Kill Your Darlings by L.E. Harper — SPFBO 9 REVIEW

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What would happen if you, an author, got sucked into your own imaginary world? Not just that, but the plotline of their lives up until you arrived was exactly how you wrote it. Not just that, but you got pulled into a scene right before you were going to write a bunch of their deaths and the conclusion of your series. You explain this to them. Now they’re looking at you, as real people, like, why the fuck would it be a good idea to create tension by killing us?

That there is the plot of this book.

The MC of this book, Kyla, had been struggling in her real life for a long time. From the sounds of it, she isn’t a huge fan of herself, her life, or anything in it. She’s suffering from severe depression, she writes books as an escape from her inner torture, and so it’s very possible that other authors struggling with their mental health may relate to this book.

At first, Kyla thinks she’s lucid dreaming, but as the dream continues on and on, and there are sensations and visuals she doesn’t usually get with dreams — like smells — she begins to realize that this likely isn’t a dream, and somehow her world is real and she’s now inside of it. The characters in the book are just as confused as she has taken over the body of their leader, her own main character in her story. They are all trying to figure out how to get Kyla back into her own body and get their own Kyla back. There’s a fair bit of science thrown around for a fantasy world with dragons, talking about quantum magical entanglement to get Kyla’s soul trapped in their world. One of the big hiccups for Kyla is the fact that she can’t harness any of the magic of the world she’s written, for unknown reasons, she’s stuck using melee weapons even though her ‘character’ is highly magical. I was never totally clear on what was going on here as sometimes this event was described as multiple realities and universes blending or something — other times Kyla thinks of this as a fictitious world she created, so there was a bit of a wobble there for me in the world building.

There is a lot of world building here with the way magic does and doesn’t work, there are dragons and lots of classic fantasy tropes that have stuck to the wall over the years. However, a lot of this can come through over exposition which doesn’t usually work for me and it didn’t here. Some people call it “hand holding” as many of the more basic concepts are laid out flat rather than letting the reader infer and figure it out through context. “Show me” instead of “tell me” kind of things. The writing style and I also did not get a long as it was highly descriptive but not in the way that creates visuals for me. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews and my apologies for being repetitive, but I struggle very much so with creating a “head movie” where I see what’s going on. In order to do that, I need simile and metaphor and not straight descriptor words. I can’t create novel imagery in my head, I need imagery words, not descriptive words, to create a picture if that makes sense. If you describe a face as brown and wrinkly I can kind of see it. If you describe someone’s face as worn leather I get a much better visual. This is a purely personal perspective on the prose and your mileage will likely vary.

Ultimately this was a cut, however, due to a bounce off pf the exposition/world building and the prose style. That said, I do think this has an audience, particularly other authors who are struggling with their own demons, writing, or perhaps just want to see what it’s like to meet the character you thought you were going to kill and now you’re like, ah shit, that’s maybe not what I want to do after meeting you. As a final note, if you are someone who looks for TWs I would read the list provided by the author at the start of the book or on the GR pages before starting, it does deal with darker topics.

Thanks for your submission and best of luck!