Book Review: “Phantasma” by Efthalia

Phantasma. According to Efthalia’s glossary at the end of her novel of the same name, it’s a Greek term for a supernatural being, or it can mean “ghosts or phantoms, which haunt the living.”

Efthalia’s debut novel Phantasma has definitely haunted me, but not in a good way. I made it through four chapters before I couldn’t force myself to read anymore.

I understand that it’s a debut novel. A first attempt–or, depending on how many times she’s written and been rejected (it happens to all writers), a first publication. Still, there are basic steps that every poem, short story, or novel must go through to be successful. There need to be several rounds of editing, revision, and formatting, with input from beta readers and suggestions on how to improve the writing, all before publication. Phantasma reads as though it went through none of those.

I’ll begin with the formatting. It was all over the place. Indented paragraphs? Sure…most of the time. There are several places in the novel (well, at least in the first four chapters) where there’s a randomly non-indented paragraph right smack in the middle of a chapter. Peppered throughout the book, actually. Some of the indents are longer or shorter than others. It’s quite distracting and looks sloppy and unpolished. Now, to give Efthalia the benefit of the doubt, this may be entirely her editors’ fault.

Next comes the punctuation. Again, this could be the fault of the editors, but someone needs to learn proper comma and semicolon usage. It could mean the difference between a well-written sentence and a rambling run-on. This isn’t the place for instruction on sentence structure, though, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Speaking of sentence structure, it would be nice for some of those sentences to have a structure. Reading through those few chapters was excruciatingly painful at times for a grammar nerd like me. I’d have to read the same sentence several times over to try to figure out what exactly was going on. Given how terrible the writing was, it caused quite a headache.

Did you know that tears can form behind the eyes? I didn’t, and I work at an eye clinic for a living. According to science, tears are on the surface of the eye. It’s pretty much physically impossible for them to even get behind the eye, let alone pool up back there. Maybe she meant they drained out the tear ducts and went “behind” the eyes through the duct system into the sinuses? Hmm…let’s go with that.

Oh, and apparently both showers and beds can sing. Within less than a page of each other. The imagery was quite bad, with sentences that read as though the author was trying too hard. Like I said, Phantasma doesn’t appear to have gone through a beta reading or critiquing process.

The plot was sluggish and overly predictable. Though I only managed to read four complete chapters I did skim through the rest of the book, and none of it was a surprise. Oh look, the mysterious, incredibly hot guy from the first chapter turns out to be her literal dream man, and, glory of glories, they were destined to be together! Nothing I haven’t seen before, and certainly nothing I haven’t seen executed more expertly. The grammar, punctuation, formatting, and overall writing did not improve in the snippets of later chapters, either.

All in all, I’d give Phantasma a generous one out of five stars.

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