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TPG’s Tasters: Watcher’s Web (pt 2/2)

May 7, 2014


Last time, we started to look at Watcher’s Web, by Patty Jansen. The cover left something to be desired; the actual writing, thankfully, left quite a bit less to be. Thus, at the end of the last post I was feeling fairly postive about things, and was eager to see how the rest of the opening panned out.

And with that said, let’s begin.

The First Chapter

We open right to Jessica’s point of view. She is used to being watched, we are told – just as she’s being watched right then by a pair of young boys:

Wow! See that really tall one?

Bloody Hell, yeah.

How’d you reckon she kisses a guy? On her knees.

They laughed and, when she came closer, faced the yard to watch the cattled as if they had said nothing.

Well, I bloody heard you. She was used to it, anyway.

So…they were speaking and she overheard…shouldn’t those itallics just be speech marks, then?

The boys’ comments remind Jessica of the other things she has been called, none of which are complimentary. “Ugly” is mentioned, as is “freak” – which, judging from the cover art…uh…nevermind.

Also, no word on her right arm as of yet; I’m assuming she has one.

She might look like a freak, but when she helped John Braithwaite and his mates from the Rivervale Stud Farm at a cattle show and Angus went into one of his fits, they still needed her to get him into the truck without spooking him…Because no one was crazy enough to get into a pen with a stroppy bull, right?

Well, we’ll see about that.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already beginning to imagine this girl’s voice dispite having only seen two (mental) lines of dialogue. That, in case you can’t tell, is a Good Sign. Now all we need is some proper action, and I’d say we have a good scene on our hands.

Jessica jumps into Angus’ pen; this alarms onlookers, but Jessica herself remains confident in her ability to keep the bull under control. Braithwaite’s truck is already in places; all Jessica has to do is to get the bull to go inside it. Easy, right?

“Come on, Angus.”

Men sniggered, including the two teenage boys. The one with the cigarette flicked ash into the pen and said something about a whip.

Now who was more stupid? Them or the bull? You did not frighten such a prize animal if you could help it. He might bolt and injure himself. An unsightly gash would take him off the show circult for months. Sheesh!

So…wait, we’re in first person now?

Jessica reached though the fence into the bucket she had dumped there. Her hand came away black and sticky with molasses.

Guess not.

Now, on one hand, this scene is doing a very good job of showing Jessica’s character in a relatively concise manner; on the other hand, I’m hoping such asides die down once the story has properly gotten going. Given her apparent isolation, her personality is very much believable and, indeed, perfectly understandable; it’s just that I can see it getting annoying if it comes to dominate the narrative.

…and speaking of things getting going, we appear to have reached the scene’s hook:

Jessica exhaled. Her breath seeped from her in tendrils of sparkle-filled mist, which sought out Angus’ fur and crept over his grey-mottled bac, a bit like glitter-glue, but alive.

She pulled the mist tighter around him, so his coat sparkled and glittered with lights…She didn’t know what to call it, and had learned not to talk about it to anyone. It wasn’t that she could communicate with him, but she could tell him what to do. Sort of.

Her audiance had stopped talking. Anyone who watched always did that, even though they couldn’t see the mist and didn’t realise it influenced them.

At this point, I should point that my kindle percentage is still at one percent. This is good pacing in action.  So far, everything in this scene has felt both fluid and relevant, and I can honestly say that it’s a lot better than the cover would have led me to believe. Here’s hoping it continues.

More sparkling vapour flowed…

But then…

The threads slidified and the mist spun into tightly-coiled cords, which wove into a formation like a spider’s web.

The “But then…” isn’t summarised, by the way; that really is how it’s written in the text. A bit melodramatic, in my opinion, but hey.

Jessica begins to feel someone pulling on the web. She also hears a faint male voice calling a name she can’t quite hear. She panics, and severs the connection…only to find Angus licking at her molasses-covered hand. Soon after that, Jessica leads him to the truck.

Jessica leaned against the truck, forcing herself to grin at her audience.

“Can anyone give me a lift to the airport?”

And with that, the scene ends, having given us a nice intro to the protagonist that will pave the way for the story to follow. I gotta say: by the end, I liked this a lot. It’s well-paced, the protagonist seems well done and the central concept – her strange “mist” – appears to be one worth exploring. It doesn’t seem amazing, sure, but it certainly seems like something I could enjoy.


The rest

Not much to say here, really. I was feeling pretty good about the book by the time I got here, and I saw little to change that opinion afterwards. The following scene started slow, but it picked up before too long. One thing we do get here is a physical description of Jessica, which I thought worth sharing:

A man in a grey suit looked up from his computer, his expression vacant. What would he be seeing? An exceedingly tall girl with lanky black hair, in a dusy shirt and jeans, smelling of cattle shit. Wonderful.

Note the lack of a mirror; for that matter, note in general how unforced the description largely feels. Granted, it’s a little sparse on the details, but it’s certainly good for a starting point.

By the time I reached the book’s starting incident – namely, the plane crash from the blurb – I had already made up my mind. Thus, there seems little point in continuing this recap any further.


Did I Buy It?

Yes…because it was free when I first found it and I saw little reason to hold off. So let’s try something else, shall we?


Will I Keep Reading It?

Not right away – got an ARC to read first – but it’s certainly going on the list. So basically, yes I will be. I wasn’t expecting much when I first saw that cover up close, but the extract that followed left me pleasantly surprised. Now I just gotta hope the book stays good afterwards.

Here, then, is a fine example of why one shouldn’t always judge a book from a substandard cover. That said, I know a lot of people do and, frankly, I can’t say I blame them. Bottom line: if you’re going to self-publish, make sure your cover is up the job.

Until next time, all.




From → Reviews, Writing

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