by Tatiana Caldwell, historical/fantasy (2010)
Liquid Silver Books, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-749-1
There are two reasons that compel me to give Tatiana Caldwell's Say My Name a look. The cover art is somewhat reminiscent of the infamous romantic portrait of the evil witch-queen Iggwilv and the demon lord Gra'azt. And this story is a take on the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, which is not something I come across every day.
Anna Miller is infatuated with King Thomas. She thinks she's in love with him due to some childhood moments she spent with him, and our intelligent heroine therefore rejects all suitors at her doorstep because she is holding out for the King. When I said that I liked my heroines to think big, I don't think I had this kind of thinking in mind. Anna's father tells stories of her beauty and what not, and finally, King Thomas summons her and her father to his court. She is at first dismayed to realize that Thomas doesn't remember her, but her dismay turns into shock when her father tells the King that she can spin straw into gold and the King subsequently decides to imprison her and her father until she starts doing just that.
She is visited by our Rumpelstiltskin-like character in her cell, and so the story goes.
The sensation of being watched overcame her, and she lifted her head. A man with inhumanly green skin stood before her. Anna gasped, then fell over and back into the pile of straw she'd meant to escape. She quickly scrambled back to her feet and stood before
the intruding creature.
Despite the slight hunch of his back, he towered nearly two heads over her. His top
half was bare and he wore knee-length knickers, displaying lean muscles, long hairless
limbs and a torso firm enough with which to scrub clothes. Ears shaped much like a
buck’s peeked out of a mane of wild, spiky black hair that stood up on the back and top
of his head while two long sections on the sides cascaded past his chest.
As you can see above, the author doesn't waste time trying to show me how sexy the green goblin. Unfortunately, all that firm torso and lean muscles cannot distract me from the fact that the goblin is very creepy here in how he manipulates Anna into some sexual situations as payment for his services. This is one moment where I wish the author had deviated from the fairy tale route a little, maybe had the goblin help Anna out of kindness, and had those two fall in love slowly via friendship and quiet moments like Belle and the Beast in the Walt Disney version of Beauty & The Beast. The current relationship is too much like one where the heroine is forced to do what he wants in order to save herself and her father.
The twist at the end is predictable and rather unfortunate in that it reaffirms the ridiculous concept that some childhood moments can translate into a love that endures. Anna feels rather out of place, like a contemporary heroine planted into a historical fantasy, and her tendency to mouth off to the King comes off as more foolish than feisty. But ultimately, I find it hard to believe in the romance, not when too much time is spent on getting the hero to lust after the heroine and make her remove her clothes in his presence. Rule 34 applies as usual, as surely someone out there will find this story romantic. But I'm not that person, I'm afraid.
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