Book Review: Tales of the Zodiac: The Goat’s Tale

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Tales of the Zodiac: The Goat’s Tale

Author: P.J. Hetherhouse

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: December 6th, 2014

Genre: Young Adult, Action/Adventure, Dystopia

Pages: 467

Synopsis:

It is the distant future. Time has seen humanity rise and fall many times, seemingly unable to learn from the mistakes of the past. Now, on the brink of another decline, twelve people step forward to change the course of destiny. Each of them has a tale to tell…

The tales of the zodiac is a series inspired by Celtic mythology, Arthurian legend and, most importantly, astrology. Living in a time when Mother Nature has resumed control, the human race has regressed back to its feudal past. It is here, in two civilizations gripped by political intrigue and religious fanaticism, that the tales take place. We begin with Capricorn—The Goat’s Tale.

A boy of sixteen, Gruff is old beyond his years. He is a dour, dogged, determined character driven by competitiveness and his rigid moral code. Unsurprisingly, this attitude wins him more enemies than friends and, eventually, earns him the most powerful enemy of all—the king.

This royal enmity sets him on a quest that will change his life forever. With nothing but sheer belligerence, and the help of fierce companions (including Cancer and Scorpio), he defies the king and ultimately achieves an unthinkable personal victory. Above all things, The Goat’s Tale is a tribute to the indomitable soul of the Capricorn.

My First Thoughts:

Astrology, in general, doesn’t really interest me all that often. Most of the time I find it to be quite annoying actually, especially when people use it as an excuse to make terrible decisions. But I really like Celtic mythology and Arthurian legends, so I thought I would give this book a go!

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

It took me well over a month to read this book, it actually took me almost two months to read this. Granted, some of that time was taken up by a busy work schedule, but overall this book took so long because it actually drained me to read it. I had to read this book when I was in the mood and normally I couldn’t read it for more than an hour before I had to take a break. I believe in total this book spans about two years, but in the middle of reading the story it felt like it actually lasted a lot longer than that.

If you can’t tell, one of my first complaints is that this book is incredibly slow. It takes forever to get to the action or even the main objective of the story; I believe it took almost 100 to get to the very beginning of the quest and then another 20 before the characters actually set out on the quest. Even on the quest there are several pages between big points of action, that don’t even last that long in hindsight, before there’s another long drag of really nothing. When we did get to the action it felt too drawn out, and not by long fight scenes, but by the hyper attention to every single detail by Gruff. The pacing was just terrible and inconsistent. There were times when the author would spend tons of words and pages on little things, but then do massive skips in time and summarizing them in long boring passages. The author really needed an editor, if they had one then this book would be at least 100 pages shorter.

I like world building as much as the next person. In fact, it’s something that I look forward to when starting a new series. However, it is not something that I wish to drown in when reading the first book. While a lot of the world building was very interesting in this story, there was just too much of it to handle at times. As a writer, one needs to focus on the important information that the reader needs in the moment to understand what is happening and why. If there’s an adequate space for expansion, then do so sparingly and in ways that don’t hinder the storytelling. At times in The Goat’s Tale, I felt like the story was suspended to have a history lesson of the current status of the world and its people. Sometimes, it was very interesting and actually added some to the story. Other times it felt like it didn’t actually belong and the author just shoved it into the story because they wanted to show it off. There were even passages about people and places that we briefly meet or visit, but the passages were longer than the time spent in the location or with the people.

For the most part, the characters were alright. The one that gets the most ‘on-screen’ development is Gruff, which is a little bit of a shame. The story is in his point of view, so it makes sense for him to get the most development but I felt like we spent too much time focused on Gruff. The other characters that he encounters just sort of disappear and then reappear with slightly different personalities and viewpoints. For instance, there are arguably two other main characters in this story who at one point disappear for several chapters. When these characters reappear again they’ve changed in ways that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Then there are other characters that change along the journey but we’re told about it rather than shown, and I felt that it would’ve been nice to actually see these developments unfold. For someone as observant as Gruff seems to be, when it came to details regarding other people he was uncharacteristically quiet about it—and this kid had a lot to say about almost everything else.

The last thing I’ll touch on here is the conventional story structure of The Goat’s Tale. Most stories are told in the shape of a hill, there’s a rise to the top and shortly after we get to the top there’s a fall to the bottom. I honestly had a hard time telling where the ‘top’ or the climax of this story was, I can narrow it down to two events but they didn’t feel very climatic just more so than the other noteworthy events. But after those two events I didn’t feel like I was reading the falling action, or the decline, of the story. To me, after what I could argue was the climax the story just kind of sputtered until it ran out of pages. Even the ‘end’ didn’t feel like an actual ending because it was an obvious setup for the next book. If the series suddenly ends at that point then the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and feels uncompleted. I understand that nowadays books are written with the idea of a series in mind, but a good author ends each book like there might not be a next one while leaving unfinished threads that could expand on the story.

Final Thoughts:

This book wasn’t really for me. There were several times in which I thought about putting it down and reading something more enjoyable, but I wanted to get to the end to see how the tale unfolded. But when I got to the end I felt a bit let down. My favorite character isn’t in the story anymore, and my next favorite character I feel might not get an interesting story because of how she was handled at the end. And on top of all this, I felt like this story read more like a long-winded fantasy rather than a dystopian. If you take out any references to plastic, muskets, or anything related to technology I would’ve believed that this story was set in some sort of fantastical setting. Instead it’s a dystopian that doesn’t really read like any other that I’ve read so far, which may not be a point against it—just depends on the person I guess.

I would recommend this story to anyone who is looking for something a bit different and wants to get into a new series. While it honestly wasn’t my cup of tea, I can see how other people might enjoy it, especially if you are into long stories with a ton, and I mean a ton, of world building.

Rating:

2/5

I don’t think I’d want to continue the series, especially with how this book ended. There was no real resolve to this story, just a short lull before a big lead into the next book. I don’t really care for stories that end like this, but I understand that other people are different. I felt like the narrative of this story was too long winded, I felt that I could cut 100 pages from this book and the story wouldn’t have suffered the loss. However, I’ve always been rather picky about the length of my books only a few rather lengthy ones have ever been able to hold my complete interest all the way through. For those who love long stories, this one may be a breeze for you to read. I really enjoyed a lot of the world building, but at times I felt like it was too much and could’ve been saved for other books later in the series. The characters are alright, though I found the main character, Gruff, to be a bit unemotional and extremely pessimistic. The one line of thought I didn’t care for of his, was that when he becomes maimed he views himself as an invalid due to his acquired disability. While this is an arguable thought for the setting of the story, I feel like this can become hurtful to some readers, especially since it felt in some cases that the author went out of their way to make Gruff that way.

Overall, it’s an okay story. It’s not one that I will continue, but I found the premise of the story to be quite interesting. I believe what made me not want to continue the most was actually Gruff, because I spent too much time in his head. There’s a chance that the next book will be led by a different character, but with how this one ended and with the cast so far, I doubt I can pick up the next one.

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