Well-Meant Lies & Recent Reading

First, let me reintroduce myself to my blog. Hello, you! It’s me. The one who pays for you to exist but can rarely be seen streaking around your back end lately. And on that note, it’s a good thing I mean the admin to this place, amiright? I haven’t been around much lately do to the results of those well-meant lies people tell you over the years, otherwise known as advise.

Look, whoever thought children get easier as they get older lied. Or they hoped this was the case and decided to see if they could fool themselves into believing so, starting an ensuing slippery slope of The Kids Get Easier as They Age lies because their own child or children were making their hair turn white faster than an Indy 500 race. And I mean all the hair. I’m on to you, insidious beast! My eyes, your eyes. I win. Next!

Stress. Unless we all live in that fictional utopia, stress niggles and wiggles and maneuvers its way in at some point. Stress has been sitting on my for several months now and unless I do something to forcibly oust it, I’m going to have to name it (Biff Von Echlistein… I dunno, what do you think?) and start asking how its day was. Oh, and at least a few hundred in rent because my brain just cannot take sitting on the very edge of that metaphorical mattress anymore. People like to tell you all kinds of well-meaning ways to deal with stress, but the only way it goes away is for it to just fracking go the hell away. I’m looking at you, Problem.

And the last well-meant lie of the day is: if you clean at least  little everyday, you’ll be able to keep your home neat and clean. LIE LIE LIE! Only true if you have a staff of merry maids! And only if you’re paying them a really great wage so they don’t have to take on three other jobs to support themselves and their families! And only if you don’t have said band of merry maids AND any other member of your mess-making family also helps clean “a little everyeday”. Cuz…I has no merry maids ecstatic at the prospect of picking up after me and my family. (I probably should note n case anyone thought I was serious – I don’t actually want merry maids. I can clean, it just takes time, of which I am always short on.) And, sadly beyond words, no one else in my family helps clean anything around there on a consistent basis. It’s like food for stress! But I do love them knuckleheads in my family, I do indeed. Now let’s go clean something.

Psych. Oh but hey – know what is true? If you buy Christmas presents throughout the year instead of all at once in December, it really does make life easier. Five months till Christmas, y’all! Now that we’ve got that out of the way, and you no longer want to claw my sparkly Christmas-colored eyes out, let’s see what reading’s been getting done round here.

beguilementWarning: a few slight spoilers. OK, so there’s this book called The Sharing Knife: Beguilment and it’s pretty much a living fantasy classic that all who tread the halls of fantasy readerdom must one day try. And I did. I did my duty and I tried it. Indeed, I tried all of it, fully expecting to like it. And….and…it was pretty meh. Let’s look at why:

Very underdeveloped world. It read like something a budding teenage writer would pen, who wasn’t quite sure of what they were trying to describe, hence very little to almost no detail and development throughout the entire book. My impressions were brief: a muddy environment with some farms and a few towns, and some kind of ancient creation history vaguely hand-fed miniscule kernels of expired pizzazz. At first things seem as if they’ll take off thanks to the book’s ultimate menace being introduced almost immediately, but this turns out to actually be a major point of deflation in the story since it was the only action readers will see and it was over before the first third of the book was complete. We do learn briefly what that whole series “Sharing Knife” stuff is about, but not nearly enough. From there on out we dance about the land of…

Character development! Fawn (a name meant, I’m sure, to illustrate her perfect innocence) is our farmer-born heroine and I have to say one of the least liked ones in my personal fantasy reading experience. OK, so she’s been beaten down emotionally by her family over the years and believes herself to be this poor dumb creature of a woman who isn’t good enough to marry let alone expect decent treatment from her own brothers. Boo hiss to that, I say. But something happens when she takes a chance on a boy she loves. When that turns out to be yet another mistake she fears people will revile her for, she leaves home without telling anyone. Please pause here to check fantasy hero/heroine must-have box number one: the downtrodden, as-of-yet unrealized-awesomeness runaway.

