REVIEW: "Exiled" and "Shift", by M. R. Merrick

Title: Exiled
Author: M.R. Merrick
Format: Kindle Ebook
Publisher: M.R. Merrick
Release Date: August 27th 2011
Title: Shift
Author: M.R. Merrick
Format: Kindle Ebook
Publisher: M.R. Merrick
Release Date: February 1st 2012


I do love a bargain, so today I'm offering a bit of a two-for-one review deal. You can read the synopsis of Exiled here, and Shift here

I've decided to tackle these two books together for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I feel that as I read them back to back, the two halves make a whole "story so far". Secondly, I feel that combining these reviews will provide a more balanced result. 

Balance? I hear you wonder. Well yes. You see, Exiled and Shift are two books which together demonstrate all that is great and all that is sad about self publishing, whether it be on the Kindle or whatever. 

Exiled had a great story. It must have been, because as soon as I finished it I went and bought Shift so that I could carry on reading it! Unfortunately, Exiled also had a lot of things working against it. 

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't exactly badly written, but it was very badly edited. In the foreword of Exiled, Merrick thanked his editor Claire Sheldon. I can't find any information about this editor on the interweb so I have an inkling that she might be a friend Merrick got to read the book as opposed to a real-life editor. A gentle friend. A friend who was either too kind or (and I don't mean to be mean...) too daft to point out bad grammar and some rather dodgy homophone confusions. 

At one point in the book (p15 according to the app), the first person protagonist says, "We could make ends meat...". M.E.A.T. Really?! 

The writing is often dialogue heavy, sometimes repetitive or contradictory and occasionally a bit on the cheesy side. Seriously, on page 269 the imperative "Don't you die on me," is actually used. I thought that line was reserved for bad movies. Apparently not. 

Furthermore, Merrick has an irritating tendency to tell us exactly what everyone is wearing every time the scene changes. Unless it's hugely important to the plot (which on maybe one occasion it was) then that's just padding. Skippable padding. 

Worst of all, in my opinion, was that the character's back-story was given to us in the form of a dream. Now that's the kind of trick I used to steer my eleven year old pupils away from, so as far as I see it, such devices of exposition have no place in published works. 

These flaws, if they were present in a first draft, would be fine. I'm not blaming Merrick for not picking up on his every mistake, because we all tend to be blind to some of our errors. Hell, when I hit the publish button on this blog post I'll no doubt have missed an error or two. But if I had an editor whose job it was to read this through and suggest revisions before I hit "publish post", then I'd damn well expect them to tug on the reigns and scream "Whoa, girl!" before I sent my unpolished effort out into the world.

And that brings me to a rather nice analogy for Exiled. It's like an unpolished little diamond which just needed a little more time, a little more care in order to shine. The story, the characters and the pace are all there, but unfortunately they're often hidden by bad grammar and corny, simplistic dialogue. It's a real shame.

For me, the worst thing about self publishing isn't the plethora of genuinely rubbish books that end up seeing the light of day. It's so much worse, somehow, when a genuinely good story is kept from being great because of bad editing or sloppy proofing. 

And then...

Someday, somehow Merrick got himself a new editor, Kara Malinczak, whom he thanks in the foreword of Shift. Well whoever this lady is (actually, Goodreads can tell you a bit more about her...) she's bloody good with the old polishing cloth. Shift retained all of the promising elements of Exiled, but lost much of the corny dialogue, the evil apostrophe-S after words ending with S, and utterances coated in layers of cliché. 

It wasn't perfect. There was still some just-plain-bad phraseology (E.g. "The rotting smell that lived in the air...") which reminded me of an overly-enthusiastic - but still promising - GCSE pupil who hadn't quite managed to control what they were trying to say. However, instances like this were much more rare than they had been in book one of the trilogy. 

At the start of this post I said these books represent both what's great and what's awful about anyone and everyone being able to self-publish these days. If the worst thing is when a great story gets lost in bad editing, then the best thing is when a rough little diamond gets given a chance to shine. Without the Kindle offering writers like Merrick the opportunity to share their work, I never would have had the opportunity to read the first two books in what might just turn out to be a rather fabulous trilogy. 

If Exiled hadn't had something a bit special, I would never have spent about £4 on the sequel. Not when my TBR pile grows bigger by the week. So, in spite of all my meandering, and in the name of balance, the "story so far" gets four stars.


  1. Thank you for the lovely compliments. They mean so much to me. And I am glad you loved the books as a whole. You put a big smile on my face today.

    1. It's really nice of you to take the time to comment! That put a smile on MY face! :)


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