Humor: check. Violence: check. Lovable: check.

Adventures in reading and writing from Big5Plus, lesson the first

r/suggestmeabook: I want a Swords and Sorcery adventure that will make me laugh—and occasionally choke up.

Rating: R

Pages: 464

Publisher: Orbit

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Yes, I loved this book. The effortless with which Nicholas Eames moves from smartassery to makemewannacry is impressive. He even throws in some wisdom here and there:

Clay suspected the booker had bullied the midwife that pulled him from the womb, but there wasn’t time to speculate now.

Nicholas Eames, Kings of the Wyld

I didn’t expect to love it—which may, in part, explain why I did. There’s nothing like overly high expectations to ruin a book for you. I don’t naturally gravitate to Swords and Sorcery, but enough posters on Reddit (r/fantasy) had mentioned it that I decided to pick it up.

He has an interesting technique that he uses pretty consistently: almost every chapter ends with a teaser (that often sounds like a spoiler), and it’s picked up in the next one. Sometimes the teaser is misleading; sometimes it’s not.

This technique definitely makes it hard to put the book down. Each time I thought, “Well, I’ll stop at the end of this chapter,” dammit, there’d be one of those statements and I just had to find out what the hell it meant.

The characterizations are consistently good. He can sum up minor characters quite well with descriptions, as in the one of Etna Doshi:

She was short, stocky, and walked with the telltale Phantran swagger that was one-quarter useful for staying balanced on a ship’s deck and three-quarters cocky bravado.

Nicholas Eames, Kings of the Wyld

It helped me escape the current existential angst, so it’s a good read in and of itself, as well as one of those that you read to learn about good writing.

The elusive definition for “independently published”

“Independently published” is a fairly broad term. The Independent Book Publisher’s Association seems to define it as a state of mind, and includes basically any publisher other than the Big 5.  You know the Big 5, right? They each have bunches of “imprints,” other names they use for certain types of books (and this is not a exhaustive list of all the imprints):

​Whew! Yes, you can probably read nothing but books from the Big 5 for the rest of your life. But since I tend toward the view that megacorps are not healthy for the world, I prefer to look elsewhere when possible (not to say I don’t read their books–that’s not happening). (Sidenote: What is HarperCollins trying to pull, having imprints with Facebook sites rather than regular websites? Trying to look all indie?)

I’m looking for independently published books (including self-published) whose publisher has not yet cracked that New York Times Best Seller List, but whose books should have.

Anyway, the IBPA definition is overly inclusive for my purposes. I’m looking to help those worthy books that aren’t yet mainstream. Reedsy, among others, distinguishes independent publishers from self-publishing. Self-publishing is definitely a different animal than having a separate entity publish your book on the traditional model, but I tend to use the terms “small press” and “self-published” to make that distinction and use indie publishing to include both. If I were a small press, I suppose I might object. to including among my peers those with self-published books (which includes publishers set up just for one author as well as those using what we used to call “vanity presses”). 

Aside from that, I basically agree with Reedsy’s definition: “An independent publisher is a publisher not affiliated with any big corporations or conglomerates — meaning they operate independently.”

But I’m focusing on the smaller denizens of that community, not those who already have the size or prestige to draw attention to their books. For example, Kensington Publishing Corp., with six imprints and a backlist of 5000 titles, calls itself “America’s independent publisher.”  However, Kensington has already managed to place books on the New York Times Best Seller List. So Kensington’s books are probably not going to end up being reviewed here. I will refer to the group of publishers whose books I don’t review as “Big5plus.”

I’m looking for independently published books (including self-published) whose publisher has not yet cracked that New York Times Best Seller List, but whose books should have.

Arbitrary? You betcha. Clear? Probably. It’s a bit of a hassle, checking out each books publisher, but it’s worth it to me.