As I stated in a previous post, when reviewing books I am not interested in giving them a score. You can get that at Amazon or on half a dozen other blogs. I have a “laundry list” of things I’m looking for when I read a book. For a review, what I do is ask a series of questions that have been grouped together in a common heading, and then I answer those questions based on my perceptions. The whole thing looks a little something like the following:
Pacing & Structure
Does the story move along quickly or bog down in details? Are details lost because the story moves too fast? Are the chapters too long or too short? Are there multiple viewpoints, and how does the book handle transitions between them?
Do you feel empathy for the characters and care what happens to them? How do the main characters change throughout the story? Do all the characters have the same voice? Do they show a variety of emotions? Are the characters underdogs or overly-powerful? What are the characters’ motivations? Do their motivations justify their actions?
Do you have a good idea of what places look like? Does there seem to be a detailed history or backstory? How is the history/backstory presented? How much detail is in the surroundings…terrain, weather, auditory? How does magic work? Is there a religious pantheon? How is travel handled? Do you have a good feel for how time passes?
Is the threat to the characters credible, and their response believable? What is the motivation of the opposition? How did the opposition become so powerful? Why is the opposition suddenly presenting itself to the characters now?
Plot and Overall Impressions
Are well-worn elements (elves, dragons, magic swords) present, or did the author imagine more? Is it too alien? Is Deus Ex Machina used for the characters to overcome the opposition? Are there twists and turns, things you didn’t see coming, or was it too predictable? Is the plot too complex, or perhaps too simple? Was the ending satisfying or was it anti-climatic? Would you read the book again, and when? Was the author’s prose appealing or jarring?
I hope that gives you a feel for how I’ll be reviewing books in the future. Please let me know if you find this methodology useful, or at least a good read…