Few Are Chosen
M T McGuire
Charming outlaw with own transport and limited social skills seeks lucrative, employment at minimal risk.
When you're running from a murderous government and work for an equally murderous gangster, accidentally torching his apartment is a bad move.
The Pan of Hamgee just wants a quiet life but destiny has other plans.
I saw some of MT’s responses on other authors’ blog posts, looked her up, liked what I saw, and downloaded this book (for free, from Amazon).
I really enjoyed this book. This first book of the K’Barthan trilogy was published in 2010, and the fourth (yes) and final one was published in 2014. The Pan of Hamgee is a fabulous main character – a terrible coward and sometimes a bit slow on the uptake, but a loyal friend. He keeps saying the wrong thing, which gets him into lots of bother, and sometimes by saying the wrong thing it turns out to be the right thing. I loved the scene near the end of Few Are Chosen where he is injected with truth serum, and also the next scene where he is still under the influence of it. The minor characters are written well (apart maybe from Their Trev, who seems a bit like a spare part), and it was easy to get a mental image of each of them. The story was well plotted and not once did I feel the author had had to backtrack and clunkily lever something into an early part of the story in order to make a later part work – if this carries on through the other three books, I can only admire the forethought that must have gone into this. Although this is a fantasy world in parallel to what we think of as the "real world", I didn’t have to consciously suspend belief, but just accepted it as the story’s reality.
There are some silly names – but silly in a humorous way and not in a forced, trying-to-make-you-laugh, or unpronounceable way. That is the same for all the humour – and there is much of it. I felt the book was a little long, and there are some editorial issues (see Editorial Input), but my overriding sense of it is that the author was having enormous fun writing it and inventing this "other world". It seemed that she was bringing childhood fantasies into her grown-up world without too much actual growing up – and although that reads rather damningly, I don’t mean it to be because the result is refreshingly quirky.
I was left with a couple of unanswered questions (mainly to do with the connection between the two universes and how they can understand each other’s language), but these might be elaborated on in the rest of the series. I’m not quite sure of the reason for the inclusion of the chapter where we first meet Gladys and Ada, the Pan of Hamgee’s landladies – but maybe that also will be expanded on in future books.
My main criticism is that the book ends at the end of a chapter. Well, of course it does, but there is no sense that this is the end of a book with a story to be continued; it’s more like all four books were written as one story and a random number of chapters were picked off the manuscript pile and turned into book one.
I will definitely be buying (and reviewing) the rest of the series. And I recommend this book to readers who enjoy fantasy, or humour, and in particular humorous fantasy. I think Terry Pratchett fans will enjoy it; I had to make a conscious effort not to think of Sir Terry while I was reading it, though, in order to let MT’s voice be her own and not to compare the two.
The humour won’t be to everyone’s taste, and if someone had described it to me I would probably have thought it wasn’t to mine, but I dived in a bit blind and found that actually it was. This first book is free on Amazon, so really you have nothing to lose by downloading it and trying it out for yourself.
Editorial Input & Design
I felt the book was a little long and could have done with some tighter editing. Some paragraphs were too descriptive and could have been culled or stripped down. It could definitely have done with a copy-edit and proofread – there is some right dodgy punctuation. The book is good – very good – and needs an enthusiastic polish to make it even better. Don’t let the rough edges put you off reading it, though. Update: It appears that the version of the book that I downloaded is in fact quite an old one, and since then the book has been edited, so hopefully the punctuation has been sorted out. Once you've read it, let me know what you think.
Cover: Not great, not enticing and not a good advert for what’s inside. I was surprised to find this was a professional design. But there’s a pic of it up there on the left and maybe you don’t agree. I like the back, though, with the image of a Snurd MkII and the Interceptor (both are cars, sort of).
Internal design: I had few problems reading this as an ebook – although my version has justified margins and the one in “See inside” on Amazon is right ragged – does this mean anything? It appears that the print version is also right ragged, which rather alerts the casual flicker-through that the book is self-published and therefore might put them off.
Book Clubs & Reviews
Sadly, I wouldn’t recommend this as a book club read. I don’t think there is any set age group or gender that the book will appeal to – I think the potential audience is spread wide, but it will be only a subset of that group that will engage with the story. I know book clubs are supposed to take you out of your comfort zone, but I think this book might be a step too far for many. I’d be very glad for someone to put me right on that, though – but I don’t think I’ll be trying it with the book club I go to, where Jane Eyre is a favourite!
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.7 stars (41 reviewers) – note the number of people who say they wouldn’t normally read this type of book but they are glad they did; Amazon US readers give it 4.6 stars (32 reviewers) – “I highly recommend it to readers of lighthearted speculative fiction or anyone who may be looking for something a bit different and a lot of fun.” (Nash Android); Goodreads readers give it 4.21 stars (58 ratings) – “In style the book is very reminiscent of Douglas Adams’s Long Dark Teatime of the Soul with a touch of Hitchhikers thrown in for good measure.” (RJ); Smashwords readers give it 4.67 stars (8 reviews).
Buy & Author
Amazon (Kindle Free; paperback £9.96/$15.29)
smashwords.com (epub Free)
For other buying options, see the author-publisher's website.
Follow the author
Website (amusing posts on life and writing)
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