Books Review: Majyk Trilogy – Esther Friesner

e6qultuSo, back when the fantasy market wasn’t nearly as flooded or as particular about quality, Esther Friesner published Majyk by Accident, Majyk by Hook or Crook, and Majyk by Design

I thought these books were hilarious when I was ten.

And since that really can’t be the only thing this review says, I guess I’ll start with the good points.

First, there are still bits that made me snort, such as….Second, the second book was a marked improvement over the first and third books (we’ll revisit this point under “cons.” I still sometimes wish life provided me with more opportunities to utter the phrase “It’s a deadly ninja throwing pun” (although I was very excited to get to use “it’s a pune, or a play on words,” not too long ago.) The running gag about the romance novels, and the bit with the rival authors being positively (clenches teeth) happy that there are more books on shelves, was pretty darned funny. And the initial appearances of the mysterious masked swashbuckler A Blade For Justice, which are played semi-straight in adventure-swashbuckler-fantasy style, are worth a snicker especially if you guess or already know the twist.

I will also give credit where credit is due to: “Your guardsmen have no mercy!” “They shouldn’t, I paid for them to have it surgically removed” and the whole gag about how the Guardsman Academy had courses on how to take bribes properly. Book 2 (Majyk by Hook or Crook) has a lot less of the flaws I am going to subsequently complain about, mostly due to the fact that it a) does have plot, b) has personal stakes, c) proceeds to resolve the plot and resolve those personal stakes, not always happily.

Other than that, though, these books just aren’t very good.

They’re parody fantasy novels, without anything of substance to parody. Worse, there’s no meaningful core to the characters, their journeys, or the story itself that could elevate it above the juvenile gags that comprise 95% of its content….and roughly 87% of those jokes are “the talking cat has a New York accent.” That’s it, that’s the joke. The cat is from New York. (It wasn’t particularly funny for the first three pages. Now drag that out over three books.) The characters aren’t allowed to grow or breathe; the stakes never become personal; no emotion is allowed other than “the cat is funny because it’s from New York.” And I like cats.

The final damning point is that at no point in time is the plot (such as it is) allowed to gather any momentum whatsoever. Any, and I do mean every development that might lead to action either on the hero’s part, the villain’s part, the hero’s party’s part, has to be stopped dead in its tracks whilst The Talking Cat From New York discusses what’s going on, what it means, what needs to be done, and what should be done, and why, for at least a page and a half, preferably two or three. And this absolutely kills the comedic aspect of the story, because if it at least moved faster, we could move on from the failed jokes to ones that aren’t so bad, until the sum of the funny bits overweighs the unfunny bits.

Is there room for parody fantasy novels that also take the time to skewer the romance genre as well? Sure, and I’d’ve loved to enjoy these books again.


Rated: Read Dark Lord of Derkholm or Equal Rites, they’re so much better.

Book Review: The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman

Well, as a dog returns to its vomit, so do I to this series. Thank God this seems to be the last one. I can’t think of another series written so poorly, by an author with such demonstrated and wasted potential, which I have wanted to like so badly. I mean, she was SO GOOD at writing Bleach fanfiction, surely that talent translates directly into the real world of real books with real covers9781984804815_p0_v1_s1200x630 and real sales, right?

Genevieve Cogman is not a good author of fantastic adventure. These books are ponderously slow, verbosely talky, amateurishly plotted, clunkily executed, and her characters have all the depth and warmth of ukiyo-e paintings, except without the craftsmanship or crisp elegance of design. And it’s really freaking depressing, because she had a bright, sciffian idea which would have made a really cool story if someone with actual abilities had written it, thought about it, and carried through with its possibilities.

That idea was this: incorporate fanfic versions of characters from other novels into this novel, using the justification that they are real people from other universes, recognizable because of their existence pan-dimensional Library. Think about it! Sherlock Holmes! Jareth from Labyrinth!….uh….some other characters from public domain literature! Like, like…uh….umm….the Disney Princesses!….I mean, not the Disney princess archetype, just a generic princess archetype that happens to not be under copyright. Um. How about a black guy being the police commissoner in pseudo-Victorian London?

At it’s core and base, this is supposed to be about book-stealing Librarian spy catburglars. Also secret identities, magical systems, and zeppelins. Also a horrifying and terrible villain driven mad by secrets from the depths of time and space and space-time and L-space. Also dragons. Where does it go wrong? And how can you possibly go wrong with dragons?

In so, so many different ways, but I’ll let my past reviews speak for themselves. This is the last book and the series plot, such as it is and believe me it is pretty damn weak, gets resolved.

So, anyhow, we eventually found out in The Dark Archive, that dread villain Alberich was Irene’s biological father. Or at least, his original body was. He’s an orb of chaos-infused energy bound to a moving corpse, now. Needless to say, this reveal was fucking obvious from BOOK ONE, but it still gets a full dramatic treatment in that book and into the next–this one.

Irene wants to do something about her father, preferably something that ends with his death. Also, worlds are disappearing. She has a series of conversations with people, and after about one third of the book has gone by, gets permission from the Library elders to covertly strike against Alberich. Also, worlds are disappearing. Another third of the book goes by, in which we learn that worlds have been disappearing, that Alberich is actually willing to talk terms with his daughter, and that The Library doesn’t want them to.

This is, we are led to suspect, because the Library doesn’t want people looking into the secrets of its founding. Also worlds are disappearing. How unfortunate, therefore, that during the past couple of books Irene has stumbled onto several stories concerning exactly that–stories of the founding of a mysterious library from both the Fae and Dragon point of view–and now, she finally finds out that there is also one from the human POV.

And it kind of matches what Alberich has been saying: that the Library is corrupted.

So a meeting is set up on a world that by no means has yet disappeared and absolutely has no reason to disappear and could not possibly be a trap by which inconvenient people who know too much are set up to disappear. Guess what happens then? No, go on, guess.

Anyhow, Alberich sacrifices what’s left of himself to break them free, and off they go again. Honestly, even with Alberich being as poorly-served as he has been throughout the series–and he was defeated by the heroine in every single book so far–he’s still kind of my favorite character from this series. I’ve always liked the villains who have, somewhere wayyyy far off in the distance, a noble cause or an ideal to aim at, but in the meanwhile don’t hesitate from saying, “let me be evil,” rolling up their sleeves, and getting to it. I also like family-as-villains (who doesn’t)–especially when they are willing to apply that selfsame philosophy to their family members, and willing to accept that turnabout is fair play. And, making your first appearance disguised in the skin of an enemy you have defeated and killed is kind of badass. Despite the fact that he was completely ineffective in each incarnation, Alberich himself is treated with enough dread and caution by the other characters that he still retains some inkling of menace–even when he’s just a walking burnt-out, dessicated corpse in a monk’s hood, which honestly takes some doing. Even the two-paragraph long summary of his fall to darkness and Irene’s mother’s escape, is more interesting and compelling than anything else in this entire damn book.

But anyway, with the series 95% done with and the person who has been the main villain of the series abruptly out of the way, we get introduced to the real evil behind the scenes. It’s as exactly as stupidly anticlimactic and frustrating as you might imagine. It’s defeated as easily as ever by Irene, and let me tell you how disappointed I was at that. I was even annoyed that Irene got a happy ending and her powers back.

How do you go wrong with such a provocative idea? Why bother to file the serial numbers off your Sherlock if you’re going to use him as a glorified doormat? Why pull Jareth off of dance-number duty without a long-standing sexual tension plot with the heroine (on the other hand, their relationship, such as it is, has the benefit of consistency.) Why make your dragons the epitome of stick-up-the-cloacaness and…actually, just why?

There are good aspects to this work. Beginning authors can read them and make careful notes about what not to do. (Hint: HAVING YOUR ADVENTURE FANTASY NOVEL BE ALMOST ENTIRELY DIALOGUE IS A BAD IDEA.) Struggling authors can find new strength in rage knowing that this garbage is getting edited and published instead of them. Readers can…read something else instead.

Rated: I really wanted to like these books! Goddamnit!

Review: The Dark Archive – Genevieve Cogman

Irene is not a great heroine, Grauniad.

This book was physically painful to read.  

I’ve read all the Invisible Library books so far. I’ve been patiently waiting for them to Get Good. I’ve been waiting for Cogman’s editor to get better at it. I really, really, want to like these books! They’re about people who love books and would walk to the ends of a different Earth to acquire them….right?

They haven’t, she hasn’t, and the dirty secret is that they aren’t

I’ve already written at length how Cogman a) can’t write action, b) struggles with characterization, c) has far too much dialogue. (GOD, you don’t know how much I am not exaggerating with the dialogue. There are maybe two pages in this book which are not comprised of people talking to each other); Cogman demonstrates a positive genius for taking large-scale action setpieces and then disposing of them in a couple of paragraphs; and nobody has a discernable personality. She’s even shuffled the one character who does have a distinct personality offstage for the duration of the book! What the hell, Gen? 

c) is even more of a problem than usual here, because there are two new major characters: Librarian-trainee-hopeful Catherine, and dragon prince Shan Yuan. And the thing is, for BOTH of them, the building blocks were right there. Shan Yuan is a collection of vaguely arrogant and moderately unhelpful actions. He does things and it’s for his own reasons which are annoying and sometimes harmful to the protagonists. That’s actually good, and he’s actually fairly consistent. Problem is, once he’s been set up, a little bit of time was needed to set up why he does the things he does (not, dear God, by talking about it): that is, OTHER than “to be annoying to the protagonists;” and maybe show that he has a reason and the reason is, his personality is that of an arrogant, prejudiced dragon prince who is used to doing this his own way and has no respect for his younger brother’s/the human way of doing things. 

But the really fatal problems with this series, which I finally put my finger on in this book is:

It’s not clever. It’s not imaginative. And it’s not literary. 

This series is supposedly about people who go to different worlds–from the fantastic to the technological–for books. This series started out as straight-up fanfiction, which allowed the author to slip known worlds, characters, and settings in and do fun, off-the-cuff, funny, clever things with them. This by all rights, should have continued when the books actually got published. The process is simple: file the serial numbers off the world, change the names and a few details of the characters you’re stealing borrowing reimagining, give setting and people a few twists–you know, the sort you’d have liked to see in the originals–and write a fun charming story in a world that is almost recognizable but different in a clever and fitting way.

It can be done, it can be done legally, and it can get published, believe me. There’s the Rachel Griffin books by L. Jagi Lamplighter, which riff off of everyone from Narnia to Battlestar Galactica. There’s the Mageworlds series by Debra Doyle, which is Star Wars sequels with the serial numbers filed off and very satisfying they were to read indeed. There are countless opportunities for cameos not only of literary but also historical figures to pop up!

Cogman doesn’t do this. She doesn’t use varied worlds, fresh new settings. Everything is set in a smoggy but weirdly feminist-friendly but still tea-guzzling but racially tolerant but fucking steampunk pseudo-Victorian England. With goggles. Oh God, there are actual goggles in this book and they do nothing except irritate me. And here’s the thing. Cogman doesn’t even use the really easy and helpful cheat of adapting genuine literary characters to her own ends–which would solve her problem of not being able to write people with actual personalities. You don’t need to invent what you can steal! 

At their core, these books were written by someone entirely lacking in imagination. I’d be nasty and say “in familiarity with the fantasy genre,” but that’s an unwonted personal attack. 

But. The real problem. 

The REAL problem is. 

For a series focused on Librarians. Who go to great lengths to acquire new books. Who fetishize books. Who have plot-relevant reasons for wanting to keep books, read books, and acquire knowledge.

No one ever seems to have read a book in their life.

New character Catherine is a teenager who has grown up isolated and lived primarily through reading stories. She wants to be a librarian: you know, one of those ladies who tells you about new authors and helps you find them and discusses them with you and wears glasses on a string. We know this: because she says as much to Irene. Not because she talks about books incessantly. Not because she’s ever got her nose in a book. Not because she’s entirely bored with the “someone’s trying to assassinate us” plot and keeps trying to wander off and buy books. And definitely not because she changes her mind at the end and decides that being a spy-book-thief type Librarian is much better.

At one point Kai mentions Irene always has a book in her nightstand. Irene never mentions anything she’s read in a book; never refers to book-learned knowledge; never thinks about book plots that are similar to this one; never wonders how a favorite hero or heroine would  handle the situation….throughout this entire series…once. The closest she’s ever come to it is complaining that action heroines are generally taller than her own 5’9 (….you moronic bitch) and follows up by whining that it’s hard to kick people (in the shins, presumably) while wearing full skirts. 

I’m legitimately angry at this point. I could write better stories about Librarian Spies, the Library of Babel, dragons, Fae, debauched ambassadors, bookworm trainees, the Language of Truth, super-powered, vengeful bodiless spirits. Maybe I freaking will.

And after all that, is there anything to say about the plot? What plot? Well….I could talk about what there is of plot, but I’d just lose my temper at how stupidly drawn-out this series is. It’s book 7. Irene has just finally found out that the villain whom she has faced in every single book and easily defeated each time is her

(dUn DuN duN)

(DuN dUn DuN)

(dUn DuN duN dUn DuN dUn)


As if it wasn’t bloody fucking obvious in book 1 and serially reinforced in each book after that. 

And then there’s an epilogue with a fucking mysterious hooded council of mysteriousness that runs the Library except the final line of the book implies that the Library actually runs itself and WHY DID WE SPEND SEVEN BOOKS RUNNING AROUND VICTORIAN STEAMPUNK GOGGLED LONDON, NOT RIFFING OFF OF OTHER BETTER STORIES, IF YOU HAD MAYBE TWO BOOKS’ AND I’M BEING GENEROUS THERE WORTH OF ORIGINAL PLOT YOU COULD HAVE JUST WRITTEN ABOUT INSTEAD?

What the fuck, Genevieve?

The Lost Plot – Genevieve Cogman (repost review)

So, I have read all five of these books, and none of them were worth paying money for. This review consists of things I feel justified in pointing out, because they are things I would also have problems with, as a writer or aspiring writer. I really would like to like these books. The idea is great! Spies and agents for the Library of All Worlds, dragons, eldritch abominations of chaos, cat burglars, magic, magitech, great detectives, and zeppelins. I can take or leave zeppelins, but the rest of it sounds good, right?

The problem is, it isn’t written very well, and no one has told Ms. Cogman how to play to her strengths or even what those strengths are.

Plot: The Library is trying to play mediator in a peace conference between the dragons (forces of Order) and the Fae (chaos). There’s been a murder. There’s going to be war between factions and between worlds unless someone can figure out Who Dun It. Simple, really.

Cogman is really good at writing fanfiction. I mean, really good. I discovered her because of, uh, well, worse things have been admitted, *cough* her Bleach fanfic. And her Chronicles of Amber stuff is also really superb.

But fanfic is fanfic. Original writing is different. Creating your own world requires imagination–to make it up in the first place–thought, to make it workable–and talent, to portray it in a coherent manner. Cogman elides this step by using her many worlds as simply possible, making each or at least most of them just be a slightly more feminist-friendly (not kidding) real-world historical setting. That’s lazy writing, but it’s also fine!–as long as you either make them distinct and/or, have whatever’s happening to your characters be so interesting the background, comparatively speaking, fades.

Here’s the next problem: Cogman isn’t good at characterization. Writing your own characters requires the ability to a) make them distinct and b) make the audience care about them.  b) is less difficult to accomplish, because the audience is usually naturally on the protagonists’ side. a) is way, way harder, because it means giving them a personality and portraying that personality consistently throughout and against the vagaries of the plot.

I’m not criticizing her for lazy writing: making the Fae be “archetypes” is a legitimate cheat, because then you can insert a couple paragraphs about how the Fae in front of you doesn’t actually have a personality, just a set of characteristics which, conveniently, they are forced by Universal Narrativium to adapt to that particular scene. Annoying, but if you pull it off with enough panache (aka, make that Fae be distinct enough and consistent enough), then I, the reader, can go along with it.–especially if you don’t belabor the point too much.

But that isn’t going to work with your actual heroes. Vale has no personality. Kai has Standard Romance Hero personality, which is to say, no personality. Dragon investigator Mu Ren has no personality. Irene does have a personality, and I would hate to be petty and say that her personality is G. Cogman-in-Victorian-Britain-as-an-idealized-Librarian-Spy, but….it just kinda feels that way.

Ironically, the one person who emerges from this book (and series in general) with some distinction is Silver, the Fae semi-antagonist Sexy Bad Boy. He gets identifiable and consistent characterization, because being a) sexy, b) bad boy sexy, requires that he actually say or do things which other people/the protagonist can respond to at a physical and emotional level. There is no other parallel to this in the book. Irene and Kai are lovers. You can’t tell it from any word or action or reaction they have throughout the book. Irene dislikes and distrusts Prezkov. You couldn’t tell it from any thought or word or narrative description, either. But you do know where Irene stands with regard to Silver. (It’s fascinated revulsion–but you have to admit that he who responds to an attack of cybernetic alligators with “Johnson! My elephant gun!” has got style.) Silver is also fairly funny, which is a benefit, and Cogman is very good at humor.

Next problem: Cogman isn’t good at subtext, and this makes the entirety of this book really, really clunky. Your mileage may vary on the next section of this analysis, but I think it’s sound.

So when you have a murder, the three basic facts are: means, motives, and opportunity. The detective/hero/investigator generally finds out the means pretty quickly. Stabbed in the heart. Shot in the head. Beaten to death in a room locked from the inside. The means and opportunity part gets rounded up when you cross-check all suspects’ alibis. Who has a knife? Who has a gun in that caliber? Who has keys to the door? Who can teleport?

Those two parts are always pretty straightforward, and generally the sidekick gets to pop in and out, doing the legwork while the hero does the dramatic heavy lifting: determining the motives.

See, for a mystery novel, the classic structure is: hero asks questions, hero is given answers, hero decides how truthful those answers are and thence determines motives. This requires the hero have the ability to know (and the author to show) such complex social niceties as intent, lying by omission, hinting, eagerness to talk, reluctance to talk, genuine emotions, feigned emotions, and other things that I, a nerd, have enough trouble with in real life, let alone fiction. It requires the hero to be able to keep track of what’s actually going on versus what people are saying–and that requires there to actually be something happening.

That doesn’t happen in this book. It’s okay to be bad at something; but then, if you are bad at something, you shouldn’t write a book which especially requires that.

Cogman isn’t good at dialogue, either. Which is to say, she is good at writing long exchanges which are sometimes witty and often amusing. But she is not good at: using dialogue to further characterization, to establish motives, to raise tension, or to delineate stakes.

This damn book is a good 95% dialogue, and 90% of that is exposition….boring exposition. One or two, or three or four people, distinguishable only by the use of their names in the tags (see above: no personality), keep exchanging information with each other: the kind of dialogue that, in a different book, could be safely skipped because we’ll find out what’s going on through whatever happens next. The context of everyone’s actions, later, will keep everything clear.

Only, there is very little of anything happening. This is directly related to the next problem:

Cogman isn’t good at action. This isn’t exactly her fault–it’s her beta readers’ and editors’ fault. A good support team would really make a huge difference in the quality of these books, telling Cogman what is good, what works, why it works, and what doesn’t. There is at least one scene where everything clicks into place and there is a genuine sense of urgency, tension, and horror. But it’s all by itself and so very, very lonely out there, it finishes quickly so Irene can get back to the important business of talking to people about what just happened. (It’s the scene with the rats.)

Cogman has clearly heard the maxim about having someone with a gun walk in when you don’t know what else to do with your plot. What this book lacks is for any of these interludes to carry narrative or emotional punch. If the hero isn’t scared or threatened–or excited–why should the audience feel any of these emotions? If the threat has no further meaning or bearing on events, why did we even waste our time reading it, I’m skipping ahead until something else happens.

I don’t like this book even as much as the previous ones, which I also rated pretty harshly. There were no standout scenes except the aforementioned and quickly glossed-over rats; no characters made an impression, nothing. I don’t even think the peace talks were a good idea, myself.

Rated: I dunno, I feel bad about being so harsh and negative about this book and this author. But I’d also like to read a really good book with dragons and spies, many worlds and intrigue, honor, and romance, and action.

Four snowflakes out of ten.

Vallista – Vlad Taltos #I Dunno – by Steven Brust (repost)

Vallista is the 15th book in Brusts’s supposedly-17-book Dragaera Cycle, which follows the meanderings of Easterner (human) Jhereg (fantasy Mafia gangster) Vlad Taltosh and his wisecracking (but not very bright) familiar Loiosh as he swashbuckles, cape-swishes, assassinates, and consorts with necromancers, wizards, warriors, Dragons, past lives, and unborn gods.

Sounds epic, right? Even more so when I say that all of the above happens in book 1 (Jhereg) alone?

Here’s the thing. Brust may have had a coherent plan for the series as a whole, but a) he killed his own narrative momentum after the first five or so books; and b) systematically dismantled his main character. The series concept starts off as: Fantasy-Mafia Assassin Gang boss and his ferocious wizard/warrior friends have adventures (plus or minus they save the world).
But, this gets tossed aside in favor of: Ex-Mafia Assassin Gang Boss On The Run, Chased By Fantasy-Mafia Assassins Who Absolutely Will Not Quit Trying To Kill Me, SHEESH GUYS ALREADY–also a quite good framework to hang an overarching story on…except that there isn’t one. Brust gets his enjoyment from spending time in his created universe, drawing pictures and asking questions–not in answering those questions, or filling in between the lines.

Even this could be overlooked, though, with a sufficiently compelling protagonist–but therein lies the problem. Systematically stripping Vlad of everything that made him who he is, everything that he cares about, wants to live for, or knows, hurts the story.–all the more so because he doesn’t find anything to replace it with. Post-Jhereg Boss Vlad should have grown larger and expanded his scope to an epic/heroic scale–become a monarch, learned to use his godslaying dagger, taken command of the armies of the East. Instead, he’s an empty, passive shell of a character with no motivation and no understanding of the stakes of the overall conflict (if there are any…it’s implied at the end of this book that there aren’t).

Compare to the Dresden Files: there is a main character who is dynamic but still very personable; book by book plots which are engrossing and fast-paced; an overarching series plot which is being slowly teased out but which is promised to end in an absolutely epic finale; action, excitement, adventure, romance, magic, and a wise-cracking hero. Vlad Taltos might have a Great Weapon named Godslayer, but it’s beat-up Harry Dresden in a raggedy old duster that makes the powers that be walk warily. Man, I really want the next Dresden book. [Even though this is a repost, that’s a sentence that’s going to be evergreen.]

Brust has been writing the Dragaera cycle since 1987. Vallista was released in 2017. That’s a long time for a man to get tired of writing the same damn book over and over again.

Vallista itself is three hundred and thirty-odd pages long. Vlad is asked (on about page twenty) to discontinue eating caramelized onions by Devera to rescue her from a house which she has gotten trapped in. Vlad gets trapped in it too, (page 77) and spends the rest of the book wandering around and trying to figure things out. The house is magic (duh) and is designed as a nexus to connect different worlds for easy travel. The problem with the design is that once it’s designed, it has to actually be made, and this took filicide to accomplish. At the present, the house connects past to present and present to the Halls of the Dead, and via acting as a trap to those who are born unstuck in time. Vlad breaks the trap (page 328), allowing Devera and the house’s motive Girl In The Box to escape, and then kills the SOB who came up with the idea in the first place. Oops, spoiler, I guess. Vlad goes back home, to continue hanging out and eating fried sausages with onions but without ketchup, and Devera goes back to the important business of showing up randomly in Brust’s other books. Y’know, if he was going to commit to the bit, she’d probably pop up on his blog, too….

In other words, this book takes three hundred pages to do what a competent author would have done in a hundred, and that’s including swordplay and witty banter; and that’s all I’ll say on that matter. Brust has reasons for not writing adventurous action in his adventure action fantasy series–and I think I’ve set them out above. The man is freaking bored–and who wouldn’t be, the series is flat, the setting is dull, and the protagonist has had his personality surgically removed.

Now, I’ve been criticizing this series as a whole for not going back to the promises made in book one–explaining Vlad’s history in his prior life as the founder of House Jhereg/the Fantasy Mafia. I’m going to criticize it some more for doing that exact thing.

It’s in this book, and it is an extremely disappointing two pages.

I’ve also criticized the series for not paying any attention to the overall arc, and suspected that Brust didn’t actually, you know, have one. Well, it turns out that there is!…it’s Devera. No, really. It’s Devera. That’s the answer.

On second thought, Brust isn’t actually tired of this series. He’s just lazy.

Rated: I was going to rate it 1 out of 17, but, man, that’s kind of harsh. One out of five silver cats with purple eyes.

Not A (reposted) Review: Tad Williams – Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

Yeah, I didn’t care enough to dig up a picture of book 1’s cover. So sue me.

Not a review, because I didn’t like the book enough to finish it. It impressed me as a, okay, credit where credit is due, fairly spirited attempt to try some Tolkienesque worldbuilding and blend it with a Star Wars-style Farmboy to Hero arc. All fine, good stuff; even Farmboy (Castleboy?) was a decent character. However, the nebulous Ultimate Evil was more compelling, interesting, and sympathetic than the bumbling young heroes and their insufferable allies and I lost interest.


Insufferable, you ask?

1) The elves. The elves were utterly shameless Tolkien ripoffs: snooty, holier-than-thou environmentalists who are continually attempting to shame and lecture the hero. Par for the course, for most elves. What made it actually insufferable was actually their clinging to and ranting about the past noble glories of their doomed racial history, without–and this is important–actually having a noble and glorious history. 

Tolkien’s elves strove against the darkness. They mostly failed, and this failure haunts, grieves, and dooms them; but they did try. They really were noble, relentless, striving, courageous even in the face of certain failure. Furthermore–Worldbuilding 580–they weren’t a monolithic culture. For example: think of Celegorm, Maeglin, and Thingol–brave warriors, cunning counselors, noble monarchs…and total jackasses…of very different personal and political factions.

In short, while what everyone remembers of Middle Earth elves is their contemplative, sorrowful, hands-off/hands-wringing attitude and staring soulfully at the stars, there’s legitimately a lot going on with them and they’ve earned that attitude. They are sad and despairing because they’ve been through hell. They feel that the Earth is changing–because they’ve been there for millennia, struggling against the decay, and they’ve failed to prevent it, change it, and barely even to mitigate it. And they look to the stars because (UNLIKE HUMANS, ‘CUZ THE STARS ARE OURS BOOYA) the stars are a reminder to them of the paradise they’ve lost and the gods who will receive them when they go home again.

The Sithi-elves saw the darkness coming and didn’t lift a damn finger to stop it, literally. No, really, literally. And then have the gall to complain about it afterwards?

2) The villains. A deluded and semi-evil King who is destroying his realm? Fine; no problem. A loathsome magician/priest guy who literally stomps on puppies while making eye contact with and smiling sinisterly at the hero? (no, really, literally)…is over the top, but I will at least applaud his downfall when it happens. The ultimate villain as a disembodied force of malice and dread who controls the action from a distance and also sends his minions versus the heroes on a quest for powerful artifacts? Who is this “Tolkien” fellow you’re talking about again?

…except said ultimate villain (see point 1), was the only, ONLY, person to try to protect his people against the human invasion that threatened to wipe them out entirely. By consorting with dark powers and turning himself into a god of death, but still. That’s badass.

It might be my own biases speaking, but–actually, on second thought, it’s not. The term is “Natural Selection.” Humans won. You lost. Fight, submit, or die. Don’t whine about it afterwards.

I will also admit that there might have been mitigating circumstances to the Sithi’s suckitude that I didn’t read about in book 1; but then, I didn’t read about them. Further analysis will be curtailed because I’m out of time again.

Tl;dr – I preferred Ineluki, because everyone else sucked.

Rated: Yeah, I liked Ineluki so much I wrote a poem.