It’s been ages since I last encountered something so tone-deaf to the natural cadence of English. Five pages in and I burst out laughing at this:
The sIt’s been ages since I last encountered something so tone-deaf to the natural cadence of English. Five pages in and I burst out laughing at this:
The sheriff raised a single eloquent eyebrow. “Did he teach you that? Did he also teach you the sword?” She knew precisely what he meant, though not long ago she had known nothing at all of hardship or the harsh argot of such men. Now she knew, and spoke it, answering him in kind with cool self-possession, fully cognizant of what admission could mean. “The fleshly sword, yes…” (5)
THE FLESHLY SWOOOOOORD!
Not the most auspicious opening, Roberson, if your heroine is faced with attempted assault and I’m sniggering at your hackneyed prose.
Yet I sallied forth, undaunted, through the twisting byways and knotted paths of Roberson’s attempts at syntax, until by the end I was left wondering if she had ever sat through an English class in her life:
“Gore-clotted tusks slashing, trying to rend fragile flesh....Beyond, he heard the hounds, most eloquent in their yearning to answer unreasoning instinct, born and bred; the duty trained into them: to find and rend the boar.” (87)
I assume Roberson’s fondness for “eloquent” is born out of longing for something she will never have.
“He had not expected to sleep, but at some point near dawn the enemy Exhaustion had wielded the sword of a Saracen and defeated his attempt to remain awake.” (264)
Oooooh, but was it a FLESHLY sword? *bow-chicka-bow-wow*
“She had lied to him: ‘I am not what you need,’ she had said, meaning not good enough, too innocent, not able to ease his needs. But she was wrong. She was what he needed; a woman to ease his pain, ease his needs, give him back what he had lost.”(370)
So apparently, in the absence of quality psychotherapy services, PTSD can be cured with a good round of boinking. Someone should let the VA know.
“DeLacey stood at an angle to Marian, shoulder turned obliquely....In no way did he indicate the intensity of his anticipation as the moment drew nearer. He wanted to shout aloud exultantly, crying his jubilation, because to him it was as gratifying as carnal congress to witness a plan come together.” (415)
Now there’s an image I’ll never get out of my head.
There were times when I’m not even sure Roberson herself knew what she was trying to say:
“[The alleyway] stank of refuse and ordure, damp and slick underfoot, treacherous to a man more accustomed to stone floors beneath a lord’s high roof than a ceiling of stars overhead.” (258)
Yes, I can see why a man accustomed to stone floors would have difficulties traversing the ceiling of stars overhead. *cues Lionel Ritchie*
“Better to itch than to die for want of a scratch, [thought the sheriff].” (534)
Truly, it is better to itch than to die for not scratching the itch. Though Roberson will have to explain to me how you couldn’t have it both ways.
“The earl held himself very erect, superficially a younger man, until one looked farther and saw that he was old.” (555)
And he was old, except for superficially, where he was a younger man than the older man he actually was. Thanks for clearing that up, Roberson.
And of course there were moments when I had to wonder which dictionary Roberson was thumbing her way through as she wrote this:
“Then, as de Pisan waved him on, he crossed into the chamber and came face-to-face for the first time in his life with [Prince John,] England’s sanguine savior.” (67)
I’m trying to think of another modern text where “sanguine” was used to describe a personality and did not mean “optimistic.” Because since that’s how we use the word now, that’s the first connotation to come to mind. A competent writer would be aware of this and would have gone with something like “sanguinary,” but it seems Roberson didn’t want to begrudge her readers a few lexical brainteasers scattered throughout her opus.
“Matilda’s eyes were crouched in creases more pronounced in her weakness, though her color was mostly restored.” (127)
It’s couched, Roberson. Unless her eyes have actually sprouted limbs and are lying prone behind her wrinkles.
Which- not gonna lie, I would read that novel.
But seriously - vocabularies are like fleshly swords, Roberson. No one is impressed with the size when it’s laughably clear you don’t know how to use it.
“The sun edged down the sky to dip below the canopied screen of overlapping treetops, filtered now through boughs and branches in a counterpoint of dark and light, a leafy chiaroscuro.” (203)
I could comment here on the brilliance of describing a medieval forest using an art form that wasn’t invented until 500 years later, but I’d rather try my own hand at it instead:
The sun glinted off the edge of his scimitar like streetlights off the curve of a Mercedes C-Class.