On her way to a town she hopes to build an entirely different life in, she is (please pause here to check fantasy female must-have box number two: growth by typical female-oriented violence) accosted and nearly raped and then brutalized in a different though no less traumatic way. Interestingly enough, this event is likely more traumatic for the reader as Fawn hadn’t had long enough to grow used to even being burdened with her “problem”.  She just never struck me as a very deep person, and her attempts to convince readers that it’s logical how she feels only made me feel more like she was this clueless and, yes, somewhat dimwitted, person. And so she blithely moves on thanks to the help of…

Our hero! Dag is a Lakewalker patroller in the area to hunt the book’s ultimate menace, called a malice, of whom there could be many at any given time but only one is needed to bring about total world annihilation. And in case we weren’t sure they were the bad creatures of this fantasy tale, I must remind you it is called a malice. Um-kay. The subtlties, this book has absolutely zero. Anyway, back to Dag. Thankfully he arrives just in time to save the poor, ignorant farm girl from a fate worse than death and soon they are back in another situation worse than death and then, finally, all the action is done and they are on the way to town again so that we can begin the riveting tale of their courtship and how they must break down the centuries-old barriers between farmers and lakewalkers in doing so. If you feel the need to caffeinate in order to stay invested attention-wise in this book, this here is your starting off point. Grab that espresso. I recommend the straight-to-the-vein technique.

Oh my sigh-filled word. This book. Professional reviews tell us this thing is filled with compelling characters, but I’m not sure where they went when the book started. Was there a prologue missing from my copy that they were in? The book is defined by a sluggish pace that goes nowhere except to an awkwardly budding romance between Fawn and Dag, who renames her as Spark soon into their relationship, emphasizing the new name whenever she makes her first grown up thoughts or actions about the least little thing. I began to get a little creeped out by their relationship, actually and soon it felt more like the way-too-innocent lamb being groomed for his bed. Before that gets any scoffing, it was only hit home for me later when we find out exactly how much older Dag is than FawnSpark.

I love me a good romance. I’ve been along-time reader of the genre itself and lord knows an interesting romance can potentially add volumes to a fantasy novel. It turns out this wasn’t a fantasy novel (something I wish had been more clear since I was expecting fantasy; I know, I know it’s been talked about before but really thought there’d be more fantasy), though, it was  a romance, and older man/younger woman and vice versa happens to be one of my favorite romance tropes. Except this time such a heavy emphasis is put on how ancient and old Dag is compared to FawnSpark when it’s pointed out he’s the same age as or older than her father (can’t remember which it was, but come ON…really?). Again, I’d really not have had a problem with this scenario if the book had not gone to such lengths to over emphasis it. I get why it was done – to further try and drive that tension wedge bigger between the whole farmer/lakewalker divide. But look. For the first time I can remember, that age difference made me feel plain creeped out. Dag acts more like her father than her own father does with her, except Dag also gets to sleep with her. And there’s plenty of mentions of how huge of a man he is and how tiny and little she is, with her emotionally immature reactions to add further emphasis. Dag is always portrayed as calm and wise, while she is childish. Adding their very distinctly discussed age difference made me a little hurl-ish.

Thankfully the book soon turns to FawnSpark’s true enemy, The Boy Who Did Her Wrong. Before we go too far and anticipate someone who is unique – nope. He’s really just the typical cardboard Boy Who Did Her Wrong, but it was actually gleefully fun to watch Dag put him in his place. Now that part of the book I did enjoy. Soon I could focus less on how creepy it was that a man old enough to be her father was actually more like a father to her yet the added benefit of the sexy and…rewind. Whatever. A good old fashioned ass-whooping by clever means is always a delight. Dag also manages to set her family straight on what horrible people they are, everyone gets a grand wedding and YAY it’s all fun and games as they get back on the road, camp under the stars and have lots of FawnSpark/Dag sexy alone time as they finally exit with us hoping the next book pays a visit to the Realm of Plotsville.

