Misuse of Terminology

After busy months of becoming a freshman in high school in a new town, my grandson finally got back into his reading groove and back to having me reading a series with him.

After the mostly tame and always ‘bad-guys-become-good’ and/or ‘the really bad guys get theirs’ of Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Septimus Heap, Percy Jackson and others, he asked me to read The Summoner Trilogy.

I love to read. I can read very fast, I can skim and get more than just the gist of any story, but I love words. I can nearly swoon over a well-turned phrase. I am a total word-nerd. I prefer to savor good writings, taking my time reading.

I skimmed through a lot of this series, though. Shhh…Don’t tell Jonny.

Don’t get me wrong. The characters are well developed. There is enough conflict and growth through the years the readers travel through with them and their experiences to be plausible, in an implausible world. The story development and continuity are good, very good, for the genre.

What did I skim? The battle scenes.

But then I did the same thing when I read War and Peace.

I read Tolstoy’s epic novel when I was in my late teens. Even if you never ventured to read it, you may know that it is an extremely long book. In fact, if something was long-lasting, people would often say, “It was as lengthy as War and Peace/ as thick as a copy of War and Peace”, or, “I waited so long, I could have read War and Peace” and the like. I read many of Tolstoy’s works, and savored every word*, but I skimmed over the incredibly detailed battles.

I picked up enough of them to know what was going on.

[I may have told this before. My mother was not a Woody Allen fan, but she often quoted his lines: “I took a speed reading course. I read War and Peace in two hours. It was about Russia.”]

I found out after we were married that my husband had read War and Peace at about the same time I had. We lived near each other and found that we occasionally passed each other’s houses without ever meeting. However, Joe relished the battles and read quickly over the romantic parts, exactly opposite of my experience.

In The Summoner trilogy ,“The Novice”, “The Inquisition” and “The Battlemage”, Taran Matharu, for all his good writing, characters, and story, did something which really bothered me.

I can understand the details in the harshness and bloodiness of the physical clashes to keep his teenage boy target audience interested. It apparently works; (but I don’t need it).
My real bone to pick with him is his terminology. He calls all of his magical creatures “Demons”, why? That is immediately going to turn-off many readers. Most of the creatures are benevolent and loyal to those who control them, with nothing of cast-out angels or ‘spawns of Hell’ about them.

To ice that cake, he then used the names of well-known, commonly accepted mythological creatures to describe ones of his own, (otherwise inventive), imagination, which also bore no resemblance to the creatures generally recognized by those labels.

WHY? It was incredibly disconcerting, I can tell you. I vocally complained to my grandson throughout. Had it not been for Jonny and the fact that I truly wanted to know what was going to happen, I was tempted to quit reading a hundred times over the terms alone.

And I waited through the entire second book to see an actual “inquisition’ ; it didn’t happen.

(I won’t even go into how disconcerting I found that Matharu made no effort into fitting the common names he used to his distinct characters.)

Then the finale has left a door open for more, so why call it a ‘trilogy’?

I found it all very unfortunate, because, as I said, the story line and character development is good for the age group; indeed, it is better than a number of adult books which have been put into my hands. The continuity is more complete than many series aimed at adults.
And by the way, the bad guys do turn good or the really bad guys do get theirs in this series, as well. I always like that, especially in children’s’, Mid-grade and YA books.

So, what are your thoughts? Should authors play fast and loose with terminology? Am I over-reacting, after all, it’s just a work of fiction. (Although I still have to add that downplaying the word ‘demon’ to impressionable readers really upsets me).

Will you please give me your opinion?

*[Although could not stomach Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I found that even Leo himself thought it was garbage and threw most of it away. His daughter retrieved them from the garbage and sent them into the magazine which was publishing it in installments, in order to get money on which to live.]


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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10 Responses to Misuse of Terminology

  1. jeff7salter says:

    Love the Woody Allen comment.
    I’ve never read War and Peace. Probably goes back to my rebellious adolescence when I’d refuse to read many of the classics … simply because they were force-fed to us. [I realize that doesn’t click with majoring in Literature — aka ‘English’ — in college. But, hey, I’m a complex individual.]
    Totally agree with your complaints about that trilogy. An author shouldn’t borrow names from classical mythology and re-purpose them… unless it’s a spoof.
    And I dislike his use of the noun “demons” to describe anybody — apparently — who’s not human. There’s way too much actual demonic influence in the world without us giving them even more exposure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Jeff, that is my feelings exactly. I hope that I am not imagining that more people are going back to the conventional wisdom, inherit knowledge, of the reality of the demonic.
    I, on the other hand, found my education lacking and read many classics on my own. War and Peace is tame in the relationship department.I was horrified at the immorality of the stories that had been ‘required reading’ just before I hit the upper grades.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Since the trilogy was published by Macmillan, we can assume that the manuscript passed muster through at least a few editors. There had to have been at least one person who questioned the use of the word demon. Perhaps the benevolent demons had fallen from grace and were repentant. If I’d been bothered as much as you seem to have been, I would have quit and promised my grandson I’d read something else with him.

    Liked by 2 people

    • #1, ‘benevolent demon” isn’t really a thing…and these are animal, sometime, mixed animal-like creatures, with varying powers. It has absolutely nothing to do with ‘demons’. I dare to guess that some editor actually thought it would be a good thing to ‘cash-in’ on the word ‘demon’, Patty, but it and the mythological beast names being misused is wrong , and misdirecting knowledge.


      • Patricia Kiyono says:

        I understand your stance, but I guess my way of opposing it would be to simply not read it.


        • My grandson spent most of his life with me.He has been living away for almost two years.Although we have all forms of communication, we don’t have the close proximity nor continual give and take.When he is back to doing marathon reading and asks me to discuss the story line with him, you bet I am going to, if I have to hold my nose while reading it.


  4. I think the terminology would have turned me off of this trilogy. For example if I read the word unicorn I picture a horse with a horn, I don’t want to find out that it’s a three headed alligator with eagle wings and a horn on the middle head. I think that would draw me out of the story.

    I watched a movie once where people had animal companions who were referred to as demons. Those animals were supposed to be their soul or something like that. It just didn’t seem right.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yes, Angie,It seems to be common and there can only be a couple of reasons as to why they are throwing the word ‘demon’ around.
    Shock value: They think it sounds ‘cool’ and I think this is what Marathu is gong for.
    Or a writer could be anti-religion and wants to make fun of the idea of demons,
    OR, worse, a writer may be under dark influences and intends to downplay the word so that it looses its meaning. “The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist”, and with that, so many people who believe themselves to be too ‘sophisticated’ to believe in the reality of the Devil, demons, et al, are living in a fool’s paradise.


  6. jeff7salter says:

    testing comments


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