The thundering clanks of longswords striking chain mail filled his ears like a tumult of a bullet train surging into the station.
I think you may be on to something, Roberson.
But you know, every historical novel has its blips, its tiny anachronisms that tumble through the cracks as you’re frantically bolstering the crumbling architecture of your storyline. It doesn’t mean you’re a lousy author, right? Surely even the best authors are entitled to at least one mist-
“The oil lamp cast a wan, ocherous glow, painting the royal pavilion in a chiaroscuro…” (327)
My thoughts on Luce and her highly improbable knack for swimming:
"In swim class Luce waits at the edge of the pool for several seconds after the coach has blown the whistle and watches the students on either side of her jump in, while puzzling over what on earth she is expected to do, in this PE class, wearing a bathing suit, standing by a pool…in which everyone else is swimming. A. DILEMMA.
She then dives in and launches into a perfect butterfly stroke, the most shocking part of which is that she remembers to breathe only when her face is not in the water. She laps all the other students several times, because according to Lauren Kate the butterfly stroke is the fastest swimming stroke everrrr!!! Except it isn’t.
Luce’s aptitude at the butterfly stroke is rooted in her childhood ability to float in the deep end of the pool and not drown (sadly, I missed Michael Phelps competing in this event during the last Olympics, but I’m sure he won all the medals). One assumes Luce followed up this impressive event by demonstrating the ability to correctly buckle her seatbelt, for which she was granted the inside lane at Daytona. "
On Luce and her fixation with previously having gone to the very very bestest of prep schools:
"This is when Luce launches into the best rant of the whole novel.
'You think you’re so smart? I spent three years on a full academic scholarship at the best college-prep school in the country. And when they kicked me out, I had to petition – petition! – to keep them from wiping out my four-point-oh transcript.'
You guys!!! She totally went to the VERY VERY BESTEST PREP SCHOOL EVAR and had a FOUR-POINT-OH and OH MY GOD, REMEMBER, SHE TAKES CALCULUS! SOMEBODY CALL MENSA. You know who else took calculus at seventeen? At least a fifth of my high school class. You know who was so very, very impressed with that? No one. Because it’s not that uncommon. And frankly, if someone told me they were going to the VERY VERY BESTEST PREP SCHOOL EVAR, I would kind of expect them to be further along than that. And it would be a very short conversation. Because really, no one cares what fabulous high school you used to go to if all existing evidence indicates you couldn’t find your way out of a wet paper bag."
On Lauren Kate's research into criminal justice:
"[I]t becomes clear that Lauren Kate’s extensive research into the criminal justice system consists of having seen ‘Cops’ once. The first sign of this is when Luce is told the “dress code” allows students to wear whatever they want, as long as it’s black and modest.
Presumably this is to allow runaways to hide better at night so it’s more fun for the administrators to hunt them down, because otherwise it’s just not even a challenge. The “modest” portion of that dress code also is generally interpreted by the students as “loose enough for the concealment of large quantities of contraband” and no one in the administration seems to realize this, or care. One of the students Luce meets has literally five layers of sweaters on; I assume she’s packing a car battery. When Luce notes in Chapter 3 that the students are “creative” with their dress code violations, it’s not clear what she’s referring to, since there’s literally nothing to violate. My Catholic high school had a stricter dress code than that. My public middle school had a stricter dress code. Also, the dress code is noted to be a reward for “good behavior,” yet it’s the default dress code. These are kids who are in reform school for behavioral problems, and they’re rewarded right off the bat for good behavior. One suspects these administrators would run Pelican Bay by instituting “Casual Fridays” and handing out shivs.
Not satisfied with simply cyberstalking Daniel in geneology class, Luce and one of her interchangeable friends break into the records room to look for Daniel’s file, where they are horrified to learn that Daniel attended the halfway house in Los Angeles (there’s only one. L.A. doesn’t have that much crime, really) and was arrested for jaywalking. This makes Luce feel more guilty about her whole 'I killed a dude' deal, which is a huge change from before when she felt guilty because everyone else might have something worse. At least now we can rest assured that the LAPD had a laudable commitment to stopping Daniel’s gruesome jaywalking spree, which unfortunately did not include jaywalking the 405 or this novel would be blessedly shorter."
