Criticisms of Reviewing with Bane of Kings

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Due to a slight schedule shuffle this week, our own Bane of Kings talks about the demands of reviewing in the seventh installment of this guest post series.

“Bane is the first reviewer whose work I started to read, shortly after I joined the Bolthole in early 2011. I had never really looked at book reviews before, and his work was sort of a gateway to what would later become a dedicated hobby. I’ve enjoyed reading his reviews since I like his style and his approach. We don’t always agree, but that’s fine. Between the two of us, we often provide a good amount of critique on the same titles since our interests are quite matching.” ~Shadowhawk

Criticisms of Reviewing

by Bane of Kings

I’ve never done a guest post before, so this is probably going to suck.

Which kind of, in a way, leads onto what I’m going to talk about in this Post – as I’ve written reviews that suck. Not reviews that have given books negative marks (I haven’t received much criticism for that) mind you, but reviews that have just been downright awful. Quite frankly, they deserve the criticism. I have received a lot of criticism over the years as a reviewer, particularly before writing for The Founding Fields in my early Black Library-only reading & reviewing days.

I’m going to go out and say it: the majority of my reviews back then were poor. Very poor in fact. It was a time when I was just getting started, my reviews were only 500-ish words long, and most of it was spent talking about the plot.

I got criticised, sure. Multiple times. Although my blog lacked readership, I shared my Black Library reviews on a Warhammer 40k forum, where – when they were looked at by some of the more senior members, including one in particular – they were ripped to shreds.

And how did I repay their input?

I learned from the mistakes, or I like to think that I did. I did my best to hold no ill-will against the person who gave me some constructive feedback (as it is kind of stupid to hate the person who was trying to help you), and I did my best to improve the quality of my reviews where I could.

Then, I started getting ARCs.

And then, I moved to The Founding Fields.

I hadn’t, if memory serves, attracted criticism for my reviews until I posted the one on Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders. I didn’t put a lot of effort into writing that review and again, I got ripped to shreds. In fact, I think that is my worst-written TFF review, and I think one Russian-4ok forum even criticised it. You can go check out the bad-quality level of the review here.

If you don’t want to read the poor writing of it, then all you need to know is that it basically gives the reader a blurb of the plot (this was before I used already-written blurbs for my reviews), a description of the characters, the fact that the lead character reminded me of the Doctor, that there were Grey Knights in the book, that there were twists galore which made the story more interesting, gave it a score of 3.5/5, and then posted it.

It hurts to look back and read that review. I think that’s probably my worst-written TFF review and it deserves all the criticism that I received for it.

When I posted it on the forum that I used to promote the book reviews on, the criticism came thick and fast.

And it was actually deserved.

Again, how did I react?

I took the feedback into account.

There is a function on that particular forum where you can award “reputation” to people who give good, constructive posts – so of course, I repped the person responsible for giving the harshest (but deserved, well thought out and helpful) feedback. Like I did the first time round, in my pre-TFF days.

And hopefully, I like to think that I’ve improved in writing my reviews since then. I’ve learnt that criticisms, although they can be harsh sometimes, is in my case, are mostly well-deserved. I know others haven’t received criticism that has been deserved in some cases, but I think that I have. I’ve adapted my reviews to suit the criticism given (I think, only you will be the judge of that), and continued reviewing. I didn’t let criticism stop me from doing what I love, and you shouldn’t either.

There we go.

In short, if I receive criticism it’s usually because I’ve written reviews that have been awful rather than reviews that have given a novel a low score.  And I take into account the criticism and hopefully write better reviews because of it.

That may have well been the worst guest post ever written, but I’ll leave you to decide.

*****

Bane of Kings on Twitter, and Web.

The next guest on for the series will be fellow reviewer and friend Mihir Wanchoo from “Fantasy Book Critic“, on the 11th of April .

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Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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