Carol. 's Reviews > The Curse of the Mistwraith

The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts
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Jul 05, 11

did not like it
bookshelves: didn-t-finish, fantasy, not-on-blog
Recommended for: dedicated Wurts fans

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy Mistwraith at all. I literally was forcing myself to read 50 to 100 pages at a time, before I'd lose interest and set it down again. Had the plot been told in a more linear fashion, with less background and more actual action, I might have enjoyed it more.

The writing suffered from a disjointed structure and over-abundance of verbage. As in example, within the first twenty-seven pages of the book, we are treated to a "Prologue," written in historical fashion; a sea rescue written from the viewpoint of a non-significant first officer; sword practice and embedded memory from the view of a prince; a chapter with an unnamed high mage and farseer; and "Fragments," which are, quite literally, three separate and incomplete sentences that reference other scenes, some of which are inconsequential but attempt to be portentous. I found it unnecessarily confusing, made even worse by a magical transport across a gate to a whole other land shortly after page 50. Yes, the sloppy world-building that we muddled our way through in the first chapters was completely abandoned. It turns out those chapters were mostly significant for character development and politics, but unfortunately there was so little direct focus on the main characters, it was hard to get a solid feel for them.

Actually, that leads me to a second stumbling block: characterization. These princes change reactions and mood every five steps it seems, and their moodiness makes it hard to identify redeeming qualities of either. A small instance is when Lysaer was talking with Dakar, and found he was angry enough at Dakar's inquiry about not being taught about his gift of light, that he needed to try to keep from hitting something. Yet in the end of the scene, he's declining teaching from a Fellowship mage "for the greater good of Tysan" in an accepting and noble manner. Which leads me to a story-wide problem: Much of the story hinges on why Arithon is talented as Master of Shadow, a bard, and a prince, but must pursue one talent to the exclusion of all others. Likewise Lysaer can' learn more than elementary magecraft because he must be a ruler. Except that Lysaer has taught himself enough to be able to summon light on his own, and knows enough to recognize and be awed by magical acts. "A power focus," he mused in an awed whisper. We aren't told why this is so, and Lysaer's own self-taught knowledge seems to belie the thought that it is strictly a matter of time; already he's been taught duties of prince while learning magic. Even more significantly are how fast reactions change; We are constantly being told how this "seemed an impossibly cruel twist of fate" to the half-brothers, but not exactly why this is so cruel.

I found the writing seriously overwrought. There are some that praise the prose of Mistwraith, but I'll never be one of them. Almost every noun comes coupled with an adjective, and every verb an adverb, so the whole image is lost in description. Describing the base of a tower: "Here the drafts sang in dissonance through arrow loops and murder holes." A reaction to the weather (and not a plot point): "Chilled to gooseflesh as dampness hit his wet skin, Lysaer sucked in a deep breath." Reflecting on an obligation: "The ritual unleashed emotion, could and had linked participants to the depths of insight that a bond of sympathy with the subject under study became nearly impossible to deny." As singular sentences, they might be pleasing; as they contribute to focus on plot points or character, they are virtually meaningless.

The issue of verbosity transcends mere sentences to cause larger structural problems. When equal attention is given to all scenes, it lends to an uneven focus. For instance, a sorcerer discovers a meth-snake, destroys it and reports its unusual development to the fellowship. Suddenly the princes are riding furiously toward a tower but not knowing why. Once at the tower, Asandir joins the sorcerers in a trance, and the impending disaster is dealt with magically in four or five pages. It makes the feat of magic seem less significant and somewhat unimpressive.

A small peeve was the introduction of a young and willful sorceress flouting the restrictions of her order. Although it's been years since I've read The Wheel of Time, I felt like someone was channeling Jordan when she ended up with Asandir in a hayloft.

Overall, not a series I'll continue. While I enjoy the occasional epic fantasy, this one felt too messy and forced to be enjoyable and ultimately was not worth my time.
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Comments (showing 1-29 of 29) (29 new)

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message 1: by Kristen (new) - added it

Kristen Very interesting and well-thought out review. I'll have to reconsider it on my to-read list for sure!


Carol. I feel badly about my review, but it is honest. A ton of people like this series, and Janny is a very nice, thoughtful person. This just did not reach me at all.


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 11, 2012 05:17PM) (new)

You're my fantasy guru, Carol. Your reviews are impressive, spectacularly well thought out and detailed.
I own these as strips, so no money was exchanged, I might give them a try but after reading your thoughts I'm not so sure anymore...

Edit: Don't know which edition you own, I have the mass markets. The maps are horrible! Worst maps I've ever seen, completely illegible.


message 4: by Carol. (last edited Dec 11, 2012 11:06PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Carol. Genesis, thank you for the lovely compliment.

I've been trying to cut back on my book purchases, and only own books that are favorites, don't want to wait for or are irresistible deals. Thankfully, this was not one of them.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I just give credit where is due.

I have an unhealthy obsession with long, mammoth sized fantasy books, so it didn't come as a surprise that I wanted to own/read this series, but as I said, the maps are appalling. I know the author has legible ones in her website, or so I heard.

Also, I agree with you about her overwritten sentences. The quotes you posted to exemplify Wurts's style are dreadful and my being in the middle of a poorly written, long-ass book ( The Summoner) I don't think I could put up with more cack-handed prose without pulling out my hair in frustration.


Sandra The 'Prologue' you're describing is Chapter One. There is a prologue, but it is very short. Less than a page. Too bad you didn't like it. It does take some perseverance.


Carol. I think I meant "prologue" in the "historical background to the main plot of the story" sense, so I probably should not have capitalized it.


message 8: by Constance (new) - added it

Constance Wow, I'm so glad I'm not the only person who feels this way. I'm 35% of the way through the 1st book and it is a slow painful slog. I picked this up because I enjoyed the Mistress of the Empire series so much, but now I'm starting to feel perhaps that was more Feist than Wurts.


