The Master of Izindi by David Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Master of Izindi by Dave Wallace
My attention was drawn to this by someone who recommended it[on several occasions]as a very good self-published novel. I avoided it for some time, but finally gave it a try and I did enjoy the overall story, but....
This is one more of those love hate novels in my library; and I debated on whether to do any sort of review, because I'm not sure if I can do much justice to the novel itself because of the choices Dave Wallace made in his style of writing. I did like the story and give it high marks for being entertaining; but I can't give it my highest marks, because of a number of obvious flaws in the version that I had available to me. In fact, because I am giving it high marks I once again feel obligated to point to some of the flaws that might annoy other readers more than they managed to put me off.
I tried starting this once and immediately saw that there would be a small problem for me. I love character driven stories that dig in close to the character to reveal their thoughts and motivations; and because this seems to be a third person omniscient point of view with a tendency to stay omniscient and distant, this did not give that particular feel to me. In fact, I was forced to go back and look at One Thousand Nights and a Night to try to determine if it might be that the author was trying to mimic the style of that book. [I'm still not sure even after looking; if he was trying to set that mood, it fell a bit flat; because this book is not suited to the format used in One Thousand Nights and A Night.]
What I mean by that is that One Thousand Nights and A Night is the story of Scheherazade telling stories in such a manner to make them interesting enough that she might waylay her death by keeping the king interested enough to allow her another day to continue the tale.[Each day she was preventing the king from marrying and then slaying another bride.(The king is a serial killer.)] The tale becomes a string of tales within tales[with sometimes even another nested tale] that are all done mostly in a dispassionate nonjudgmental manner with an often curious twist that Scheherazade might leave off at; for the next day. These were also tales that appear to be somewhat moral in nature while often using language and images that some cultures might find somewhat objectionable. The only transferable key within these tales is that it is mostly narrated from a third omnicient point of view. But it might be unfair to stop there; because we should look at the characters who often seems to be blown around by the winds of fate and sometimes striking upon the correct choice and the often heroic figure who might sometimes seem invincible.
But in a way I might be unfair trying to make a comparison, in that Dave Wallace may have just been trying to transfer some Arabian mythical creatures into a modern format. Even so with that in mind I find that one of my first difficulties was that the novel seems to be set into three basic tales that include the same character; but a character who seems to make such startling leaps within his character that it seems like its a story of three different characters. And yet it is all one tale with one character.
In the beginning, Zafir is described many times as a street urchin; and I'm sure somewhere in the defintion of that term he qualifies, but some parts not so much when we find out more about him. And that's part of the problem, which is that we don't know much about him throughout the entire novel. In this first part about the street urchin Zafir we know more about the woman who helps him, Alima, than we do Zafir. Alima is another problem, which is that she helps save him from the Emir's guard and takes him to the edge of the city and pretty much has to give up her way of life in the city because of all that and she ends up being discarded, so that the reader can be moved onto the next part of the story.[Although, I'm not sure how I'd have felt if she'd been killed.]
The next part of the novel Zafir is taken in by Master Storm where he becomes possibly some sort of novice trainee who manages to stumble into the right direction when they are in danger and in need of making decisions on the fly. In this instance the adventures that they encounter on their trek to Izindi do read a lot like the stories out of One Thousand Nights and A Night. Each time we seem to be witness to the strange growth of the novice Zafir with the potential to understanding his underlying 'wisdom' which he often just happens to stumble into.
Somewhere along the line we finally discover that Zafir has a family[I have yet to find the spot since my amazon for pc keeps crashing when I search.] including not only a father and mother, but a sister and brother. It is convenient that we discover this as it becomes an important part of his shifting motivation.
The third and final part is Zafir the Master. He has passed his tests he has proven himself and he has surpassed all his masters and on top of that it might be that he's the chosen one. This part might get a bit sticky for those people who don't care for Deus Ex Machina. For quite a few pages Zafir seems undefeatable and he strangly strings together a bunch of seemingly random, but serial, adventures that lead to his acquiring all the equipment he needs to accomplish his final task.
As it is all of those features in the story did not account for my dropping a point save for the choice to use an omniscient third that was so distant. Despite the cringeworthy notion of deviating from rules: I would have been happier had the author chosen to break the rules a bit and come closer to the main character. This reader would have loved to know how the character felt in each of the steps from the urchin to the master and his thoughts and feelings during the greater part of stress up to and within the climatic moments. And if we were to go with the notion of trying to catch the mood of One Thousand Nights and A Night then I could almost live with the treatment or maybe lack of treatment of the women especially the discarding of the character Alima whom I at some point was holding such hopes for.
Now we reach the part of caveats. I don't downgrade the stars for grammar, but I do feel when the errors reach a specific boundary it's important to mention. The copy I have of this novel contains, at a minimum, 50 gramatical problem. These range from spelling to incorrect words to punctuation and sentences that are confusing at best.
As one Example of the handful or more.
The scimitar rebounded from her neck with a clang and fell notched from the astonished noble’s grasp.
Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 4210-4211). . Kindle Edition.
[I think I understood this but it needs punctuation or the removal of notched because it's confusing]
There are several instances when you is used and should be your along with the switching out of then and than;of for on; so for do;road for rode; past for passed. And sometimes extra words just hanging at the front or end of a sentence[often duplication of words]. There were instances where a character named Samael was referred to as the Samael and though there might be some instances where such wording might become necessary; there was no clear indicator that there was any reason for that.
Somehow:: shows up at least 21 times
Suddenly:: shows up at least 40 times
I don't have an overall aversion to the use of these words but most of the time in this novel they were used to somehow suddenly avoid explaining things.
The application of comming close to stopping the narrative to address the reader with facts that none of the characters would know was likely permissible within the context of the omnicient narrator; yet it was still rather annoying and sometimes not all that necessary.
Years later, no man alive could have approached him thus unnoticed, but as it was, he simply did not hear them.
Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 865-866). . Kindle Edition
[Sometimes the information was important]
Zafir again failed to note the sidelong glance the Abbott gave him upon arriving in the Tower of Stars, and he missed the envy and hate that filled the man’s face.
Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 5125-5126). . Kindle Edition.
There were too many instances of what I would call convenient application of knowledge[discovered by the reader in the moment of application].
“I recognize it from Izindi’s teachings.”
Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Location 5160). . Kindle Edition.
Conversely there were moments when something was so distanced from the reference that I have yet to go back and find the reference.
As Zafir ran off, the Master of Fire stared after him, pondering the Abbott's words.
Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Location 1290). . Kindle Edition.
I do believe that lovers of Arabian tales and mythologies in general should enjoy this book with a warning that some might find a few glitches a bit frustrating. If you are like me, though, you may be prompted into taking a fresh look at A Thousand Nights and A Night.
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