OK, so. A few weeks ago, I was terribly worried about book reviews. But then I finished Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, and discovered that she still very honestly reviews YA books.

So there you have it. It probably doesn’t matter that much if you review books.

So let’s move on to something that actually is a major issue: The fact that agents get so many submissions that they often decide to keep or reject your book based on the first page. Or even the first paragraphs.

This is not new information. This is not even surprising. But a kind reviewer linked me this post from the Author! Author! blog. It is absolutely terrifying. And possibly inspiring. And terrifying.

Author! Author! ยป The scariest Halloween ever: submitting your first page to a bunch of agents for critique

Let the “Do I do any of those!?” panic begin!

Photo of the cover of Mogsworld.

Hotlinked from Amazon.

My full, formal, and spoiler-free review is on Goodreads! In fact, I didn’t even spoil the central conceit of the story, which is so obvious so early in the novel that no one else on Goodreads bothered to hide it. Oh well!

But now that I’ve had a little time to think about it, I think my biggest problem with Mogworld (by Yahtzee Croshaw) is the balance of humor and serious plot.

When you make a bunch of ridiculous characters in a silly world, give them ridiculous conflicts, and then end with a legitimately serious ending, it’s jarring. And it’s not because the characters are bad, the humor falls flat, or the touchingly serious part isn’t touching or serious enough. It’s because when characters are only used as comic tools, we don’t necessarily know (or care) how they respond to serious situations.

The main character of Mogworld is an undead, suicidal misanthropist. He travels with a ditzy, clingy nationalist, a religious zealot so crazed that he speaks exclusively in fire-and-brimstone denouncements of his party, and a ridiculously bad rogue. Most of these characters made me laugh, but not one of them had any amount of depth. So they’re jokes. That’s fine. They can pratfall around and say ridiculous things. But when people start dying and the world is ending and you’re supposed to care about these people… That’s difficult.

Writing humor is hard. I’m trying to think back on something like, say, Discworld, and what its best novels did. They’re amusing because the very nature of the world and its magic and its Gods are amusing, and there’s an internal logic to why crises happen and how they’re resolved. (I realize this example would be a lot stronger if I had a specific book to cite, but it’s been maybe 6 or 7 years since I read a Discworld novel.) Mogworld is all fun and games until it’s time to save the world, and then it struggles to support the seriousness.

There’s a lot more that bugged me, but that’s all in the review. But at least this novel reminded me that I have not watched Zero Punctuation for about a year, and I am desperately curious about how terrible the new Castlevania is.