Daniel Ruth was so kind to reach out to me to read his third book in his series "The Chained Worlds Chronicles," and I picked up "A Shuffling of Planets" on Kindle Unlimited. I want to thank Daniel for waiting for me to read it because he is a patient and kind person.
Let me start with my first impressions. "A Shuffling of Planets" is the third book in the series, and I have not read the other books.
As such, I lacked an understanding of the lore or anything that makes the world up. My first impression of "A Shuffling of Planets," I was confused. The first part of the story was understandable because of the scenario it started in, but even past that part, it took me a bit to acclimate. Thus, if you are looking to read this series, please start at book 1.
Now, the thing I do not want to do is give spoilers, and I am going to do my utmost not to. But with this book, I am going to transition to the critiques first. Under "Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation," the text read like it needed more editing. Under "Story Structure," there wasn't a clear understanding of who were main characters and who was not for about a third of the book. That's a structure issue, and often in story editing, that would get cleared up a bit more. Under "Foundation" it was missing the basics that a stand-alone book would have, like an introduction, and some basic understanding of what the reader is coming into, which comes in story editing. Under the scoring category of "Presentation," I had to take points off for grammatical errors, word choice, and spelling issues. There are so many typos. I haven't ever seen a book with this many typos make it past a second or third pass of a draft. I almost feel as though this had no beta readers or any editing happen for typos. It wasn't just typos that plagued the manuscript; it was also word choice and a lack of line by line editing.
Example: "We enjoyed our deserts at the end of our meal."
While I understand the characters in question were dragons, and I'm sure they likely could have eaten a barren wasteland, I'm not sure if they find sand to be a delicious end to a meal. I think the word chosen in the sentence should have been 'dessert,' not 'desert.'
And, I hope you can all understand where I am coming from here, but this struck me as I continued; If there wasn't care enough to edit it, why care enough to pick up another book in the series or continue reading this one? I have some reasons for staying with the series in the positives below, so stay tuned. Unfortunately, for this category, I have to take points off for all three pieces that make it up, story structure, and foundation, and presentation.
Under the category of "Whole Story," this is one of the first times I'm going to ding a score on a book for not having a beginning. I have no idea still what was going on at the beginning of the story, and I suspect it's because this was the cliffhanger ending that didn't get finalized in the second book. In which case, it's not that surprising that there wasn't a complete ending to this book. This book ends on a mid-scene cliffhanger where they decide to address a story point that was brought in toward the end. I think the idea here was to give another cliffhanger beginning to the fourth book. Whole plot threads were lost, and there were so many confusing elements that were brought up and dropped, it felt the same way I do when watching the Miami Dolphins this year trying to play offense, the ball gets dropped too much, and it reads as if no one cared about it.
Now, I know that maybe this is the trend with stories and series, but as a reader, it's frustrating. If everyone is talking about a book series and a reader isn't sure where to buy it and picks up the wrong book, they will be confused and lost if it starts without a clear beginning and ends without one as well.
Remember when I said I had some reasons for sticking with the series? Welcome to the positive zone! For the next part of this review, I do want to focus on what positive elements I found in "A Shuffling of Planets."
First, I'm going to give high marks on the "Story Structure" category precisely because of character development. The characters in "A Shuffling of Planets" are vibrant and robust, the writing on them is unique and individualized, and for the most part, from what I could tell, they all have story arcs. I enjoyed the character of Diego, as well as Beth. I found the main character the Professor to be an odd sort of unique protagonist, and I liked how everything came together. The Patriot was also a favorite of mine, and I felt where he was in a scene; there was some comedy to be had. I enjoyed the collaborative collection of individuals who connected in the story. It was nice. I got a heavy vibe of classic Marvel comics collaborations with some of the hero bits. Additionally, I felt a bit of the old tabletop gamer in me surge with the adding of the shapeshifters like the wolves and hyenas, and I thought the dragon lore was intriguing to add to the dragon characters.
Now, while it may be said that there are a lot of elements in a book, I felt the point was to have those elements together. So under "Cliche Much," I liked the usage of cliches in this novel. I found the uniqueness of the superhero and pop culture reference cliches specifically, and I felt that by having Diego become the center point to it all, as a reader, I was able to have one focal point to latch onto in a sea of multiverse characters. This book did marvelous things with both mythological type characters as well as modern superheroes and the additions of how those characters behave in unique ways despite the cliche.
Under "Lost in Translation," I was a tad lost, but I realized the things I was confused about were not Google situations. I was thrilled that any science used in this story, and any mythological information based in history, was not represented in any confusing way. That was important to me, and I am pleased to report that I wasn't confused by anything realistic.
"A Shuffling of Planets" is a wonderful story for those who love fantasy and high fantasy books but also are into sci-fi and comic book scenarios. If you are into any tabletop gaming elements, this too would be a great series to read as well.
After doing the math on the scoring categories and considering everything both positive and negative, I am giving "A Shuffling of Planets" a score of 70/100, which is a 3-star review on Goodreads and Amazon.com.