Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fantasy Travels

I'm going to have to tell my ballet teacher tonight that the looking up and out thing isn't going so well. I was doing that while walking around my house, which you'd think I'd know well enough to do blindfolded, and I misjudged walking past the staircase, so now I have a lovely bruise on my hipbone from hitting the end of the bannister. There may be fewer obstacles in a dance studio, but the obstacles that are there are moving.

I hit a roadblock in writing yesterday when I reached what was planned to be a pivotal action sequence and realized that I didn't know much about what was going to happen other than that obstacles would arise when there was a ticking clock. I knew stuff needed to happen, but I didn't know what stuff, exactly. It took me a long time to figure it out, and I ended up going in directions that I hadn't planned, which is good. And then this morning I figured out that this plan still won't entirely work, though it's more a problem with the execution than with the plan. I was writing it in the dullest way possible. Back to the drawing board. I know what I want to do, but it refuses to stay in focus well enough for me to capture it.

But I have been doing some reading, which is good. I mentioned that I developed an epic fantasy craving after reading Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and had started in on The Belgariad by David Eddings.

I have now remembered that it's generally a bad idea for me to try to read fantasy in omnibus form. I have a very bad track record with that. Because all the books are in one volume, my brain tries to make them into one book, so I feel obligated to read cover-to-cover. But then I burn out about two chapters into the third book, almost invariably. With this book(s), I think I would have been frustrated if I hadn't had the next volume immediately available because each book doesn't really feel like a complete novel. There's no sense of "the end" at the end. But at the same time, reading them back-to-back makes things get really repetitive. I think I'd have become obsessed with this series if I'd read it as a teenager when it first came out. The main character is a teen, and I probably would have related to him, and fantasy was a lot newer, so the travelogue nature of the series, which mostly seemed to involve traveling from place to place and seeing how varied this world was, would have been fresher. As it is now, I thought the teen read way too young and often came across as too stupid to live, and I've read enough fantasy that I've seen just about every kind of fantasy society. I don't much care about the worldbuilding other than to create a place where things can happen. I'm far more interested in the things that are happening, and it seems like there's a lot of wheel spinning in the middle books of this series. I wonder if the author was encouraged to stretch the series longer than planned because it was selling so well, and so a lot of "and then they tried looking for the thing they were pursuing in this place, which was like this, and then the main character stumbled into something and needed rescuing, so they had to flee" got added.

Maybe I've reached past a point of being able to enjoy the classic epic fantasies from the 80s. The publishing world has changed and so has my perspective.

So I moved on from there to a newer book, a recent young adult fantasy, The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke. I stumbled upon this one in a very roundabout way. I was looking for book cover concepts by scrolling through Amazon bestseller lists, and I kind of liked the way the covers for this series looked. It didn't quite fit my book, but the concept might have been applied, and I even tracked down the artist's web site. I don't think I'm going to go in this direction, but the books looked intriguing, so I picked up the first one at the library. The story's about a pirate's daughter who's being forced into an arranged marriage with the son of a prominent pirate family. She's so not up for that, so she runs away, but her prospective groom's family sends an assassin after her. But when the assassin finds her, something goes wrong, and the result is that they're magically bound to each other. He's in terrible pain if she's very far from him, and any injury to her hurts him. This isn't an arrangement favorable to either of them, so they set off on a quest to find someone who can break this curse for them.

It's very much the start of a series. In fact, I would almost say that the "crossing the threshold" part of the overall series story doesn't happen until the end of this book. But it's not a travelogue. Stuff happens along the way, and it's far more about the developing relationship between the pirate girl and the young assassin, who are similar in a lot of ways but who have very different perspectives and life goals. They both have issues that interfere with their forced partnership, and you do sometimes want to bang their heads together to make them realize that they could make a good team, even as you realize why it's difficult for them. I've already requested the next book from the library because I can't wait to see what happens next.

One caveat is that the book is written in what I guess you'd call "vernacular." It's first-person narration that's very much in the heroine's voice. It's not "talk like a pirate day" pirate talk, but it's not standard English grammar, so if you're a grammar Nazi, it may take a while to get into the book instead of wanting to correct it. It wouldn't be quite as distracting if limited to dialogue, but then again, it would make no sense for the dialogue to be the way she speaks and then the narration to sound like an English teacher (unless, perhaps, it was being written from the perspective of her future self after receiving some education). I know of people who can't deal with narration in dialect, so this is something to be aware of.

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