18 September, 2012

A Second Bite...

Irene Radford

It must be six months since i started reading this book, i should think, though without investigating i don't know. And it's also been, surely, two or three months since i decided i just could not finish it and regretfully posted a review on Library Thing for the Early Reviewers programme explaining that inability. And it is a fortnight or so since i came back to it and tried again, certain that i had the willpower to force my way through it ~ after all, i can read anything, just about, surely an historical fantasy isn't going to defeat me! And it did not: I have, indeed, finished. Having finished, then, was it worth it? Is the book a success?

Well, to answer that question we have to define “success” and what would or would not put a book into that category. For years if not decades implicitly, and at least five years explicitly i have considered a book's success purely on the grounds of one criterion: Am i, having read a book, likely to pick up another by the same author based solely on my feelings about and response to it? If the answer is “yes”, well then, the book is a success. By my book definition, then, Guardian of the Vision; Merlin's Descendants #3 can in no way be considered a success. I regret saying this. Deeply i regret it, for a number of reasons: A free book, given to me solely so i can read and review it, i want to like; an historical novel, about an interesting time and place in history, i should like it; a book by a professional historian, no less, i ought to like it; a fantasy novel (one of my favourite genres), with a simple “What if this were true” premise, how could i not like it?

Sadly, many of the points i catalogued against the novel a few months ago still stand; they were not simply a result of not having finished the book. The characters are not sufficiently delineated one from the other. The narration is mixed in person and, consequently, confused in effect. The history is not accurate, which is acceptable in an historical fantasy, but the background history is not close enough to reality to carry the imaginative elements.

Let a mere reference to the previous list suffice. Here i shall explore a little further the actual plot of the novel, which i only touched on last time i reviewed it. The three main characters are, in their differing ways, touched by another life or another dimension; two of them, brothers, are descended from Merlin, their family bound to try and keep England, though perhaps Logres would be what is really meant, safe from chaos; the third is also, perhaps, a descendent of Merlin, though more on a distaff side, and she is linked with a demon whose sole desire is to create chaos and destruction. Each uses magic, of a form, in what they do, though one, in whom the magic is perhaps the strongest, renounces its use in the belief that that is what he must do to remain in the Church of Rome, where he has become a priest. There are, as is common with historical fiction, a number of actual personages within the pages (a peculiarly inept turn of phrase for a book read on an e-reader), pre-eminent among them Elizabeth Tudor, Mary or Marie Stuart, and Thomas Howard. They are really only in the book as mechanisms for the furthering of the plot; only Elizabeth has any real development of character, and what we are shown is, quite in line with actuality, not the most attractive (it is depressing to discover that the monarchs i most admired as a child are the ones i find least attractive as i learn more about them; i can only hope this will not happen with Elizabeth Windsor).

The biggest problem i have with this book, the key point in why i cannot call it a success is, i think, something i touched on in my previous review. There simply is nothing in it to make me care. None of the characters is compelling, i don't really care if their desires are fulfilled or not, and none of them (except maybe the dogs) is consistently nice or good. In addition, i'm afraid, the plot, the action, is not strong enough to carry the novel without characters; it's obvious from the beginning that the demon isn't going to be able to bring the levels of chaos he wants, but there is not even enough tension over that conclusion to force me to continue reading to find out why, how he is to be defeated. All in all, i am very sorry to have to reiterate, not an experience i care to repeat. Sadly.


Stephanie Rae Pazicni said...

Well, at least you finished it, Elsie. Proving to me, once again, that you can read anything. Gosh, you must go slow at the grocery store. Just a thought.
The book premise sounds rather good. Rewrite. That is all it needs, perhaps with a co-writer who can really develop characters, and witty dialogue, and make you care. Now where, oh where, would they find wuch a writer...looking around...hmmm...*making call me sign*
PS - I will send you a Slinky Dog, for free, if you will just take the dang Captcha option off your blog. We both know I cannot prove I'm not a robot. It has me worried that perhaps I am.

Elsie Wilson said...

I didn't know it could be taken off; i'll go take a look right now.

I like the rewrite idea, but the only talented writer i know has her hands full with her own work at the moment.