Friday, February 14, 2014

Farewell Terre D'Ange

Number 5 is Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey.

So this is the 3rd and final book of the Imriel Trilogy. And I think with this one I'm pretty much done with the world of Terre D'Ange. Not that I didn't enjoy my time there, but I'm also not attatched enough to it to continue on.

That said, this was my favourite of the Imriel books. I'm not sure if this is because Imriel spends a lot of his time not being himself, but that might have had something to do with it.

I liked the overall plot of this book with it's big, awful magical spell and the race to unravel it. I'm still not buying the relationship between Imriel and Sidonie, which yes means I shouldn't then buy much of the resolution of this book, but whatever. I guess I'm invested enough in the world by now to make a go of it. The bad guys were more villainous then the last ones as well, which also gives this book more weight. Funny enough, it was the last of the Phedre books that I liked best as well, and that was also the one that had a really really bad bad guy.

Yeah, don't have a lot to say about this book. It's enjoyable on a pop corn level. There's still a lot of sex (which actually does get boring after awhile) and violence and unhappiness, but there's also pretty good resolution and a happy ending. Which, when I think about it, Imriel does kind of deserve. Over the course of three and a half books, he definitely worked for it.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

It's ok when it's a three way.

Number 4 this year is Lancelot and the Wolf by Sarah Luddington.

So the title of this post basically refers to what I thought (hoped) I'd be getting out of this story (or series actually as the case may be); a treatment where the triangle is depicted as being a sexual one on all three sides. It's been hinted at so many times (mainly in Mists of Avalon), but, it seems I still have yet to read one.

Because while this book gives us a bisexual Lancelot and a pretty much homosexual Arthur... Gwen is basically evil (or being evilly used for a pawn) and doesn't factor into this at all except... well to be evil.

Anyway. So that was my major let down and I was pretty disappointed. Luddington does do the relationship between Lance and Arthur well. They love one another, want to express it, and know that it's a shitstorm if they do. Interestingly, Arthur seems to be the one more willing to give up everything for Lance. This Arthur is a bit emo though, and at the start he's in a rather Theoden-like situation; he's been poisoned and manipulated by his enemies and Camelot is close to falling (he's also depressed that he had to exile Lance due to the affair, and that works).

But the lack of a good, sexy-times triangle wasn't the only thing that I didn't like... Let's face it, there was a lot I didn't like. So for simplicity, I resort to the dreaded bulleted list:

  • The language was so modern it was jarring. "Don't blow this", the fact that Lance knew he had a concussion, the prolific use of "fuck" and "dick" (neither word had entered the colloquial in whatever the hell time period Luddington though she was writing in), the misuse of "too", the shitty punctuation, etc., etc. I honestly question whether or not this book had even seen an editor.
  • Time period. Ok, I'm not a complete Arthurian purist, the legends don't HAVE to be set c. 500, but as that was the time Saxons were invading Britain and were the 'big bad' Arthur was fighting, it helps to have it set at that time. But as Luddington has put the Saxon invasion way on the back burner (ok, it's non-existent), I can go with her setting it in post-Norman invasion Britain. Even though I do find it jarring that Arthur is repeatedly referred to as "King of England" (Historical Arthur was no such thing, England as a nation didn't exist yet), and most of the names she used (de Clare, FitzWilliam) are Norman names, I was willing to forgive this as she was going the T.H. White route (who set Once and Future King in post-Norman England), mainly because I was going to give her the credit that it was a deliberate choice since she was using Lance as a protagonist and Lance is a post Norman invasion, French-authored insert into the legends. I think I'm being generous in giving her the credit. Because for someone whose bio says she majored in Medieval studies, what is WITH all the historical inaccuracies aside from the non-historical Arthurian time period (see previously mentioned anachronistic language)?
  • Arthur's fetch, or dream representative or whatever, should be a bear. Not a stag. (ok, that's just my personal preference as one of the etymology's of Arthur's name has it come from 'arth' which is Welsh for 'bear').
  • The character of Else. Wow did she not work for me. I have no problem with new characters being put into the legends, but I prefer if they actually made sense to be there. As a love interest for Lance, she added nothing new. As part of a love triangle? Why couldn't we just have the perfectly good one already there?? As a fey? Why not use any of the others who are tied to the stories already? As someone manipulated into loving Lance? Honestly, I would've preferred if she was Elaine d'Asolat (aka the Lady of Shallot) and given a bit more agency than she usually is in the tales. As a wife of Geraint? She's no Enid. I just didn't see Else as having any purpose other than giving Lance a new fuck-buddy. Ho hum.
  • Nimue was a shitty bad guy. Her constant use of the word 'fuck' robbed her of any menace and her Otherwoldly fey-ness that the author was so desperately trying to give her.
  • It looked like Luddington was ignoring any of the more fantastical elements in Lancelot's background (i.e. his being raised by the Lady of the Lake), but no, it was shoehorned in there that Lance was the son of some Faery king Aedan (I might have the name wrong and I can't be bothered right now to go look it up again). In pretty much every tale, Lance's father is Ban of Benoit (or Benwick), and Ban was perfectly mortal (although some tellings do have Lance as being the Lady's son and not just foster-son).  Now, the Aedan thing did ring a slight bell, but the only mention I could find (and once again, I might be wrong because I'm not sure if I have the spelling correct), is that Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the King's of Britain gives Aedan as Arthur's father (instead of the usual Uther Pendragon). So once again I'm like... whu? But then, so was Lance when he found out.  And the whole thing was never really brought up after Nimue drops this bombshell. Perhaps it's a thread that will be explored in one of the other books. But still... you'd think it might've caused a bit more stir? Bah.
Ok, enough ranting. The sad thing is that, despite all these things I didn't like, there is a germ of a good idea or two in this book. As stated, I like the idea that Arthur, Gwen and Lance all truly loved each other and were in it together. So, we at least have the Arthur/Lance part explored in not a bad way.  I liked the idea that this Arthur, basically in a fit of petty jealousy, stole Gwen away from Lance in the first place (this is a twist that's rarely seen, usually Lance and Gwen fall in love after she's betrothed to Arthur). I liked the rival fey factions fighting, but this needed to be far better explored than it is. It's like little vignettes that don't quite make a whole. And the really sad thing is that, because this book ends with them heading back to Camelot, I'm hoping that in the next book maybe the actual triangle will be explored? I probably shouldn't get my hopes up too high.