Perfection in the eye of a reviewer - Francisca Liliana

15 Jun 2023

They say that doctors make the worst patients and therapists can’t seem to take their own advice. Can a book reviewer write their own novel? One would think that since a book reviewer is so adept at recognizing the pitfalls and landslides of other books, they’d be able to detect it in their own writing. So, I guess the question is: Have I?

The best advice I ever got as an aspiring author was to never stop reading. This seems to be the common run-of-the-mill piece of counsel many veterans impart to first-time authors. Why? Because it works. Like many who are reading this article, I’ve been living vicariously through literary characters for most of my life. I always thought I was an anomaly when discussing books. I would deep dive into character motivations, prose, story structure, pacing, character arcs without even knowing what they were. It wasn’t uncommon for me to release the putrid word vomit of my latest literary obsession to some unsuspecting friend who had little to say in response to my ravings. That is until I discovered an entire community of people online who were just as fascinated with the concept of fate vs choice as I. Soon, I found a love of writing reviews, and a whole world of books opened to me. I learned more than I ever did in a classroom, and I continue to learn the more I read. It never stops.

Just as a reader is constantly evolving so is a writer. I discovered authors such as Brian Staveley, Robin Hobb, Steven Erikson, and John Gwynne. Literary titans in their genre. Each possessing a quality of bookish magic I wanted to harness and influence my own writing. Hobb for her pose, Erikson for his worldbuilding, Staveley for his characterization, and Gwynne for his battle sequences. Did I sit at my computer and think to myself: How can I make this fight scene more Gywnne-like? No. I could barely hold my own thoughts together while staring at the same sentence I’d rewritten fifty times, let alone try to emulate an author I read months ago. But I recall the experience of what I felt while reading Gwynne. It always comes down to emotion for me. It has always been my intention to make my reader feel. As long as my reader closes my book having felt something, I’d have done what I set out to do.

I’ve always been fascinated with the human condition and how good people can go bad and vice versa. Decisions that lead to places that seem almost out of our control. How two people can go through similar experiences and lead completely opposite lives. Are we victims of our circumstances or are we capable of making choices despite them? It’s what I love to discover in other authors’ books—the psyche of it all, not just the skin-deep motivations a character has. I want to see those small pieces of worldbuilding, the connection each character has to the other, and the heart of each one. Was I able to accomplish that with my own novel? Only the reader can tell.    

The truth is that no matter how many reviews I write and how many books I read, there is no one-size-fits-all in the book world. What is an overused trope to someone is literary genius to another. If reviewing has taught me one thing it’s that reading is a deeply personal experience that can vary wildly from one reader to the next. I personally gravitate towards the grim-dark side of fantasy. I relish having my heart ripped out due to less-than-happy endings and gritty writing styles, but I don’t enjoy violence for the sake of violence. Most readers prefer fast-paced books with quick travel scenes. I love the journey of extended travel scenes and slower-paced beginnings. I connect far more with character-driven stories than with plot-based ones. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them; I just prefer taking the time to get to know a character before I embark on a quest of vengeance quest with them. I love it when the author trusts me enough as the reader to understand the world they wrote, as if I’d been plucked from this world into theirs with no explanation. I like the slow unravel of lore and relationships and worldbuilding. I write how I like to read and that is never a thing of perfection.

Perfection is a myth and can only be achieved through the eyes of others. I consider Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson to be the best fantasy book I’ve ever read. Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb is a perfect book in my opinion. Do all reviewers share the same opinion as me? I suspect not. But that is the beauty of it all. Diversity of opinions makes the world a far more colorful place and forces thought-provoking alternatives to points of view we may not have otherwise considered. Reviewing may have taught me a little about how to write a story, but it has been far more instructive in showing me how story consumption has many tastes that some find sweet and others bitter. It is my hope that those who do read my work find themselves craving for more, but there is no shame in deciding that it wasn’t specified to your palate.

My journey as a reviewer is intertwined with my journey as a writer and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities of growth that road has led me to. Reviewing is more than a learning tool for me. It’s a genuine joy. I love taking apart themes and dialogue, intentions and metaphors. I love meeting like-minded people who find enjoyment in those kinds of conversations. I would hope that for those picking up Isla’s Reach, they feel that same love when reading. It’s made to be analyzed, pondered, and realized. It’s a story that I wrote with the intention of allowing the reader to sit back and be seen in ways that only a book can see. Whether that is accomplished is for the reader to decide and I look forward to the varying opinions that make this bookish world so grand.


Isla's Reach is the debut novel of Francisca Liliana. You can get a copy on Amazon and in other retailers (wide distribution).


Francisca Liliana is an epic fantasy author from Arizona, USA. She's a lover of all things fantasy and has a healthy obsessive adoration for every form of epic nerdiness. When she's not melting in the desert heat, she's soul-deep in yet another grimdark read. Having grown up on classic authors such as Charlotte Bronte, Edgar Allan Poe, and Victor Hugo, Francisca has always been drawn to the darker side of storytelling. Fascinated with the art of worldbuilding and fantasy, she holds authors such as Steven Erikson, Brian Staveley and Robin Hobb closest to her heart. She speaks exclusively in Lord of the Rings quotes and finds it to be a light for her in dark places. She holds to one truth and that is to never stop believing in dragons.