You know those awful fantasy stories you run into from time to time where the men are weapon-happy he-men, and the women are fainting and beribboned (...moreYou know those awful fantasy stories you run into from time to time where the men are weapon-happy he-men, and the women are fainting and beribboned (except for 15 minutes where they're plucky and resourceful instead), and villains are seething with pointless evil, and non-nobles/royalty are all yucky dirty ignorant poor people with no redeeming qualities? Evil Incarnate does awful things because, hey, it's what evil guys do, and Real Man saves his true love, Damsel in Distress, and is rewarded by finding out she's Secret Royalty instead of a Filthy Commoner (thank god!) and even though lots of Unimportant People die horrible deaths, everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end with lots of singing and dancing at the Obligatory Fantasy Wedding?
Yeah, this is that book, except the men are women and the women are men.
I know, I know. You read the blurb, and it looks like maybe this is going to be one of those clever books that turns the genre stereotypes on their heads and does something really interesting. I thought that, too. And I got about halfway through before I realized it was never coming. This author took a potentially interesting premise and did literally nothing with it except swap out which sex is veiled and cloistered and chaste and which one is out drinking and shooting people.
Even that could perhaps have been forgiven if there were any depth here at all, but there's not. Nobody in this story has any complex motivations. There are no plot twists or unexpected surprises. People are nice for no reason when it is convenient to the plot, and bad for precisely the same reason. The characters are nearly all interchangeable cardboard cutout representations of fantasy archetypes. There's not any kind of real world-building, just vague allusions to only-there-when-convenient government institutions and a confusingly inconsistent level of technology, overlaid with some tepid romance-novel intrigue, and even that last bit can't manage to bring any suspense into the plot.
I had initially given this two stars because the writing at least flowed well enough to be readable, but there's so little else here that I can't give it more than one and a half. This book is simply not worth your time.(less)
This was a strange book. I started it feeling like I was reading a sci-fi/dystopian novel, but as the story progressed, it felt more and more as if I...moreThis was a strange book. I started it feeling like I was reading a sci-fi/dystopian novel, but as the story progressed, it felt more and more as if I were reading the novelization of one of RPG video games I used to play: here's the intro where you find out that Something Big Has Gone Wrong (long, long ago, of course), and our unassuming hero must fix it; here's where you travel around finding all the supporting characters, with their predictable archetypes and their tragic back-stories; here are the various little quests in which you pick up magical friends and gradually find out more about the Big Something That's Gone Wrong and the Entirely Evil Villains Who Caused It. And there, after a while -- there's that bit where all the pieces are assembled and one of your magical friends tells your ragtag band of unlikely heroes that you'd better prepare for the final dungeon, and if you have, then you get the predictable deus ex machina happy ending where the loose ends are all conveniently tied up, and everyone's smiling and waving and fading into the credits over a blaze of triumphant MIDI music.
Seriously, I felt like I there should have been a pause between every few chapters for the characters to level up.
That said, I actually really enjoyed the book. Despite the lack of originality in how it was structured, despite some of the cliches that were bad enough to make me wince (Want to guess which side the reptilian aliens are on? Go on, guess!), the premise was interesting and the characters were, for the most part, sympathetic. It wasn't a book that was full of deep meaning and important questions (and I appreciate that by the end, the author didn't try to pretend that it was); it was an entertaining read with some engaging characters that you could set aside at the end without a lot of burning, unanswered questions about unresolved plot points and what happens next. It was neither so predictable that I got bored and stopped reading nor so unpredictable that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. (less)