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Three books, many complaints - Qualified Perceptions
Three books, many complaints
To Ride Hell's Chasm (by Janny Wurts)
This book came with a lot of glowing praise from people like Stephen Donaldson and Julie E. Czerneda, so I expected great things. And there is a plot in there, under all the verbiage. But every utterance, every action, is simply fraught with intense significance. Voices clash like muffled thunder, hiss like the rasp of raw silk over an oil steel blade, bear deep velvet consonants hinting at an eastern origin, stand like unmoved rock against which hysteria dashes without impact. "The bruising grip savaged Mykkael's slipped senses with a wrench like the bite of cold iron." "His handsome face shaded into uncertainty, a reminder that he was yet a young man, brilliantly accomplished, but with heart and mind still tender with inexperience." And it's all like that.

Now, I got used to the style eventually. It made for a bunch of sentences to giggle at. But, once you strip off the rococo ornamentation that festoons every sentence and get down to the bones of the plot, it's, sadly, a flawed plot. The first half of the book has some vaguely interesting political shifts, but the hysterical tone in which half of the characters shriek about why hasn't the one black guy been arrested because of course it must be him who did it, because he's a desert-born mongrel cur of a mercenary, and thus most likely to be guilty. Er, I lost my verb there. "Grates." The hysterical shrieking grates. The second half is a Perilous Travel Montage, which actually works pretty well with the extra-fraught style. But then when the two travellers get to the end of the travel, they reach the powerful NPCs who fix everything up. It's as if the Fellowship battled through danger and peril until they got to Lothlorien, and then Galadriel took the ring and said "Okay, sure, I can handle Sauron for you. Orcs? We can disintegrate them from here." Kinda disappointing. Oh, and also, I'm sure modern printing can do better than 72dpi for the art. Two stars.

Something from the Nightside (by Simon R. Green)
I liked Shadows Fall for its world-building and lovely moments. I really didn't like Deathstalker, which I only remember now for the Tactically Brilliant Move of (essentially) saying "Get 'em!". But Amazon keeps telling me I'd like Something from the Nightside, so I borrowed it from MITFS (since I don't always believe Amazon). Again, I like the world-building (and it's set in the same world as Shadows Fall, as much as London is the same world as Ohio). The Mysterious Background is intriguing. The noir-detective is neither original nor ironic enough to be perfect, but it's okay. The resolution is enh - it's hard to make a battle of wills feel as tense and compelling as a physical battle; even with all the magic and power, Lord of the Rings about slogging through Morder and throwing the Ring in the volcano, and stabbing the Witch King in the foot, not a wizard's battle. Because we all understand slogging, and pain, and mud, and being attacked by dangerous monsters, in a visceral way that we just don't understand using your Gift to enter the mental plane. Three stars. Neil Gaiman does the Magical Underside of London better, but Neil Gaiman mostly does everything better. I should read Neverwhere again.
Red Wyvern and Black Raven (by Katharine Kerr)
Though these are listed as Books One and Two of The Dragon Mage, they're really books nine and ten of the Deverry series. Oops.
The Outstretched Shadow (Book 1 of the Obsidian Trilogy) (by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory)
Every so often I try Mercedes Lackey again, because she's written so many books, and they're nearly almost to my taste, so I keep hoping. But I keep being slightly disappointed. There's some interesting bits: Wild Magic being kinda sentient and asking specific active prices was cool when there were examples. But it waffles on how quest-y the prices are, and whether or not they'll conflict with each other (or maybe the main character is just a goof and doesn't remember what he's been told). The main character is supposedly not a very good Wild Mage, but you never see him failing at anything, just angsting about oh no oh no he might fail, how can people ask him to do this thing he's no good at? Then he does it and it works. And he spends too much time obsessing about stupid things to worry about, like whether he'll never be any better than the second best mage in the world, or whether an obviously non-evil person is evil, or whether he might become evil by Making Mistakes and Choosing The Wrong Thing. Enh. Three stars, because when there is action, it's reasonably good. And they have to go throw the ring in the volcano go to the Place and do the Dangerous Thing at the end. It wasn't bad, just not very good.

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From: desireearmfeldt Date: May 11th, 2005 09:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Mercedes Lackey is one of those authors I used to like a lot and then decided she'd gone downhill and stopped reading. So I haven't read much of the stuff she's done since she branched out of the original couple of universes she was writing in. I don't know what effect all her various co-authors have, either. I'd believe that some of the going downhill was having stayed too long in the same pool...but I also get the impression that she's gotten more, um, eaxggeratedly herself over time? Or possibly it's just one of those styles that didn't bother me at age 12 but gets on my nerves now. :) She does a lot of the people-being-unsure-of-themselves and people-not-talking-to-each-other sorts of angst, and that's easily overdone, especially when you forget to make life sufficiently hard for your characters. 'Cause she also tends to have a pretty high proportion of really quite nice characters, if not entire societies, for her protagonists to hang out with, and then it's hard to really motivate that angst convincingly. :)

But I did like the first couple of series a lot, back when I was 12. :)
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