Read or Die

Review of Erin A. Craig’s SMALL FAVORS

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If I separated this book into different pieces: a description of small-town life, a retelling of Rumplestiltskin, a portrait of the isolationist village trope, and lush descriptions that paint gorgeous pictures upon the mind’s eye, it becomes successful. Each individual selection accomplishes what it sets out to do, with a meandering thread of bees and honey to serve as an inconstant touchstone. But when you attempt to assemble everything together into a complete whole, it falls apart like a crumbled honeycomb candy – minus the sweetness.

Ms. Craig fails to weave the narrative into a coherent story that makes any sense. She introduces characters and then discards them at random. They gain momentary importance that never fulfills its promise. And the same can be said for vital plot details. Ellerie’s handkerchief? It’s nothing more than a castaway – used for a chapter and thrown away. I flipped through the pages, certain my copy of the book must have entire chapters ripped out. There was so much emphasis everywhere on “more demanding favors,” but nothing ever delivered on that threat. It was nothing more than a whimper. Ellerie’s confrontations lost trauma and weight because of it.

And I can’t begin to describe my irritation at the end. Was Ms. Craig approaching a deadline? Tired of working within the world of her own creation? Or simply bored? It was worse than a cliffhanger, where at least an author promises something more to come. Instead, it merely slammed a door. Nothing was resolved satisfactorily. The world continues to burn, with a clumsy attempt to pin “happily ever after” on the ashes. None of the characters grew or learned their lessons; they remain as ignorant and foolish as when the scene opened. They merely move on to the next site of destruction. It’s the worst reward for a reader who sat faithfully through the tangled knot.

Ms. Craig can paint a beautiful portrait of a small town. And she is gifted with creating a visually stunning scene. But this story spun in a basic circle that traveled nowhere. And readers deserve to leave a stagnant pool of corruption.

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