There are times when I love being a reviewer. Then there are the days like these. I just finished The Brotherhood of Dwarves by D.A. Adams. The author’s love of dwarves is evident. He’s like that kid who can recite every stat from his prized collection of baseball trading cards. You might like the kid, and you might like baseball, but you have your limits. And that’s the situation I find myself currently in. The Brotherhood of Dwarves is receiving favorable reviews on the fantasy boards. Unfortunately, while I love fantasy, I don’t care for hard-core stuff. One reviewer also commended it for being “manly”. While I might not giggle and gush over chick lit, I’d far rather subject myself to it than macho lit. And so while I recognize that an audience does exist for The Brotherhood of Dwarves, I cannot count myself among them. Yet I wish I could, because no one likes to burst the bubble of that kid who’s just bought his newest trading card and simply must show it off….
The Brotherhood of Dwarves is Adams’ new trading card, and boy is it full of stats. He hits you with them right up front. Authors like athletes do need time to warm-up, but authors then need to remember that readers generally don’t want to see those warm-up pages. In the case of The Brotherhood of Dwarves, Adams not only neglected the sage advice of cutting the first chapter, he made the same mistake again and again of drowning readers with information dumps. Well, no, I should revise that statement. By the middle of The Brotherhood of Dwarves, Adams does finally lighten up on his textbook approach and allows his characters to tell their story. The problem is that by then, the story of Roskin and his dwarf companions had become so bogged down that I cared more about getting to the end than I did about whether Roskin and his friends finds the all-important statue that will miraculously (and inexplicably) unite the divided dwarf clans.
Cover to the 1937 first edition, from a drawing by Tolkien (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien who can get away with information dumps. Adams isn’t one of them. At least not yet. With his obvious deep affection for his dwarven world, perhaps one day Adams will get the knack of breaking the rules without losing his readers. Tolkien could. In The Hobbit, he takes an entire page to introduce Bilbo’s hobbit hole, and then spends another page subjecting his readers to lengthy descriptions of his appearance and ramblings about his mother. Yet with a little endurance, readers will be rewarded with an endearing character: “He liked visitors, but he liked to know them before they arrived, and he preferred to ask them himself. He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short….” When Bilbo finally ventures forth on his harrowing adventure, after tea parties and other such mundane affairs, many readers will care tons about what will happen to this captivating hobbit. I myself lacked no qualms about turning to sequels after I learned that “Bilbo found he had lost more than spoons—he had lost his reputation.” Where Tolkien’s exposition is full of emotion and detail, Adams’ is dry and factual. With Tolkien, I feel like I am being invited into a fantastical kingdom; with Adams, I felt like I was taking a graduate class in dwarven culture.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t diamonds in the rough scattered within these pages. Most notably is the character of Crushaw. Adams himself identifies most with Crushaw and draws on many of his own experiences when writing about him. I liked his description of how Roskin and Crushaw first meet one another: “He entered the door and scanned the room, noticing a human stretched out in the floor. His heart skipped a beat at the sight, but then he realized that the man was just an old bum, no one to fear.” Perhaps the key to Adams’ success with Crushaw is that he makes him a tragic figure, someone who has messed up his life through his own mistakes, and is now trying to make amends for his wrongs. That’s the type of character I can root for, in contrast to Roskin, who never comes alive. Adams tends to rely again on impersonal summaries for Roskin: “There was one Kiredurk who did not yearn for peace and had grown to loathe the art and beauty of his home in Dorkhun, the capital city. This dwarf, first son to the king and heir to the throne, craved adventures and dreamed of glorious battles….” Moreover, when Adams does throw Roskin into action scenes, Roskin amounts to little more than a fighting machine. Crushaw instead spends many hours drinking to forget the devastation he inflicted on the battlefront. He is a man running from his past and his demons. While this might not be a completely original idea, it does make for intrigue. Crushaw gives me hope that Adams can create characters his audiences will love.
A few reviewers noted their appreciation to Adams for giving fantasy lovers a story about dwarves, characters too frequently marginalized in this genre. In interviews, Adams has indicated that the reason he picked dwarves is his deep respect for the working class—and he considers dwarves the working class of the fantasy world. I admire his decision but hope that his future books will appeal to broader audiences than fans of hardcore fantasy and/or macho lit. Then I might be able to recommend them.
My rating?Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.
Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature
CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. It was established by in 1936, in memory of the great Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
The Christy Awards are awarded each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview.
Coretta Scott King Award
The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples. It is given to African American authors and illustrator.
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Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award
The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award was initiated in 2000 to recognize authors, illustrators, and publishers of high quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate, and young adult books that appropriately portray individuals with deve
Hans Christian Anderson Award
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards is given to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. The award is the highest international recognition an author can receive.
Kate Greenaway Medal
The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs.
Middle East Book Award
The Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award
Honors fantasy books for younger readers, in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia
Newbery Medal Award
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Pura Belpré Award
The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. It is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino experience.
Red House Book Award
The Red House Children’s Book Award is a series of literary prizes for works of children’s literature published during the previous year in England.
Sydney Taylor Award
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.