It’s always a scary moment, handing over a finished book to the first person to read it in its entirety. Will it work? Does the plot even make sense? Will they get the emotional parts, the jokes, the world, the characters? I’d expected the first reader to be a stranger, a random internet volunteer to beta read, but I got talking to my daughter about ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ and she wanted to try it.
I wasn’t expecting much. She’s not really into fantasy, apart from Terry Pratchett. She’s tried ‘Game of Thrones’ and found it too heavy. So although Kallanash isn’t grimdark or anywhere close, I thought it might be too long and tedious for her. I thought she might get bogged down in the weirdness of a full-on secondary world fantasy. I thought she might simply find it boring.
Not so. She tore through it, laughing at the funny bits, and cornering me in the kitchen while I cooked to say, ‘I liked the bit where…’, and ‘I really enjoyed what so-and-so did.’ I asked a few pointed questions: did you get why Mia did that? And what did you think of such-and-such a character? So we stood there while the pasta cooked, discussing Mia’s meekness and Jonnor’s stupidity and that was (for me) very weird. I suppose it’s always weird when these characters that have been bottled up in a writer’s head come alive for someone else.
So what was the verdict? She liked it. She was never confused about what was happening or why, and only once wondered who a character was (that was a relief: it was a major concern to me, since the number of characters explodes in the later chapters). She enjoyed some of the cool magic stuff. She was never tempted to give up, and assured me that she didn’t slog through it just because her Mum wrote it (although it squicked her out slightly that Mum wrote all those sexy bits!). In fact, she found it easy to read.
Her only criticism was that the ending felt ‘unstructured’ and rambled a bit. That doesn’t surprise me, I kind of felt that way myself. After the major conflict is settled, there were quite a few loose ends to be tied up, and that went on for far too long. A lot of it can be cut.
So I’m quite pleased with that outcome. She’s not a beta reader, of course, so I didn’t expect detailed analysis, but as the first reader, she finished it and enjoyed it, and I’m satisfied with that.