by Renee Michaels, fantasy (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-337-0
I wish I can reassure new authors that it is okay if they embarrass themselves with their debut novels because nearly every new author does that. Unfortunately, that is not how things are since not all new authors are created equal. For Renee Michaels, however, her debut novel The Sword And The Sorceress is probably going to be one of those books that she will publicly disavow should she have the opportunity to move on to bigger and better things as an author from this point onwards. Let's just say that when I am reading this book, my first thought is, "This must be a new author. At least, I hope this author is new."
This is the first book in a planned series called The Sorceresses Of Syrren. The heroine's name is Syra ap Syrren. The hero's name is Rhys Sorren and the magic sword he is looking for is called the Sword of Sorren. Just like how some new authors are too enamored of apostrophes and the letters Y and X ("Hi, my name is Xyl'andry'ana and I come from Xy'iyybi Yxya'xy Valley!"), Ms Michaels must have hit the jackpot where the letters S, Y, R, E, and N are concerned.
This tale of a nymphette sorceress and a virile warrior seeking a magic sword to battle a baddie - and by sword I don't mean his monster penis - is comparable to bad fanfiction. Purple prose runs amok in this story like an army of angry cannibal Barney the Dinosaur clones. My favorite is "weeping sheath". Archaic 1980s-style romance novel descriptions of the characters' physical appearances ("black locks") clash awkwardly with Debbie Does Dungeons & Dragons-style language ("the clawing greed of her hungry pussy").
The author often veers into comedy pornography in her story. Syra, mind you, realizes that Rhys is her "truemate" all the way from that time when she witnessed how he "ground his pelvic bone against Morag’s clit, pushing her to a small orgasm". Apparently when she fell onto her knees after witnessing how he made Morag's sheath weep holy-holy-Hallelujah and he saw her spying on them, they had this powerful magical connection. Or something. Anyone reading this story will soon realize that Ms Michaels has no problem with halting the story just to embark on some gratuitous hilariously-written love scene.
Characters tend to deliver long expositions passed off as "conversations" to each other, but they are talking about things that they should already know, such as when Syra and her cousins are discussing their relationships with each other. When they are not doing that, they are babbling without making much sense.
Darreth sipped from her cup and smiled at the girls. Putting her cup down, she waved a hand at the dying embers in the hearth. It burst into flames, heating the room. “I wanted to speak to you girls privately before the gathering. I’ve done a reading of the tapestry; it
tells me we may have a traitor amongst our ranks, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint who it is. The link between the three of you is strong, so use it to your advantage. Be alert at all times and follow your instincts, because I sense the three of you will play an integral part in achieving peace for the provinces. Now I want you all to find your beds, you’ll
need to be well rested, for tomorrow will be a long day.” Darreth left the room and closed the door softly behind her.
What is that all about? How could that woman just tell the girls casually that there is a traitor and then tell them to sleep just like that? Another memorable scene is one where Rhys and his brothers unroll a map and "study" it while talking about things that do not require a map to explain. And then one of them goes off to talk to Darreth in a room where there is a magical 3D map of the land. Don't ask me why the men can't use this magical 3D map and instead rely on that old-fashioned rag to talk about things that they don't need a map to expound on.
“This is how we hope to proceed; if anyone doesn’t agree with our strategy, now is the time to object.” He looked at each delegate’s face, and saw only steadfast determination. With a nod, he continued. “Each province will surreptitiously move as many troops as they can to one central position within their territory. A teleporter and enhancer will be placed with each army, preferably ones with some telepathic ability. Telepaths will be planted at the vulnerable border towns as a warning system, and as soon as they are attacked, troops will be teleported in. Only as many as necessary, so as not to leave our backs unprotected. We’ll cast a web and hope to catch the spider.”
Let me get this straight. They will pack all their troops in one place like a bunch of cows awaiting slaughter and put some wee little girl telepaths as bait to holler for help when the enemy strikes? And then someone else, this teleporter, will send troops to that place ASAP? When will these morons do when the telepath in that danger zone die before she can sound the alarm? Blame it on a lack of communication? Why can't we patrol the borders in a good old-fashioned way? And when I consider the fact that they believe that they have a traitor in their midst, the idea of concentrating all their men in a central position, vulnerable to ambush and what-not, becomes even more absurd.
“Not all of us have teleporters and telepaths,” Lord Erno Barrone protested.
How sad. But do they have... telephones?
Oh, just what is Ms Michaels doing in this story?
Meanwhile, Morag of the weeping sheath of course hates, hates, hates Syra for stealing her man. Syra and Rhys have a romance that is nothing more than allegedly great sex and repeated insistence that they are "truemates" although since Syra's sheath isn't shown to be weeping from Rhys' "talented tongue" and almighty humongous penis, I suspect that Morag may just have the last laugh after all.
The author actually has some pretty good ideas in her story. The secondary story of the spy and the sorceress employed by the bad guy is actually more interesting than the insipid main characters' storyline but it is really too bad that the two characters in question speak and behave like lumbering cardboard characters in a bad Jean M Auel type of fanfiction. The story is also refreshingly free of Magic Baby type of fantasy romance cliché, which I appreciate, and the Magic Sex thing isn't used as a deus ex machina to save the day. There is a conscious attempt to tell a story that isn't purely all about overheated genitals here. It is just that the author's inexperience in this instance works against her very significantly in terms of plotting, pacing, characterization, and writing style.
The Sword And The Sorceress is pure hilarity at the author's expense. The unintentional comedy is the only thing that saves this book. However, the author seems to have some ideas here and there, she just can't execute them well at all. The story is either comedy pornography or sheer unintentional comedy. For Ms Michaels' sake, I hope she finds a way to improve her craft. One Carol Lynne is enough for the civilized world. In fact, she has better get back to work on improving right now, chop-chop, because there is much to do, if this book is anything to go by. She can start by telling everyone she knows not to buy this book. Seriously, years from now when she is a much better writer, when she rereads this book and cringes in embarrassment, she will be glad to have made that decision.
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