Bragging and Slagging

[I’m leaving this up here out of historical interest, but I don’t think I’ll be updating it again. Seems like the time and effort to do that would be better spent writing something new.]


Kind words and the occasional brickbat launched at my first novel, Blood of Ambrose.

(Reviews of shorter work I’ll mostly link from the “Stories” page.)
[Most recent first. Updated: July 22, 2009.]

Doug Robins at Sacramento Book Review. He objects to my “turgid style” and says “there is no magic to be found in Enge’s wrting”–sic, although I dropped them a note about that, so hopefully they’ll fix it. Into each life some tyops must fall. (July 18, 2009)

Peter William at Ubiquitous Absence. He calls it “Bloody Ambrosia” and likes the world and the characters, but not the banter. He has some interesting comments about the episodic quality of the story, concluding, “Personally, I liked it, but well after I had completed the book and had a while to mull it over. I look forward to purchasing, and reading, future installments of all things Morlock and Ambrose.” (July 2, 2009)

Sandy Amazeen at Monsters and Critics. “This excellently crafted tale tells a familiar story in a world filled with magic and all emotional turmoil of a terrified youngster struggling to gain acceptance.” (July 2, 2009)

Mel Jacobs at SFRevu . “Battles against the Protector and the sorcerer provide plenty of excitement and keep the pages turning.” (July 2009)

Laura J. Underwood. “There are laughs, there are thrills, and there are moments that will literally have you holding your breath.” (June 27, 2009)

Aidan Moher at A Dribble of Ink. He was not amused. But what I liked about this negative review was his generous quotation from the original: a critic who bases his argument on evidence from the text always has my respect… and also gives the reader the basis to form an independent judgement. (June 24, 2009)

Crysa Leflar at Fantasy Magazine. She’s not crazy about King Lathmar, but has kind words for Morlock and Ambrosia and the book as a whole. (June 23, 2009)

Shaun Farrell at the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing site. “Simply put, Blood of Ambrose is a fine novel and an absolute must-read for both the fantasy die hard and the fantasy skeptic.” Shaun is interviewing me in an upcoming episode of his
revivified podcast series. (June 12, 2009)

Trin at Realms of Speculative Fiction. She gives the book 4 out of 5 Evil Fruitcakes, which adds up to a good review with some reservations. She liked the characterization, but found the book lacking in humor. (June 8, 2009)

The Great Greek Manual. “The combination of brevity, rapid pacing, and convincing character development mark Enge out as an author to watch and Blood of Ambrose as a future classic of the Young Adult fantasy section.” (June 7, 2009)

Sean Stiennon. “Chewed through this in about four days, which for me is a remarkable pace when it comes to 400-page volumes.  Fantastic book with a neat plot, inventive fantasy elements, and sharp prose.  Possibly the most fun I’ve had reading a book since The Lies of Locke Lamora–which is, from me, high praise indeed.” (June 3, 2009)

Matthew Dyer at dyerama. “ still a pretty good book. It’s smartly plotted with a unique take on a historical idea about how the world works,” but he objects to it on stylistic grounds (“If the prose of early sword and sorcery is said to be purple with its verbosity, then the text of Blood of Ambrose is down-right infrared in its lack of description”),  on political grounds, and on the grounds that it’s insufficiently fantastic.  On the matter of my style or lack thereof: eh. De gustibus non disputandum. I disagree with the premise that the fantastic and the rational are opposed (and so do others, e.g. Tolkien and anyone who ever wrote for Unknown). Some of my thoughts about politics and fantasy can be found here. On balance, I didn’t find this review to be especially useful, except in that it suggests a natural limit for the audience of my fiction. (June 1, 2009)

Matthew Wuertz. “The plot moves pretty quickly, and just when it seems to resolve into a simple package, everything becomes turned on its head, causing you to rethink everything. Well written, highly addictive and edgy.” (May 19, 2009)

Amber Campbell at She doesn’t like my parenthetical self-interruptions (lots of people say this to me), but has some positive reactions, too. (May 20, 2009)

Seth Wilson on the Audible version. He didn’t like the story much, but enjoyed the characters. “Though it tells a rather lackluster story, Blood of Ambrose introduces a fascinating settting populated by a host of multi-faceted characters. It’s my hope that James Enge will continue to work and play with this colorful palette.”(May 11, 2009)

Blue Tyson at Not Free SF Reader. A long, detailed review. One pull-quote: “A novel that is inventive and refreshingly different, especially so if you haven’t seen any of the Morlock stories before, and I’ll read it again.”(April 25, 2009)

Mike Ferrante (a.k.a. the King of the Nerds). He wasn’t crazy about the beginning, but ended up liking it: “It’s old school and new school, dark without ever being oppressive and yet somehow managed to keep an almost constant smile on my face. It’s one of those novel that leaves you a bit crestfallen that it’s over, not because the ending was disappointing (it wasn’t!) but because you have to stop living in the world it crafted.” (April 23, 2009)

Larry at Blog of the Fallen.”Who gives a flying flip about James Enge’s Blood of Ambrose?” I fall upon the thorns of life; I bleed. (April 20, 2009)

Rene Sears. “There’s quite a bit to admire about Enge’s writing. Many parts of the world are referenced that I hope Morlock visits in future books, so I get to see them. Enge has a wonderfully inventive mind, as evidenced by the magic system and the world building. The writing is crisp and stylistically unusual, with a number of parenthetical asides* that will be familiar to readers of the short stories. The dialogue is enjoyably witty. The last chapter had me both laughing and choking up.” (April 15, 2009)

Robert Thompson at Fantasy Book Critic. “Combining elements of sword & sorcery, pulp fiction, the Arthurian legend, humor and horror, James Enge’s debut novel, Blood of Ambrose, is like a cross between Robert E. Howard, Joe Abercombie, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail with a dash of H.P. Lovecraft and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead sprinkled in. If that sounds a bit weird, well, it is.” (It’s great when somebody Gets It!) (April 14, 2009)

Robert Rhodes at Fantasy Literature. “While there are few surprises in either arc on a large scale, Enge has a true gift for small-scale play with the world’s magical system, allowing for multiple thought-provoking surprises in the creation of problems for the heroes and, especially, in their solutions. This is no small feat. … A promising debut, recommended for fans of sword-and-sorcery and fans of medieval fantasy looking for something a little different. Recommended with slight reservation for fans of highly descriptive or personal heroic fantasy.” (April [?] 2009)

John Ottinger at Grasping for the Wind. On balance, he does not recommend it, particularly singling out the characterization: “There are no lengthy sections of introspection for the characters.” (Without getting into the sort of authorial backbiting I deplore, I will only say that I don’t think introspection is the only or the best way to develop character. People are what they do: in John Hocking’s trenchant phrase, “Action is character.”) (March 4, 2009)

Publishers Weekly on Blood of Ambrose: “Though the characters are more fascinating than lovable, Enge’s precise and elegant language and some darkly harrowing scenes are sure to tug on readers’ heartstrings.” The whole review, along with some reader reviews, in on the book’s Amazon page,  and also the Barnes and Noble Online page.