Yep. This novel blows harder than Rush Limbaugh in a windstorm. Read it at your own risk....more
This is the first time I've read a version of the Robin Hood story where I wanted the sheriff to win. Flimsy characters, clunky writing and gaping ploThis is the first time I've read a version of the Robin Hood story where I wanted the sheriff to win. Flimsy characters, clunky writing and gaping plot holes mangle what otherwise might have been a decent YA novel.
The narrative is in Scarlet's voice but it's pretty hard to tell what that is, exactly. It's vaguely British and vaguely working-class but is rooted in neither Yorkshire nor London, where she claims to be from at different points in the novel. Like the plot, it also shows up when it feels like it and then fades away when it thinks no one is looking. Scarlet's voice is distinct from the other characters only because they all speak like Americans, which is another problem altogether. I don't have a problem with first-person narratives that use bad English, if it's in character, but it doesn't work if the grammar is sometimes bad and sometimes perfect, or if none of the other characters are speaking in dialect.
Also, Scarlet showers her narrative with tense changes like Robin Hood scattering gold to the villagers. She jumps from past tense, to past perfect, to present tense and back again; there's so much jumping around in time, I expected to see a TARDIS pop out of Sherwood.
Scarlet is whiny, annoying and a consummate Mary Sue. She prattles on about how she's great at stealing and the only proper thief of the bunch, but her thieving skills are on par with an unattended toddler in a toy store. She sees something she wants, waits until the owner is looking the other direction, and grabs it. Wow, mad skillz yo.
Scarlet also boasts that she's needed because only she can pick out the good marks. Like she can spot nobles traveling in disguise because they're riding destriers instead of farm horses. Here's a test. This is a destrier:
This is a farm horse:
Can you see the difference? Good, because apparently a bunch of dudes born and raised in a farming community can't. Presumably Scarlet then went on to remind them how to breathe.
Scarlet also has ninja skills. This is never explained. WTF.
The writing careens between being too vague and channeling Captain Obvious. Take this quote for example:
"The man pulled out the knife as his counterpart unsheathed his big sword. Swords are terrible. They are naught but big, heavy knives that most don't know how to use right."
I read that twice thinking "Well yeah, swords are terrible, that's why you try to avoid the pointy end" before realizing she meant "swords are terrible weapons for other people to use." I'm not even going to discuss the fact that this guard pulled out a sword (short-range weapon) while she was throwing knives (mid-range weapon). That's like being charged by someone with a pistol and hoping they get close enough for you to use your bowstave.
And then there's this:
"I walked down slow, seeing the rough, carved-out wall. It were wet with water."
Wow, and here I was thinking it was wet with a nice 1196 Bordeaux from the kegger upstairs.
This was followed later by:
"John looked to me, and I felt his eyes on me."
Probably because he was looking at you. Which you just mentioned. Right there. I mean, it's in the same freaking line.
And then there's Robin Hood's line:
"I had nothing. I hadn't a soul. And then you appeared with your magic eyes, and you just changed everything."
OK there's nothing grammatically incorrect with that, but- Magic eyes, people. MAGIC EYES.
The plot moves at a decent pace, but even this puts me in mind of the joke about mail delivery: "If you want to send something, FedEx will get it there by 10AM tomorrow, UPS will get it there, and the Postal Service will get it...somewhere." This novel is the USPS of YA literature. It moves, yes, but it's not sure where it's going, and I'm not even sure I'd like it to arrive there. It honestly surprised me when I read that the author had attended a graduate program in creative writing. I've seen fanfiction written by high schoolers that was better than this.
Bottom line: If you've seen the 2006-2009 BBC Robin Hood series, you've already seen everything in this story done, and done better. If you haven't seen it, save yourself a few bucks and hours of facepalming and watch that instead. ...more
This book was terrible. Blakley-Cartwright is yet another author who doesn't know what words mean or how to use tRed Riding Hood: A Review In Pictures
This book was terrible. Blakley-Cartwright is yet another author who doesn't know what words mean or how to use them. So just like my Bourne Identity review, to illustrate this point I'm going to post phrases from the book along with the first image that came to mind when I read them. Let the fun begin!
"Valerie waited to feel the leap, to feel the snap of its jaws and the ripping of claws, but she felt nothing. She heard a scuffling and a tinkling of [the goat] Flora's bells, and it was only then that she realized the shape had lifted. From her crouch, she heard gnashing and gnarling. But there was something else, another sound she couldn't identify. Much later, she would learn it was the roar of a dark rage being let loose.
