This is going to be a very unpopular review. So, to all of you who may hate me after reading this, I apologize in advance.
From the rave reviews, and based on the vast number of people who seemingly loved this book enough to tattoo a representation of it on their body
, I expected it to blow me away. I love fantasy, I love stories with a kick-ass female lead, and despite the fact that this might tell you a bit more about me than you bargained for, I was really looking forward to enjoying a bit of pain and pleasure vicariously through this book.
Unfortunately, every single one of those things fell very short for me.
I consider myself to be a pretty patient person. I can wait through a not-so-great beginning to get to a great story. I can even wait through a bad beginning, and a lukewarm middle to get to a great, everything-comes-together-in-the-end ending.
But, no. It started so promisingly, the very beginning setting the stage for an intricate world, society, plot, and story... and then proceeded to annoy me for the next 296 pages. After page 300, it did pick up, but "fast paced" doesn't always equal "good".
Some of the annoying stuff:
FORESHADOWING. *narrows eyes*
Oddly enough, before reading this, my friend said something along the lines of, "I have to warn you, the foreshadowing is very heavy-handed." To which I replied, "Oh, I probably wouldn't have even noticed if you hadn't told me." (Oh silly me.) To which SHE replied, "Yes. You would."
I have never, ever, seen clumsier foreshadowing in my life. Had I known, then, that this book would test my patience, stamina and sanity, would I have kept reading?
No. I wouldn't have. I finished this book because I promised that friend I would read it, so I did. Every page contained a new attempt at suspense... If books came with soundtracks, this one's theme would be "DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN!!"
But let's move on and not beat a dead horse. The foreshadowing wasn't the only thing to aggravate me, although it was the most prevalent. We also have the irritating allusions to things that apparently we're supposed to know already.
The first, and the one that sticks out most in my head, is a reference to a poem that Phedre read in which a man, who was in love with a woman, "unmanned" himself for her. No further detail than that. What does that mean? Did he humble himself before the woman, therefore removing any manliness from his status? Did he physically cut off his manhood? What was the point of the throw-away reference? It never comes up again, so it's not a "Hey, you might want to remember me for later" tidbit, it's an annoying slice of "Haha! Bet you'd like to know what I'm all about, wouldn't ya?".
There were several other situations in which Phedre mentioned things like "...the whole world knows this, so I won't mention it...". Oh. OK. Thanks. Wouldn't want you to strain something.
Then there were the euphemisms. My favorite being "Pearl of Naamah". Why do men have anatomical boy parts (albeit called the annoyingly repetitive "phallus"), but girl parts are given a name like the "Pearl of Naamah"?
Moving on to the general wordiness. Carey must have had her thesaurus handy while writing this book. So many of her sentences just seem to wander around without actually going anywhere. I'm sure she was going for an old-world feel. People back in the day didn't speak like we do now. Got it. But there's a line that when crossed takes you from "perfectly worded and appropriate for the theme you're going for" to "Can we possibly say something in between the 'twixts' and 'tweres'?".
So now let's look at some of the words, shall we? In no particular order:Bistre
- Cool word for brown. Overused.Thus
- Thus it was that the word thus was thus overused.Somewhat
- My absolute favorite of the annoying words. Universally used to replace "something", this word just crawled onto my last nerve and dug in its heels. It jarred in every single usage and ruined the flow of every sentence that contained it. VERY overused and unnecessary.Vaster
- Just sounds grammatically wrong. Plus overused. Betimes
- Apparently used to replace "comprehend" in certain scenarios. I searched, and can't find a single reference to the word being used in this way anywhere - if you can, please link me to it, it's making me crazy.
There were many others, those are just the ones I wrote down.
Miscellaneous other bothersome things:
- "Seed": Yes, this is euphemism for semen, and you might be asking yourself why I didn't mention it above. Well, I will tell you why. Seeds grow into stuff when planted. Can someone please explain to me how it is that Phedre had so many romps with so many men releasing themselves into her and yet never got pregnant? You might be saying to yourself, but this is fantasy, it doesn't matter! Yes, it does. This is a realistic story set in an alternate world, and obviously since Phedre herself is "a whore's unwanted get", the subject might be addressed as to how she prevented her own "unwanted get".
- Melisande: Pointless. Plot. Device.
- Forced sequel: Carey could have (should have?) and DID end this book perfectly. And then she kept writing, and in so doing, forced the ending into a situation that would require a sequel. Nice try. I'm forgetting I read the last few pages as I type. This story is ended for me, I think.
There... Now we can talk about what I liked.
Joscelin. Thank goodness for Joscelin. I really would have had to give up on this book if it wasn't for him. He was really predictable, but I loved him anyway. He kicked ass, like a ninja priest.
Hyacinthe. Loved him too - he was fun, and one of the only unique characters in the book.
Delaunay. He was awesome. Smart, honest, honorable.
I did like the concept of love as a sacred act, and I liked the references to different religions. I enjoyed the different people and their customs, and enjoyed the intricate relationships between everyone and the political aspects of the story. I liked the fact that Delaunay taught Phedre to learn and think and analyze. I like the concept of the thirteen houses, which reminded me of Geisha houses. I liked the Tsingani people, who were fun and boisterous and superstitious and sly. I loved Rousse's men, who were brave and smart and thought of cool songs. I liked Ysandre, who was young and wise and fair. I liked Drustan, too. And Alcuin who was soft-hearted but had a will of steel.
I can see how some people would like this book. Unfortunately, I can't count myself among them. Too much annoyed me for me to say I liked it, but I didn't hate it either. I just think it could have been so much better had Carey had an editor with balls. It's always easier to rip apart what you didn't like than enumerate what you did, and I did NOT outline everything that I liked in the book here, so this review is a bit one sided. Sorry about that.
I hope you all don't REALLY hate me.