairly good terms with each other in times of peace, though there is some inter-tribal dispute and fighting, like with the Mapuche tribe. They all look forward to the day when certain prophecies will be fulfilled and they can travel to the Far Shore, a sort of Promised Land where everything will be all wine and roses for them once again.
This is reminiscent of the Biblical story of the Exodus is this respect, and the traveling of the tribes of Israel to the land of Canaan. Trials and tribulations stand in the way of the People’s attempts to get to their Promised Land, mainly in the form of the evil wizard Shezula and his many minions, including Master Puna. Shezula has been transformed by a curse into a sort of squid/human creature, and he has enlisted the aid of both the people who comprised his army before - also changed into hideous sea monsters - natural denizens of the deep, and some members and leaders of the eight tribes, such as Master Puna. The romantically linked duo of the female shaman, or sha-woman, Ursa, and her love interest, Tumarak, help put a stop to Shezula’s nefarious plans of conquest.
A good book could easily be written based on these ideas. Unfortunately, The People of the Sea falls short with logical inconsistencies, improper word choices, and a multitude of editorial and/or authorial errors that have been left uncorrected. I would not like it as a writer if what I wrote made it to the public eye with these problems. They are a definite distraction from the plot, and from one’s attempts to build up a suspension of disbelief so important to fantasy and science fiction.
A few of the examples: One occurs in the Prologue, on the very first page, i, with the very first sentence: “Three generations had come and gone among the People since they departed their beloved homeland and set out on their voyage across the uncharted waters of the Great Western Sea.” Then, on p. iv, is the contradictory sentence: “Many generations had come and gone upon the waters since that terrible time.” I am guessing that Scott Marcano really wants to go with this second sentence, since other parts of the book suggest that much more time than three generations would have had to pass. This is still jarring and contrary with the book’s first sentence.
During a battle with Shezula and the Mapuches at sea, the People use catapults to battle the evil wizard’s forces, who happen to be on the same boat the catapults are on. I don’t think it would be very good battle strategy to inadvertently sink one’s own ship by using catapults to try to repel enemy forces. This seems akin to burning down one’s house to get rid of termites. On page 126 it’s mentioned that: “The thick, scaly hides of the beasts were virtually impenetrable to spear or sword,” but in the previous paragraph, the Mapuches are “tearing them to pieces with their bare hands.”
A brief and non-inclusive list of a few of the Thou Shalt Not rules violated in The People of the Sea: Thou Shalt Not use the word “pack” instead of the word “pact.” People don’t make “packs with darkness,” they make “pacts.” When defining a word in one’s Glossary, such as the word “Tribes,” Thou Shalt Not write about “the eight ethic and cultural clans,” when you really mean “ethnic.” When a noun is intended, Thou Shalt Not use an adjective instead. For instance, don’t write “a pestilent of malice” instead of “pestilence.” Thou Shalt Not write “dingy” instead of “dinghy.” The former is an adjective, the latter a noun and a small boat, which is much easier to ride in when given the choice.
Since “fingernail” is a single compound word, use it like that. Thou Shalt Not write “His finger and toenails had been ripped out” when you should write “fingernails,” instead. Thou Shalt Not write of “running blockages” when you really mean “running blockades.” You don’t run blockages; you run blockades. Thou Shalt Not use the word “suddenly” twice in one sentence: “Suddenly, a long wooden spear suddenly shot out of the dark,” etc., as this doesn’t mean when you double the word, you also double the fun. Thou Shalt Not write about the “dim of battle,” like on p. 218 of this book, when you mean “the din of battle.” If thou followest all of these Thou Shalt Not rules, thou shalt have both a much better chance of writing a good - or, at least, readable - book, and one which will get a reviewer to write a good review of your book.