Carol. Constance wrote: "Wow, I'm so glad I'm not the only person who feels this way. I'm 35% of the way through the 1st book and it is a slow painful slog. I picked this up because I enjoyed the Mistress of the Empire ser..."

Glad to hear I'm not the only one either, Constance. ;) Janny is a nice person, but this style of writing is not for me.


David Cornelson I'd point out that Janny's writing it more lyrical and dense than many authors, but I would strongly urge readers to keep reading. The payoffs in later books are some of the best scenes in fantasy history.


Sandra David wrote: "I'd point out that Janny's writing it more lyrical and dense than many authors, but I would strongly urge readers to keep reading. The payoffs in later books are some of the best scenes in fantasy ..."

Amen!


message 12: by John (new)

John Craft I also tried to read this and after 100 pages I couldn't take anymore. There's just something about it that I cannot stand. I love her Cycle of fire series.


David Cornelson I've read a few comments like this. Where the reader can't make it through the denser prose and detailed descriptive scenes and gives up. I recall reading Charles Dickens or Alexandre Dumas when I was younger and having similar feelings. I gave up those books, but circled back their works because so many people have read them and rate them as classical authors.

I feel strongly that Mistwraith and Wars of Light and Shadow represents a similar level of effort required and the first book has an enormous amount of work to setup the series, which is now nearing its eleventh book. It may be more work than what most people are accustomed to, but it is worth it. Even in the second book you see more of Janny's humor and ability to work through great action scenes. In the later books you will be astounded at the integrity of the writing, character development, and depth of the story.

I will repeat this over and over. Keep reading.


Sandra David wrote: "I've read a few comments like this. Where the reader can't make it through the denser prose and detailed descriptive scenes and gives up. I recall reading Charles Dickens or Alexandre Dumas when I ..."

Amen, amen!


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Sandra aka Sleo wrote: "Amen, amen!"
*Facepalm*
I think you already used up all your "Amens" for an eternity.
You can rest now, dearie. Go take your meds.


Carol. David--
I think I make it clear that her style is not for me. I understand you are passionate, but I think I make it pretty clear the large number of reasons why it didn't work for me. Rather than exhort me to keep reading something I clearly detest, maybe work on your own review of why you like it so much.

Your parallel of your younger self and Charles Dickens also runs the risk of implying I didn't "understand" it because I wasn't "mature" enough or put in enough "work." I'm certain you didn't stop by my review to imply that, did you? That would be ungentlemanly.


Sandra Genesis wrote: "Sandra aka Sleo wrote: "Amen, amen!"
*Facepalm*
I think you already used up all your "Amens" for an eternity.
You can rest now, dearie. Go take your meds."


LOL, I see your point. **runs off blushing**


David Cornelson Carol wrote: "David--
I think I make it clear that her style is not for me."


Fair enough. But I've read all of Wars of Light and Shadow along with many other books and feel comfortable defending Mistwraith.


Carol. David, I happen to like Janny a lot. She's a big girl, and capable of defending herself if she needs to--although she's too smart to get involved in reviews from one tiny Goodreads reviewer.

You aren't doing her any favors, especially since your defense consists of "you need to read and re-read until you put enough work into it."

Believe me, that's not how to convince someone a book is inspiring. I've read many other books too.


DavidO What I learned from reading these comments: It doesn't matter how much you dislike something, you must keep doing it over and over again until you like it!


Carol. Or until you don't say anything out loud... ;)


message 22: by MrsJoseph (new)

MrsJoseph Carol. [All cynic, all the time] wrote: "Or until you don't say anything out loud... ;)"

I never understood this type of defense: read it again until you like it as much as I do!

Carol, all of your reviews are pretty fabulous and extremely clear.


Carol. Thanks, MrsJ. I try not to be like some people (cough, cough) and claim that if you don't like it as much as I do, you are reading it wrong.


Harrison I don't think he meant that you're immature I think he was just saying that time changes perspectives. Maybe if the topic were music instead of a book it wouldn't have come across like that. There's music years ago I didn't appreciate until now and there's music I used to love that I presently couldn't dislike more. As someone who's read the current entirety of this book series and loves it, I still couldn't say I'd recommend it to anyone I know. It's not because it's poorly written, it's just because it doesn't suit some people.


Carol. Harrison, thanks for your thoughtful comments.


FUTURE WARNING, TROLLS: I have no more tolerance for bullshit on Goodreads these days. If you can't say anything thoughtful or engage in dialogue, I'm deleting your comment. Period.

Yes, you got it--I'm censoring you, just like GR will censor my reviews if they feel like it.


message 26: by Sami (new)

Sami Privitor I found myself trying to edit the passages you quoted! Imo the first sentence would sound fine without "in dissonance," in the second the use of both "damp" and "wetness" is repetitive, and "deep" to modify breath was perhaps unnecessary...and the third one is a wordy mess! But it's a shame because those sentences are salvageable, and it appears the writing in this book could have been strong with a good editor. I was interested on reading this, but after this review I suppose I'll pass. I need a book that will teach me how to write effectively, not one that I find myself editing.


Carol. Sami, I rarely find myself trying to edit, but agree, this is one case where it begged for less convoluted description--for me as the reader. Of course, there are people that love this series so it must work for them. But it is one of the reasons I try to use quotes in my reviews--to give people a flavor of the actual writing, not just plot.


Victoria I came here thinking of leaving a review saying almost exactly the same, but you've said it all. Complete agreement, I gave up half way through when the inconsistent characterisation got too much for me.


Carol. Thank you, Victoria.


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