My one criticism was that the antagonist shows up late. For a good portion of the story, the main objective of the protagonist is connected to a problem that seems a result of accident. Only toward the latter part of the book does an antagonist surface to thwart the protagonist and her companions from fulfilling their quest.
Even then, the antagonist doesn’t seem to be connected to any greater evil. He is simply out to dominate the world for his own aggrandizement. He is prideful and controlling and evil, but he also seems opportunistic. He didn’t cause the initial problem—at least not that we can discern from this story—but he saw an opportunity to use these circumstances for his own machinations.
As I was reading The Vanishing Sculptor, I asked a hundred or so pages in, Where’s the antagonist? I liked the characters, I knew what they wanted, but the achievement didn’t seem like it was going to be hard or that anyone would try to thwart its accomplishment.
For me there was a significant reduction of tension.
Perhaps that’s OK for a change. Uniformly, the reviews I’ve read so far are positive. My own review is positive. I liked the book a lot. But I can’t help but wonder, if the antagonist showed up sooner, how would that change things? If there was a greater degree of difficulty early on, how would that alter the tone of the book, the themes, the character development?
In essence, I’m wondering, how important is the antagonist?
Some writing instructors say an author needs to understand what the antagonist wants just as much as what the protagonist wants. Others go a step farther and say the antagonist must have strengths and weaknesses, that no antagonist should be painted as pure evil.
The latter position would seem to undermine the good vs. evil fantasy motif. But doesn’t leaving the antagonist out do the same thing? Or downplaying his role by having him come in late?
Which again brings up the question, how important is the antagonist?