Spring’s Arcana & The Salt-Black Tree, by Lillith Saint-Crow
As this is a duology that I read back-to-back, the two books get one review because really, the book should have been one long book. The first one I listened to and the second one I read (because the first one stops in the middle of an action seen—who does that?). Overall, I loved the story. It’s similar to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, but in many ways more interesting. The worldbuilding was great, with a hotel for gods and spirits that feels like The Continental from John Wick movies. The characters were interesting and fully developed, but …
The writing! I feel like this author heard the adage about not using adverbs and said, “Hold my beer.” There were so many adverbs and adjectives—most of them weird word constructs that had no meaning without context. An example: “Nat slithered off the stool, her boots hitting tiled floor with twin fang-thumps. She backed away, her right hand clapping over her mouth because the urge to hiss-scream boiled in her middle with the vodka...”
What are fang-thumps? Don’t even get me started on the analogies. I was really conflicted while reading the books because I couldn’t quite pin down why I wasn’t enjoying the story. Then one paragraph that was so full of ‘wtf’ that I figured it out. It was the overuse of adverbs, overblown adjectives, the hyphenated word concoctions of both, and the ridiculous analogies. Another example: “[Car] peeled off at the interchange, surefooted as a stretch-galloping feline, and before Nat knew it the blue car was slowing, waxed thread slipping through the eye of a needle.”
Wwwwhyeeeeeee? Remember how I said these should be one book. It would have been if the author didn’t over pack every sentence with surplus verbiage. Like this one, “Nat accepted one of the glasses, now heavy-full of liquid; condensation was cold on its slick sides.” Or this one, “The thiefways folded around him, and with a sound like the last tubercular cough of a dying bandit married to the feedback-laced scream of a stooping hawk on summer tundra...”
This could have been one of my favorite stories if not for the overindulgent writing. What does “the last tubercular cough of a dying bandit” even sound like. It was just too dang much. I felt like I needed to read Hemingway after this duology just to read clear writing again. But if you can get past the writing, the story is really great.