Saturday, June 1, 2013

Review & Giveaway - Crimson and Cream by C. M. Skiera (3/5)

[For giveaway entry and rules, see the Giveaway section at the bottom of this review]

By Jessica Veter
“Hounded by watchmen, trolls, goblins, and a relentless bounty hunter, thirteen-year-old Jetsam dreams of the day he’ll no longer have to run for his life.  A victim of circumstance burdened with an interminable unlucky streak, each sunrise ushers in more difficulty for the resilient adolescent.  An avalanche of life-changing events forces him to boldly decide his future.”
C.M. Skiera’s got it right with the ‘victim of circumstance’, but I would argue vehemently with the ‘boldly decid[ing] his future’ bit.

On their thirteenth birthday, Jetsam and his twin Flotsam go looking for adventure, and that’s about the only decision they make for themselves. After a foray into a forbidden garden and a near escape, the boys begin a series of reactions to whatever confronts them. Not that their exploits aren’t brave and daring (they take on a troll, of all things) but there is rather the feeling that the story is carrying them along rather than the other way around.

But what do we expect from a thirteen-year-old? I have no argument with the way Jetsam is flung from one misadventure to the next. It’s much more believable than stories in which very young protagonists take up a cause and keep it under tight control throughout three hundred pages.

However, I found myself wondering if the author, too, was being flung from one adventure to the next by the story. I found there was a lack of forward momentum and spent the first half of the book wondering what the point of it all was if every time Jetsam stuck his head out the door the same troll pursued him through the same caverns? And when I reached the halfway point and an entirely new set of characters appeared, I despaired that any of it was ever going to get somewhere.

And now you’re wondering why I kept reading: busy woman, loads of books, spring in the garden. Why keep reading?

I liked the trolls. Specifically, I liked the way C.M. Skiera wrote about a handful of boys getting one better on a troll, and I liked that I believed it. No way would a group of starveling kids knock a troll down, slash it up with their bare hands or get in a lucky shot with a stone, and Skiera knows that. Instead, he crafted believable scenes and believable reactions so I kept reading.

Good thing, too, because about halfway through the book (this is the problem with ebooks... one simply cannot say on page 61%) the brand new characters show up and the story gets interesting. Jetsam falls in with a group of adventurers. Their quest? They are hunting a dragon. Enter Quixote, Sancho et al.

And Skiera hits his stride.

The adventurers are interesting, their dynamics are complex, their back stories questionable and their motives uneasy. The problem for Skiera is that I became so engaged with Sir Prentice and his lot that the less interesting plight of Jetsam fell by the wayside. It wasn’t Jetsam’s fault, particularly, but the arc of the orphaned boy is so stereotyped in the fantasy genre that there are seldom surprises.

Let’s go back in time, C.M. Skiera, and let’s say you asked me to Beta Crimson and Cream and said: “What do you think?” Well, I think the story began when Jetsam fell into that river, and Sir Prentice pulled him out. On about page 61%.

Three stars for Crimson and Cream, a first novel by an author who shows promise. One for trolls, one for realism, and one for Sir Prentice and the boys.

About the Reviewer:  Jessica Veter is a novelist raised in rural Ontario. Having escaped to Toronto, she spent the 90’s over-educating herself at York University and then the University of Toronto. Once she accepted that there were never going to be any job listings in The Globe and Mail headed “Medievalist Wanted”, Jessica went to Japan. There, she met her husband and they lived in England before returning to Canada with a son and a greyhound.  Now in rural Flamborough, Jessica and her husband raise 3 boys, 6 chickens and are owned by 1 dog. You are welcome to visit her at

The Giveaway:  This 'un is a giveaway in the purest sense of the word.  No fancy-schmancy rafflecopter widget, no crossing your fingers and hoping lady luck shines upon you.  C.M. Skiera is giving away an electronic copy of his book to anyone who comments on this blog.  Just leave an e-mail and we'll get you the coupon code to download your own copy.  Do it.  You know you want to.


  1. ha, Flotsam and Jetsam. Glad to hear the story picked up halfway through.

    1. As an editor, I would have loved to get a hold of it. As a writer, I take it as a lesson (learned every time I sit down to write) that when I begin a novel at chapter one, invariably chpts 1-10 will be tossed in the end. It was fascinating (and uplifting) to see that I'm not the only one.

  2. This sounds very interesting. I'd love to read it.


    1. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts about it, too.

  3. Sounds like the author has done some interesting things with a generic fantasy/adventure storyline. I find many to be boilerplate but this sounds a little different. I would like to try it.

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