Then there followed a panicked silence, a frenetic calm. Finally, she couldn't resist slowly lifting her head to look for Flora.
All was still.
Nothing was left but the broken tether still tied to the stake, lying slack on the dusty ground."
"Claude wore a single suede glove without explanation..."
"Also seeing the boy, her friends eyed each other worriedly. He looked like no one else, like the purple glow at the base of a flame, the most beautiful and the most dangerous."
"She found a place where the river lapped gently at the shore, where a few plants stood up through the snow. How could it be that plants still grew?
"Something startled Roxanne, who let out a shriek, lurching forward. Valerie grabbed her wrist, pulling her back from the lip of a vat of blue dye, shimmering garnet in the moonlight." (emphasis mine)
ETA: I'm going to give Miss Blakley-Cartwright the benefit of the doubt on this last one and assume that "garnet" refers to the light from the blood moon and not the dye color. HOWEVER, that does not change the fact that if the eye perceives something as "garnet," then it cannot also be "blue," so yeah - this is still a fail. And neither color would be distinguishable at night anyway....more
The only thing you need to know about this book is that the author wrote lines like "He was my knight of night!" and did not immediately die of shameThe only thing you need to know about this book is that the author wrote lines like "He was my knight of night!" and did not immediately die of shame afterward....more
The fact that this book is considered the "Gone With The Wind" of werewolf novels only indicates how low the bar is set for this genre. It's not thatThe fact that this book is considered the "Gone With The Wind" of werewolf novels only indicates how low the bar is set for this genre. It's not that there isn't a decent story here - it's that Somtow is an atrocious writer.
The character development is so flimsy I can barely remember their names. About two-thirds of the way through the book a major character is ripped apart by werewolves and I honestly didn't feel anything because I couldn't tell him and his buddy apart. These quibbles, however, pale in comparison to the accents Somtow gives his non-native-English speaking characters. Take a look at these lines from a Russian character speaking English:
"'You have what you want,' Natasha said. 'You have killed Indians, that is greatest desire of your life, is it not?...As for boy, his death is immaterial..."
Yeah. First off, if you're writing for an American audience at any point post-1960, 1) do not name your evil Russian female character Natasha, and 2) do not give her an accent that makes me think of moose and squirrel.
Then there are these lines from a Native American character:
"Although she had learned flawless French from her husband, she had never understood English very well. But she drew herself up as tall as she could and spoke in the pidgin that was the lingua franca among traders, Indians and Chinamen: 'Me wife of Claude Grumiaux. Bring message. Heap important message!"
Holy cultural sensitivities, Batman! Even if Somtow researched this element and found it to be historically accurate, you have to be very careful how you present something like that. You have to be a very, very good writer to work something like that into your novel without making it sound like a farce. And Somtow is not that writer. It's not even relevant to the plot, so he could have (and should have) just left it out.
As for the "splatterpunk" appellation often given to this novel, I can only assume it refers to the ghastly way Somtow butchers the English language. Take a look at these passages:
"The head of an old man - she knew it was Andrew Raitt, a watchmaker - lay in the mud at the boy's feet. The morning sunlight, smoke-dappled, illumined his face; wordlessly, in time to a sourceless music, he began to move slowly in a circle, his eyes closed."
I spent five minutes trying to figure out why/how the head was dancing before I figured out Somtow was referring to the boy. And then there's this:
"A child screamed. It's mother's eyes had been shot out."
There's nothing so horrifying as bad grammar. That should be "its," Somtow. I'm paying you for your work, here. I expect you to know how to write.
For all its failures, and they are legion, the novel does have one positive attribute. Somtow has done his research on wolves, at least based upon the scientific information available at the time. There are multiple references to the peculiar stare wolves sometimes give their prey, where it appears they are asking the prey's permission to take its life. This has been mentioned in other works published prior to this one. So a round of applause to you, Somtow, since it seems that here at least you did your homework.