Amidst all this incredibly boring non plot was strange moments of info dumping that never ceased to be disruptive and that much more boring. Don’t get me wrong, the book has a great concept. The story behind the lakewalker sharing knives is very unique (insofar as I’ve read in fantasy to date, anyway), but it’s a miniscule part of the story that instead chooses to focus on a poorly done romance. (In fact, Dag keeps worrying that they need to move on and get to a lakewalker camp to discuss the issue they have with his knife, yet we prance about farmer country the entire book, making sure we all know what terrible people FawnSpark’s family is.) What information we do find out about anything felt like it was being spoon-fed to me right when a scene began to feel truly flowing and the pace natural, one good example being the making of their wedding bracelets. Boom, dumpity dump dump with the more factual information in the form of abrupt and discordant dialogue or inner monologue. I got to the point that I could care less what the lakewalker culture was like, of which the book puts a much more important emphasis on than that of the farmers, who were pretty much all slotted to stereotypically suspicious, ignorant, backward, gossip-mongering redneck status. Why? Who the heck knows, the book doesn’t bother to explain except in that very vague creation myth stuff mentioned earlier. I was infinitely glad to be done with this book.

Verdict: huge disappointment. Moving on to the next? Most unlikely. FawnSpark is a typical doormat female character who, in order to develop her into something more and better, must do so entirely thanks to the strengths of her male counterpart. She doesn’t make a single move without his encouragement or say. I think his support is great on one hand, but I’m disappointed her development, a major part of it, doesn’t come from the inner strength she herself must find. Again, though, the development of these characters just wasn’t there enough to facilitate this, and while these kinds of things could be saved for a later book, it would’ve done this installment a world of good to include it in this one.

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  1. The hero renames the heroine? That right there is a DNF for me. I can’t conceive a book where I could buy into that.

    Children never get easier. They will, sooner or later, do all the things you did that made your parents want to tear their hair out while locking you in your room forever, as well as a few new and original things that will make you want to tear your hair out and lock them in their rooms forever, just to spice things up. Eventually they’ll move away and will manage to keep you worried about them for the rest of your natural life.

    And unless “cleaning a bit every day” means “cleaning at least one room from top to bottom every day”, it’s a bald faced lie, probably devised by those horrible people with neat families where everyone pitches in, in order to make everyone else look like slobs.

    Stress sucks big hairy balls–I hope things smooth out at least a bit, soonest.

    • I think the hero renaming her Spark was one of the book’s not-so-subtle ways of saying she’s really not as timid and helpless as the name Fawn implies. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work. She really is that timid and helpless.

      LOL on the kids! Yeah, my mother likes to tell me stories of some of the things I did whne I tell her what my kid’s latest fiasco is. Usually it helps me calm down as the story goes on. Sometimes. :D

      My mother has a friend who always seemed like one of those iron-fisted people that must have scared mortal terror into her family. I’m sure this is the only way her house was always so neat and clean. I mean, she had two boys and while their rooms were the messiest part of the house, you could still see 99% of their floors!

      Thanks for the kind words. :) Hope you’ve been doing well!

  2. Ya know, I totally agree with you–about the kids and the book. I’m a huuuuge Bujold fan, however, and so I encourage not to judge all her work by this series, which I agree is lacking. Her other fantasy (Curse of Chalion/Paladin of souls) are some of my favorite books ever–more action, better characters, and even a mature-woman-finds-romance. Her science fiction books are excellent as well. All her other books have admirable female characters from the get-go, so the things that bothered you about Fawn here don’t happen in the other works.

    • I’m so sorry, I had meant to reply to you earlier but whoops, I distract so easily these days. Wanted to say thank you so much for the encouragement to keep reading other Bujold work! I believe I have some of her scifi on my Kindle so I do plan to give it a go one day.

  3. I didn’t much like the Sharing Knife series either (I originally picked it up on a recommendation from smartbitchestrashybooks.com). But I love Bujold more for her other fantasy work– The Paladin of Souls.

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