by Danielle D Smith, fantasy (2010)
Liquid Silver Books, $6.10, ISBN 978-1-59578-677-7
Psyche's Gate is clearly a labor of love for Danielle D Smith. She even did the cover art for this book. I can appreciate that, and I do wish I can give this book lavish praise, but I have a hard time getting into it.
Simply put, this is the story of struggling artist Psyche who unknowingly accepts the patronage of a mysterious being who intends to use Psyche's creative mojo for evil. Alexius, our hero, is an angel who has to stop Psyche from being an unwitting pawn of the enemy. They fall in love, the usual.
But for a long time, the only thing happening in this story is Psyche constantly whining, complaining, and being grating like nails on blackboard. This is one woman who keeps insisting that she is no good in her art while everyone else coos and insists that she is naturally a genius. After a while, Psyche comes off like a Mary Sue wretch, with her constant denial of her abilities coming off like a way for the author to keep getting other people to flatter the heroine and validate her existence. Psyche is an unlikable heroine because she turns everything into all about her. When she's not rejecting other people's effusive praise of her by depreciating her own value, she is being constantly brusque and sarcastic. It seems like Psyche is incapable of experiencing joy or humor. As a result, it is tiring and boring to follow her around in this story.
The author also has a writing style that tends to be tad too flowery for my liking.
Beneath a swollen harvest moon, the city breathes.
It pulses and quivers in its own strange light, a garish, buzzing, glittering watercolor stain in the falling autumn rain. Like an exotic beast it sucks in and devours travelers hungry for beauty and dreams and impossible fancies. Like a gorgeous whore it ostentatiously flashes all of its frills and lights and beckons invitingly. It is old, it is new, it has been destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again. It could be any city; it is every city. It is beautiful and hideous, gaudy and drab, heaven and hell. Its citizens are born, blossom, die, and molder to the beat of its urban heart.
Beneath a swollen harvest moon, the city is an ode to terror, to filth, to beauty.
Many of the conversations in this book are unintentionally hilarious.
"May I ask you... something personal, Psyche?" he asked softly.
Psyche shrugged, not taking her eyes from her work. "Go for it."
Alexius inhaled deeply, pausing, before putting his question forth. "Have you ever... been with a man?"
Heh. And yes, Alexius occasionally speaks like a heroine in Barbara Cartland's romance novels. Maybe it's an angel thing. Oh, and I love Psyche's epic speech that is the response to his question. There are two paragraphs of her speech in total, but I'm just showcasing one here:
"Truthfully, no, Alexius, I have never been with a man. I've never been with anyone at all. I'm sure the rest of the world would never believe that, me being a bohemian artist and a modern-day girl and all, but I just never got around to finding a guy. My mom got sick when I was pretty young, and she was sick for a long time before she died, and I spent almost all my time taking care of her because we were alone and there was no one else to help us. And when I wasn't taking care of her, I was married to my work. I mean, I did go to high school, and guys did ask me out, but my art always came first. I could never put my art aside for anyone, you know? I could never waste a moment."
Yes, Psyche talks like that pretty much all the time. "My mother died, so it's about me ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME..." Everything she says and does is designed to invite some compliment from other characters about her supposed virtue, abilities, having to live through a sad past, et cetera, which is why I eventually suspect that Psyche is a Mary Sue heroine.
Psyche's Gate is, at the end of the day, a self-indulgent story that is all about the heroine behaving like a little girl and yet being plied with love and compliments despite everything. Maybe it will be a good idea for Ms Smith to try branching out into less obvious examples of Mary Sue fiction in the future.
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