Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset by Sarah Ashwood
Warning: Contains some minor violence and a scene of attempted rape.
Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset by Sarah Ashwood is the first in a fantasy series. Hannah, an ordinary girl from Earth, is whisked away to the land of Aerisia. Here, she is known as the Artan and is prophesied to save Aerisia and its people, bringing with her a time of peace. The only problem? Hannah doesn’t know who this Artan is and is sure they’ve got the wrong girl…
This is always the hardest part of running a review blog. While we love being able to help out Indie authors in any way we can, this blog is first and foremost for readers and helping them know what we think the amazing reads are, as well as which reads they should probably skip over.
Unfortunately, this one falls under the latter category.
While reading, it seemed to me that this was a first draft that was written, edited for spelling and punctuation only, and then published. The spelling and punctuation were all great; the content on the other hand needed a lot of work and didn’t appear to have been edited in the slightest (keep in mind, this is an observation on my part as I have no idea the actual lengths the author took when editing).
I’ll speak a bit on the writing and dialogue. This book switches from first person point of view to third person point of view every few chapters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (and I didn’t find it as such), but I thought I would mention it as I have known people who really dislike that in novels. As for the actual writing, well that was definitely a huge problem area. The author, Sarah Ashwood, tried to give the characters of Aerisia a mystical tone of voice, like that of many fantasy worlds. However, it was poorly done as the phrasing seemed very ‘rough draft’ and didn’t have the flow that I think Ashwood was trying to achieve. For example, the prophecy at the beginning states:
She is of our world and beyond… Unity with the everlasting will heal her soul, lifting the eternal from rejection and fear… The Dark Powers she shall overcome by becoming, yet not…
Much of this, and the writing throughout the rest of the novel reads as clumsy and trying to0 hard to sound ‘magical’. There is too much of a mix between modern day speech, with some old English words thrown in for good measure, and it requires a heavy editing hand. Because of this mix, there were a lot of issues with the grammar and the general flow of the writing.
There was also the matter of descriptions; over-descriptions, under-descriptions, and repeated descriptions. We don’t find out that the main character has two different colored eyes until a good 25% into the novel, but after that we are reminded every chapter or so about her looks. As well, we are reminded multiple times in consecutive pages and throughout the entire novel that the Simathe, a warrior race in Aerisia, have black eyes (think demon eyes from Supernatural) and black hair. In fact, any mention of the Simathe usually also includes this description. Instead of just saying warrior, they were always the ‘black-eyed’ or ‘black haired’ warriors. Most times, this was completely unnecessary as this description had been mentioned many times before. There are multiple instances where the main character, Hannah, is described as ‘earthlike’ (although I’m confused as to how so many of these people apparently know what ‘earthlike’ is when they have never been) and even Hannah herself, while trying to play up how ordinary she is, gives us this description:
Now, that really made me look earthy. Not earthy in a sexy sort of way, but earthy in a very earthlike fashion.
There are a good few chapters of information dumping in the beginning (though not any of the information that the reader actually needs – something I’ll get to in a minute), as well as towards the end, and the dialogue comes across much like the actual writing; a clumsy attempt at ‘old English’ speech. Then there is the matter of the main character, Hannah, and her own dialogue which comes across very juvenile. Not to mention the few instances where a character actually sums up what the reader just read over the past few pages:
“Mmmm, wow, that’s quite a story. Gives you the history of the Moonkind, High-Chief Laydon and his daughter, the Ranetron, the palace, and Council all in one.”
“You are aware of all this?”
Ilgard inclined his head. “Aye. You seek to warn me of the hardships inherent with any Joining, and of the likelihood that the bond I share with the Artan will be of longer duration than any other. Not merely longer but more perplexing, seeing she is a woman.”
There is very little that seems natural about the writing and dialogue throughout the novel which, unfortunately, makes it hard to read through.
The writing also hurts the world building. Everything is very much ‘info dumped’ for the reader. I could never get a clear picture of Aerisia and the people, nor did I feel that any of the important points were covered.
Moving on to the plot, there were a lot of plot holes, a lot of pacing issues, and a lot of inconsistencies. However, I will only discuss the two major ones that I had the most difficulty with because I feel they are where this story really needed the most work.
The introduction (or lack there of) of the main plot and the Simathe.
