3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Edward C. Patterson, one of the most prolific indie authors I’ve encountered, has published (by my rough count) somewhere between 15 and 17 books and has another 6 or 7 on the way. Some of these are on Kindle, some in paperback, some available through both. The point is, this guy can generate some words. And he’s been writing long enough to have developed a confident command of the language. His books are rich in detail, and filled with minutiae. Patterson seems not to labor over every detail, but to naturally sprinkle these convincing spices into his work morsel by morsel, whimsically and flippantly, but always with little effort. He makes it look easy and these colorful details build a world, populate his environment, and become the essence of his writing.
The Academician, the first of four books in Patterson’s Southern Swallow series, takes us on an epic journey through 12th Century China. A government servant (think of him as a middle manager for the Hui Dynasty) Li K-ai-men and his servant K’u Ko-ling travel through the country together and, shall we say, bond with each other. The story is rich in history and filled with meticulous detail, descriptions of the food, clothing, and customs are expertly concocted with historical precision. The execution of brigand Ch’ien Mu by blade (literally a death by 1,000 slices) is gripping in its violence.
The relationship between master and servant, though not entirely inappropriate, does cause complications for Li K-ai-men, who knows his lover can be “neither concubine for inheritor,” but continues the affair, losing his wife’s trust.
This is heavy reading. It was difficult to read in large chunks and I kept taking breaks to devour something quick and easy before picking it up again to chew through another 100 pages. The writing is excellent and feels like Patterson went back in time to the 12th Century, lived there for years, and came back to write this book. Or perhaps he’s actually from the 12th Century? The research is that strong.
This should be a 4-star book, but I’m deducting half a star for the cover. I’ve stressed again and again the importance of a strong cover but this one is pixilated and blurry and difficult to interpret. It looks like a low-resolution jpeg was expanded by Microsoft Paint and then shrunk, expanded, shrunk and expanded again. Make sure your cover is designed by a pro.
All in all, a good book backed by very strong writing and expert knowledge of the setting.
The Academician – Southern Swallow – Book I is available from Amazon.
Visit Edward’s page on Author’s Den.
Reviewed by Mark McGinty, June 2010.