Title: Lost on a Page
Author: David E. Sharp
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publication date: July 1, 2021
Genre: Fantasy (among others)
One Sentence Summary: It’s an odd day when PI Joe Slade is rudely pulled from his book because characters from a fantasy book need his help to escape to the World Where Books Are Written to have a heart-to-heart with their author.
Lost on a Page is an ambitious novel about characters realizing they are characters and deciding to drop in on other books currently being written to take what they need to escape the fictional realm. At times, it delivers on the overarching story. At others, it’s hard not to wince at. It is indeed a humorous novel, but lacked overall finesse and the ability to really be immersive in all of the genres it touched on. Still, the characters were fun and I loved that they took on lives of their own. Though I did not appreciate the semi-cliffhanger ending as I don’t see this is part of a series.
Detective Joe Slade is on the case, sneaking around in the dark, trying not to be caught by the bad guys. Everything’s exactly as it should be. Until Ski Cap arrives, and tells him some rather unbelievable tidbits he refuses to believe. But that’s not all! Imagine getting whacked on the head with a trash can and waking up in a library.
But it’s not just any library. It’s the World of Words, a library that actually exists within a fantasy book series still being written. There, Joe is introduced to Ellodrine, a wizard; Kribble, the dwarf; and Aelrûn, the elf. They’ve lost their protagonist to their antagonist, the Lord of the Void, and need a new protagonist who can help them get two items from other books in order to escape to the World Where Books Are Written to, well, get mad at their writer, I suppose.
With Joe on board, a fun and sometimes hilarious romp through historical romance, science fiction, and worse ensues. They singlehandedly change all the stories they jump into, creating chaos and blurred lines.
As well as make their authors, who get to read their characters leading their own lives, frantically try to make things right and prevent their protagonists from dying.
Lost on a Page is a really ambitious novel. It sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun with jumps in and out of other books. But all these other books fell utterly flat to me. The characters, too, were set with the task of running away and creating their own lives and story lines, but can’t seem to escape the archetypes they were written to be. It’s a fun story of characters who become aware and long for more, but they’re seriously trapped.
The problem with writing multiple stories within one story is that, when multiple genres are thrown in, there’s an expectation that they feel authentic. I really wanted to read a piece of an historical romance or science fiction or fantasy novel and then watch how things go south as soon as Joe and his new friends jump on their pages. But all the different stories felt similarly lackluster. They lacked authenticity. I get that they’re WIPs, but, maybe with the exception of one, none of them are the first in a series or standalone. I mean, nine books in to a series, I would think the author of it would be a little more polished! They all sound like first drafts of first, or close to first, novels. Other than stories and characters and the bits and pieces that definitively define a genre, they all kind of sounded the same.
The characters, too, lacked interest. I loved the idea of them struggling to free themselves from their stories, to be free to create and live their own lives. But they all were stuck in archetypes. The wizard’s magic manifested in different ways in the different genres and she could not break out of the mold of being the know-it-all (mentor). The side characters were nothing more than side characters. The antagonist could only be beaten after something climatic. No matter how hard they struggled, they were still defined by the archetype they were written to be in the genre they were written for, and it was just kind of generally accepted. I did like how Joe tried to step out of it, worked hard to use his hardboiled PI mind, but, overall, it just wasn’t enough.
Still, the characters were consistent and I adored Kribble, an overly enthusiastic and grizzled dwarf. I loved that many of them were able to take their own and new knowledge and shape it all into something useful to help drive the story forward. As frustrating as it was to see them stuck in the archetypes, they definitely owned them, so it was fun to read how they played on the archetypes and tropes. Though I do feel the novel relied on the archetypes and tropes a little too much.
What I did absolutely love, though, were the authors’ interludes. Each work in progress has it’s own author and most of them end up working together to try to untangle the stories and keep their characters alive. I loved how it progressed from one author thinking someone was sabotaging him to the small collection of authors being relatively helpless as their characters came to life to form their own crazy, genre-bending story. Their interactions felt crazy and authentic and it was hard to not be amused by them.
Lost on a Page is a wild adventure. I liked that it crossed several different genres and blended stories and characters together, but it could have been done with more polish and more attention to detail when it came to each genre. The characters helped hold it all together, but I was disappointed by the end. There’s no indication there’s another book, but it definitely feels like a duology, at least.
Overall, an interesting read, but perhaps a little too jumbled and a little too reliant on literary devices. Lost on a Page does deliver a humorous story, though, with characters trying hard to break the mold.
How many cups of tea will you need?
Get your copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon affiliate)
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.