*The author has generously provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
K.T. Munson’s Unfathomable Chance is a promising book but it could’ve been better if it weren’t for the writing. Why? Firstly, the constant repetition. The majority of the sentences in this book starts with ‘she’ and by the third chapter, I wanted to rip my hair out at the sight of the word. As you can see here:
“She paused a moment and stared at the door, confused. A moment ago there had been no door. She glanced at the tree again as it cried rocks that turned to water. She wanted to go back to her mother but something was pushing her forward. Part of her wondered if this was all a dream, but she had a distinct feeling it was real. She took a steadying breath before she opened the door and walked into the room” (p.8, underlined for emphasis).
Due to this constant repetition and lack of sentence variation, the narrative becomes boring. It also reads like constant telling than showing and many of us know that telling>showing is a no-no for various forms of fiction. This is because it makes everything shallow/fall flat—including the characters—and it makes the events in the narrative feel like a stilted retelling of past events instead of something that should’ve been ‘present’. Additionally, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing fiction is that every sentence must either reveal character or advance the action. Do multiple descriptions of how Diana looks like at the moment do either? No. Does the inclusion of just about every single one of her actions do either? Not often enough. Furthermore, when you take the fast pace and length of this book into consideration, those descriptions feel like fillers.
Now, we all know that descriptions are crucial in helping readers envision things and I definitely adore imagery. However, it—particularly descriptions of characters—shouldn’t be written in clumps like:
“[Her brothers] had blond hair like their father that sort of turfed up at the back in a charming way.
Diana was two years older than her brothers and had hair as curly and dark as her mother’s. Her ponytail bounced as she walked into the church, as did her backpack, which was covered in glittery hearts. Like her siblings, she had big round blue eyes and pleasing features.” (p.5)
This is because description that relies only on physical attributes often becomes “all-points bulletin” (quote from Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft). And when that happens, you guessed it, the narrative becomes boring. It’s always better to spread out character descriptions and infuse them with movement/character actions instead of stating it all in one go. For instance, instead of “she had big round blue eyes”, spread out the details into lines like “her doe-like eyes scanned the displayed artefacts” and “her blue eyes widened in surprise” and place them paragraphs away from each other. Readers don’t have to be constantly reminded of how a character looks, especially not in consecutive chapters.
Moreover, due to the aforementioned issues, the writing reads way too young for its main character (“hottie”, really?). It’s okay for the first chapter since Diana’s a kid there, but in the later chapters when she’s twenty-three with a Master’s in Behavioural Psychology? No. It also causes plot lines and tropes many have seen before, to feel even more cliché.
Other than that, the events line up too conveniently. For example, the part where she meets the Archive and demands answers to her questions. It’s practically stated multiple times that “an answer requires payment”. So, Diana demands two answers for her one secret and the Archive agrees. Then, when she does get her two answers, he conveniently mentions that her secret is actually worth more than that and proceeds to give her a lead. Like um, did he suddenly magically feel an urge to help the Empress of the Universe even though he couldn’t fathom why the bracelet would choose her and he even called her species a “subpar species whose only significant contribution is as a study on untapped and wasted potential” a few pages ago? (p.31) I mean, I don’t see anything significant done or said by Diana in that incredibly short span between the Archive’s outraged bewilderment and his sudden nice offer of providing her more information.
And yes, on that note of being unable to fathom why the bracelet would choose Diana, I can’t 100% fathom it either. As mentioned before, she’s twenty-three with a Master’s in Behavioural Psychology but not once do we see her acting or deducing things like so in this book. I know of people in real life who are in their early twenties and about to get bachelor degrees like me, who still act like they’re high schoolers or younger. So, to an extent, I can accept Diana’s immaturity (particularly since she’s aware that she’s “a subpar primal creature”) but this acceptance stops at ‘an extent’ because seriously, a Master’s. In Behavioural Psychology. Besides that, Diana’s like a leaf. Blow her one direction and she’ll go without complaints, blow her towards a different direction and she’ll go too. I mean, she went from fighting Maura and her crew at one chapter to trying to save them at the next. (Actually, now that I think of it, most of the characters are leaves.) Though, I think it’s a pleasant surprise that she’s not a classic damsel in distress.
Cons aside, I really like some of the side characters—especially the talking cat, Groot Grim and Jacrifcar (though unfortunately, there’s too many of them and they’re all generic so they tend to blend together after a while). I also like how there’s no deep scientific terms (or rather, there’s just about zero of them) because I’m practically useless when it comes to the hard sciences. It made this book an easy read and once I got over the writing, enjoyable.
To conclude this super long review, this book reads like a rough first draft. Everything would’ve been better if it were better written but then again, this is only my opinion. Unfathomable Chance isn’t entirely my cup of tea but it might be someone else’s.