My husband and I have lately been introduced to Dominion, a strategy game where you build up a deck of action and treasure cards to gain victory points. (As an aside, this is a great Christmas present for the game-lovers in your family.) The manufacturer's description of the game reads like this:
You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion! In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodums. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner. But wait! It must be something in the air; several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way. To do this you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury. Your parents wouldn't be proud, but your grandparents would be delighted.
It is interesting how many strategy games nowadays tap into the "medieval" world to draw a crowd. It is also interesting how the "storyline" behind this game has almost nothing to do with the game itself. I almost laugh every time I read the part about wanting a more pleasant kingdom "with more rivers and a wider variety of trees."The game has little to do with any of those elements. Relying solely on this description, those who have never played Dominion would probably think that it is a board game like Risk or maybe even like Settlers of Catan.
The back of a book cover can often act the same way as this game description.The author (or publisher) tries to highlight the most interesting--or sensational--parts of the story to capture the attention of prospective readers. Sometimes the information on the back cover bares scant resemblance to the story inside.
Having written the back cover for I Serve, I know how hard it can be condense a 100,000 word novel into a 200 word blurb. For me, it was a necessary exercise, however, since I had no publisher or publicist to write it for me. It was also a valuable exercise and one that I will be glad to do again when my next book is finished. Who should know the book better than the author? If the author herself cannot explain the plot and themes in a half page of prose, then it seems likely that the plot of the novel is rambling and the themes are unclear. If the author cannot make herself interesting in 200 words, then it seems likely that 100,000 words on the same subject will prove more than a little tedious.