As for the rest of the novel, I leave you with the closing line from this epic masterpiece of werewolf literature:
The chemistry-based magic system was a nice touch, as were the bits about children's songs, but ultimately the novel was undermined by periodic grammaThe chemistry-based magic system was a nice touch, as were the bits about children's songs, but ultimately the novel was undermined by periodic grammar errors, weak character development and rampant sexism. Despite all of main character Kvothe's blustering about the way a "real" gentleman behaves toward women, it would have been far more effective for the author to make his point by writing at least one female character that Kvothe did not want to be mothered by, gallantly rescue or sleep with. Devi the loan shark came the closest, and I was sorry there wasn't more of her in the story. I did like that Kvothe had at least one classmate in the university who was not a native speaker and occasionally struggled with the language, at one point confusing "dappled" and "dabbled". I thought that was a realistic reflection of the student body at most universities, particularly if the student's native language may be phonetic instead of alphabet-based. In such instances this would be a believable error for a non-native speaker to make. As far as the plot goes, there isn't enough of it to fill this many pages. The story wanders, as many good stories do, but the stylistically advanced writing that would normally make such detours entertaining is lacking here. The problem with trying to write a meta novel about the nature of storytelling is that an author must have a very, very solid grasp of literary construction and a high level of precision in his writing to make that approach effective, and that's simply not evident here. Also, on a side note - the author makes frequent mention of the animals found in his fantasy land and their particularly characteristics ("A hind is a female deer," "Hawks don't have ears," etc.). Among the animals he mentions, I found the periodic references to raccoons especially distracting. I was confused as to why the author would make an effort to create this elaborate Europe-based fantasy world and then include an animal only found in North America....more
Just for reference, my one-star ratings = "Author shows limited understanding of the basics of the English language - book may actually have been writJust for reference, my one-star ratings = "Author shows limited understanding of the basics of the English language - book may actually have been written by a 12-year-old sweatshop worker in Guangzhou." Most of the issues I had with this book - the bad writing, poor characterization, the author's issues with sex and with women in general, etc. - have been covered in other reviews, so I'll skip them here. Instead, I'd like to talk about the Mud People. The Mud People are one of the prime examples of serious WTFery in this novel. They live in an unpopulated area, they are distrustful of outsiders, they refer to people with names like "Richard With The Temper" (I'm assuming "Dances With Mud" was already taken) - it's pretty obvious where Goodkind got his rather weak inspiration. Fine. What pushes this over the edge, though, is what happens in the novel. Richard shows the Mud People how to build roofs that don't leak, they reject his alterations and return the roof to its original state, and then Richard OH SO GENEROUSLY assists them when their village is being slaughtered by an evil force that Richard and Kahlan are partially responsible for bringing to the village in the first place. Let's unpack this for a minute. First, Richard's brilliant technological advancement consists of taking mud (which the Mud People are surrounded with), baking slates of it in a kiln (which the Mud People also have), and then laying it on the roof as tiles. You have to wonder how fucking stupid Goodkind thinks the Mud People are to not have figured this out already. This is like the Navajo going, "Well, we got as far as string on our own, but THANK GOD FOR WHITE PEOPLE or we'd never have made it to blankets!" Tile roofs - not really a complex technology. It's flat dried mud, overlaid in slats rather the same way thatched roofs are made, and the Mud People seem to have figured THAT much out on their own. So Richard's suggestion? Not really all that impressive. And then, of course, Richard gets mad that they don't treat his suggestion with the respect and awe he feels it so clearly deserves. And then he helpfully assists the Mud People when their village is attacked by an evil force that was looking for Richard and Kahlan, so would probably not have attacked the village if they hadn't barged in in the first place. I'm not going to comment on that. It's pretty obvious what's wrong with that picture. So there you have it. Yes, there are other issues with this book, and they are legion. But the part I will still be trying to wipe from my memory long after this waste of kilobytes has been wiped from my Kindle? The chapter on the Mud People....more
I don't remember how this ended because I had to buy myself a Jack-and-Coke to get through the last chapter. Ludlum belongs in a very small, elite groI don't remember how this ended because I had to buy myself a Jack-and-Coke to get through the last chapter. Ludlum belongs in a very small, elite group of authors who don't know what words mean. To illustrate this, here are some passages from the book followed by the first image that came to mind when I read them:
"'If I scream, Monsieur?' The powdered mask was cracked with lines of venom now, the bright red lipstick defining the snarl of an aging, cornered rodent."
"Himself. The chameleon. The charade had worked...He had done such things before, experienced the feeling of a similar accomplishment before. He was a man running through an unfamiliar jungle, yet somehow instinctively knowing his way, sure of where the traps were and how to avoid them. The chameleon was an expert."
Aaaand this last one was basically my face the whole time I was reading this: