A Solid, Readable Effort, But Not Without Challenges
I have never read a self-published novel before (I don't read much fiction at all these days), but I purchased this on a recommendation from a blog I frequent. This is a solid, somewhat engaging novel, with obvious ambition (some might say slight pretension) to greatness, written in concise and effective prose; however, the story is marred by a sagging middle third that could easily have been whittled down considerably and flat characterizations, especially of the antagonists. Suzy is so diabolically narcissistic that she comes off as cartoonish and silly, and Bela (the main character) is so unrelentingly stupid and naive that it becomes difficult to sympathize with him. The parts with Reinhardt and the history of Hungary are fascinating, and Verge was a compelling character, but they are relegated to the background for the majority of the novel. I did appreciate the championing of tradition and the themes of beauty and purpose, which are uncommon in today's literature. I would be interested in reading further work by the author, and was impressed by the scope and ambition of this book, but it does suffer from a noticeable lack of a skilled editor. Overall, a worthwhile read.
First of all, I completely agree with the reviewer's observation that the book suffers from a noticeable lack of a skilled editor. This is a significant drawback of self-publishing. In all honesty, the shortcomings the reviewer mentions above have been gnawing away at me for years. The protagonist is too gullible and naive throughout the narrative - to the point that he becomes irritating and practically unlikeable. In many ways, he is little more than a Pinocchio character. The antagonist, on the other hand, is too one-dimensional, to the point that she does indeed come off as cartoonish.
Secondly, the narrative is also bloated and overwritten in many places; many needless scenes could be omitted; some descriptions and sentences could be whittled down. Lastly, I have come to realize the novel is too raw in many parts - so much so that it can be off-putting to readers who land on the sqeaumish side. Needless to say, it is extremely helpful for me as a writer to have a reader confirm these flaws in the narrative.
As I mentioned above, I had considered editing and revising the book over the years, but was reluctant to do so for fear my revisions might do more harm than good. Nevertheless, this particular review and some other feedback I have received over the past year has inspired me to take a chance and complete a comprehensive revision of The City of Earthly Desire in the hope that such a revision might indeed make the story better. I estimate the revisions will take two or three months to complete, but I feel it will be a worthwhile investment that will lead to a better version of the novel in the end. I welcome the challenge, especially since my current fiction project has run into a bit of rut in the past two or three months.