Handbook for Mortals: An Autopsy

You probably know that Lani Sarem’s novel  Handbook for Mortals is a total mess. The prose is repetitive, given to stream-of-consciousness tangents about seemingly meaningless details. There are numerous typos, comma splices, and a conspicuous fondness for em dashes. Point-of-view shifts mid-paragraph, only to revert a sentence later; Psychic powers are introduced and then vanish in the space of a single chapter. The love triangle that makes up the bulk of act 2 is utterly inconsequential, as is the magical duel in a mall parking lot. And there are hints strewn throughout that certain characters are not who they seem, but none of this is ever developed, leaving the reader to wonder if they hallucinated entire plot points.

Writing a book is hard, and writing a good one is harder. Most professionally published novels go through countless rounds of revision: anything superfluous is surgically removed, bits that don’t work are tweaked until they do, and, after dissecting every line of their work, the author has to stitch it all back together well enough that prospective readers don’t notice the scars.

My point here is that Handbook for Mortals died on the operating table, and I am here to figure out what even these quacks were trying to accomplish.

Which I guess makes me the coroner?

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