The whole idea of the novel is that Hannah is supposedly the Artan, a being of immense magic who is to save Aerisia… but save it from what? About 1/3 of the way through you are introduced to ‘The Evil’. As the reader, I’m assuming that The Evil is the antagonist and is somehow threatening the land of Aerisia. But how? What is The Evil doing that is so terrible? What is the nature of the threat to Aerisia? What is The Evil doing that only this ‘Artan’ can stop? Moreover, who/what is The Evil?
This isn’t explained. Not once. There are mentions of The Evil 1/3 of the way through and then again 2/3 of the way through. Never is it said just how The Evil is threatening the very existence of Aerisia nor what they are expecting Hannah, as the Artan, to do about it. What’s more, Hannah never even bothers to ask. Due to this, I did not feel any anticipation for the novel. The threat wasn’t real to me as none of the characters seemed to want to bring it up, and therefore there were no real stakes. Out of all the information that was given to the reader (the majority of which was not useful and was never brought up again), the most important bit of information, the actual conflict that’s supposed to be driving the plot, was almost completely absent.
Then there are the Simathe; a warrior race in Aerisia who are immortal (cannot die of disease or old age), cannot be killed at all, rarely need to sleep or eat, can run longer and faster than any regular man, and yet… Aerisia needs a very reluctant and untrained human girl who supposedly has magic (an unrealized magic that no one seems to want to try and help coax out of her) to defeat The Evil? You have warriors who can’t be killed – physically cannot die – so why not send them to defeat The Evil? Why do they need the Artan at all?
Unfortunately, I do not think Ashwood thought the Simathe through very well and because of that, the whole plot of the novel is sort of a moot point. If the author does rewrite this book, I would suggest making the Simathe at least a little vulnerable or unable to kill magical beings (I’m assuming The Evil is magical, but can’t say for sure since I have no idea who/what it is), so that there is a legitimate reason for the main character to be needed.
As for the characters, I didn’t find any of them likable or relatable. Starting with the secondary characters; they literally kidnapped this girl, are forcing her to ‘protect their world’ against her will, amongst other things, and I’m supposed to feel sorry for them? Yes, their world is in danger (from what reason I don’t know), but that gives them no right to act so entitled; like the main character owes them something when, until that moment, she didn’t even know they existed. And then to go about acting like she’s their friend and chastising her for getting angry with them and requesting to go back home… needless to say, I’m not much a fan of any of the secondary characters.
Then there is Ilgard, who I am assuming is the love interest (or will be in the next books). He does exactly what the Aerisians expect of him, not caring when Hannah clearly says no in regards to ‘the Joining‘ (not that kind of joining, though somewhat intimate all the same), and is constantly forcing his will upon Hannah. He is also 3,000 years old and, I’ll be honest, the ‘ancient love interest’ always creeps me out. It also makes it rather unbelievable because I do not see a being of 3,000 years old falling in love with someone as young and immature as the FMC.
Speaking of the FMC, Hannah is clearly the victim in all of this. I felt sorry for her, I really did, but I also could not relate to her nor even like her as a character. She cries a lot, and whines – which I guess is understandable given her situation – but she also comes off as being a spoiled brat (there was one scene where she was given hot water for a bath, clean clothes, food, etc., and yet instead of being grateful for that, she complains there was no mat and she had to step on cold stone). It was very hard being in her head for most of the novel and not a very interesting place to be. Mostly, she just mopes or talks about how ‘ordinary’ she is (all while everyone else is telling her how amazingly special she is). The constant self-depreciation (that often comes off as false modesty) did not endear her to me. There was also the matter that she never asked any of the right questions, the most important being ‘what exactly is it that you’re expecting me to save you from’. Instead, asking people about themselves are her “most important questions” and she is always saying how all of these secondary characters are her friends after a single conversation with them. She even refuses to eat when one such ‘friend’ (again, after a single conversation), leaves without saying goodbye.
There were definitely a lot of problem areas with this novel and I honestly view it as a first draft that needs to be rewritten a few times to fix the major flaws and fill in the obvious gaps. While the spelling and punctuation are all spot on, the content and grammar need some serious editing.
World Building: 1/5
Entertainment Value: 1/5
Average Overall Rating: 1/5
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