A Blade So Black (The Nightmare-Verse #1) by L.L. McKinney

Wow, this was probably my most disappointing read this year so far.

After reading L. L. McKinney’s really terrific short story in the Wonderland anthology, I felt compelled to look her up, and found the listing for this novel in my library’s e-collection. I nearly swooned at the awesome cover, and the description (Buffy meets Alice in Wonderland, with a black protagonist from Atlanta) had me all in. I was so excited to finally get a chance to read this book, and then… I read the book.

A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinneyReader, it was a struggle. The story itself was fairly pedestrian and our heroine, Alice, was your typically annoying self-centered, uncommunicative teenager. And still it would have been fine except for the godawful writing. I don’t know what the hell was going on, but by the time I read “grown” where the author clearly meant “groan,” I was starting to wonder whether an editor’s red pen had ever touched any of these pages. The grammar was just so inconsistent as to be completely atrocious. I literally don’t care what form of language an author uses in dialogue quotes, and I have zero trouble navigating AAVE, but if you’re writing a third-person narrative in standard English, then you need to consistently use standard English in your narrative, non-dialogue text. Don’t randomly use “outta” on one page but go with “out of” for the same context everywhere else. Be consistent.

And “on accident” is bad grammar in any form of English. People who say otherwise are even stupider than rigid adherents of the Oxford Comma bamboozle.

It seems almost petty to then grumble about how the action sequences are all a jumble, and how the only at all interesting/realistic people in the story were Alice and her mom. It just felt like mediocre fan fiction, which is a pity because the idea behind it really has so much potential. Idk, maybe Ms McKinney’s writing improves significantly from here on out? Her short story was really good, so I’m open to being persuaded to read the sequel to A Blade So Black (and, honestly, isn’t that just the best title?) but I won’t go looking for it on my own.

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