The Harlequin’s Dance: I gave it 67 pages

book review Tom Arden Orokon The Harlequin's DanceThe Harlequin’s Dance by Tom Arden

Orokon Book Series (5 Books)I got 67 pages (eight chapters) into Tom Arden‘s The Harlequin’s Dance (1997), and even those 67 pages were a struggle.

In fact, I started and stopped the book a few times before finally giving up. I’m a little disappointed, because it seems like there’s potential  here. Characterization is thorough, there are some promising villains, and some subtle humor — all things that I appreciate.

And Tom Arden is a fine enough writer, though a bit choppy in parts:

Cata wiped her nose on her wrist. A grey squirrel was looking at her quizzically. She closed her eyes. For a moment she saw herself as the squirrel saw her: a little girl hunched on her mother’s grave, forlornly tormenting a lifeless doll.

She sprang up.


It was a word the village-brats would say; they thought it was a bad word.

She said it again.


How she hated the carrot-haired boy! Again she saw him turning back to face her, his thick lip curling. The other children had turned, too. Two skinny boys and two girls, one small and one tall, they followed the carrot-haired boy in all he did. They sneered when he sneered. The laughed when he laughed…

Annoyingly, there were times when I had to re-read parts because I wasn’t sure what was going on — was this event happening in the present, or was it a flashback?

But, my main problem was that, for all 67 pages of The Harlequin’s Dance, I never felt anything. (Except once I was hungry, a few times I was sleepy, and the ant bite on the middle toe of my left foot was itching like crazy.) I didn’t like any of the characters; in fact, I disliked most of them. Perhaps, given some more time, I might have come to care whether or not their world sank into the abyss but, at some point, you gotta cut your losses and move on.

Published in 1997. Long ago, the god Orok gave each of his five children crystals to embed on the Rock of Being and Unbeing. From this circle of crystals, known as the Orokon, sprung the gods, the earth, and all its peoples. And, it ensured the harmony of life-until the dark god Koros plucked one from the Rock and plunged the world into chaos and despair. Now, someone has emerged willing to try to reunite the crystals of the Orokon: the young, crippled Jemany Vexing. But, the evil sorcerer Toth-Vexrah has his own plans…and he will let no one stand in his way.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. That is awful to not make any connection with anything in the book. And to dislike the characters (all of them to boot) is REALLY not good. You can have the character or even a few that everyone hates, but your readers have to feel a connection with hating them as well.

    Sorry to hear about the book.

  2. Not exactly a fair “review” of this book (a novel of about 500 pages of which this person has read 67). For a different view of Tom Arden, see for example the reviews on SF Site, e.g.

  3. I got the same comment this morning on this review at Amazon, so I’ll copy and paste my response:

    I read 15% of the book. If a book can’t grab me by then, I need to move on. There are thousands of fantasy novels to read, many which grab me in the first paragraph. I think that being bored by a book IS a big deal. I have very little leisure time — why waste it on something I’m not enjoying?

    So, I gave my review our “DNF” score — it means it didn’t grab me and I decided not to go on. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get better. Just that I did not finish it. We explain that more here:
    Thanks for the feedback, Christian. Sorry to disappoint you this time.

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