by Gaelen Foley, historical (2002)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1973-2
This book is related to The Duke and Lord Of Fire. It probably owes its existence to too many bottles of wine, a Terminator marathon and many, many Jet Li movies. This book isn't just over the top, it pops off and zooms right to the next galaxy on a one-way ticket to hyperspace.
Damien Knight, who from now on shall be rechristened Jean Claude Van Dammy, is a soldier in the Regency era who, from this story, knows some really kickass kungfu. Maybe that's how England trumped Napoleon - Wellington is actually a sifu in karate and Napoleon never has any chance to begin with. Dammy can take down more than a dozen armed men in a blur of kinetic hyperactivity without getting one single hit. The ceiling collapses and the wall explodes, but our hero emerges triumphant, strong, Jet Li with an English accent.
Our heroine Miranda is a survivor. A refugee from a Charles Dickens novel, she flees a horrible boarding school with an amazing array of skills she can do with her mouth. I've heard tales of boarding school girls with amazing tricks they can do with one-eyed snakes, but Miranda, who from now on be called Masticating Mirrie because I'm so mean that way, she takes the cake. Then again, she's no wilting lily either, so all hail Masticating Mirrie! Too bad she's such a stock character in every other way.
When he is not zigzagging bullets and eating some zen food to improve his chi, Jean Claude Van Dammy inherits a ward - the illegitimate niece of a fallen soldier (shame on you, Dammy, for not stopping those bullets with your Pecs Of Bulletproof Titanium). Masticating Mirrie is 19, and she has annoyed the school director because she doesn't want to test her skills on him. Dammy, however, is another story, and Millie can't wait to oil that powerful spear of his.
In the meantime, there is a Terminator Baddie who wants Masticating Mirrie dead, and he plots Evil. He is omnipotent. He is everywhere. He knows everything. He has everybody in his pockets. He is EVIL, bwahahahahahaha!
When Masticating Mirrie's London debut becomes a success, as she pouts her lips but Dammy cups his breeches, because dang it, he is Tormented and Hurt, he is Too Unworthy for Mirrie, oh Mirrie... oh baby, where did you learn that baby... oh, shaggers, oh purple purple purple love scenes... yikes, here comes the bad guys just in time for our hero to catch his breath and FIIIGHT! The walls rumble, bullets fly - bangbangbang KABAM! - the ceiling rattle, one by one the baddies bite Dammy heel, until our hero - I quote - "But miraculously, Damien was not hit"!
I tell you, I am almost inspired to break into that Once Upon A Time In China dance to celebrate such amazing kungfu power. Huh, hah! Ka-pow!
Still, Dammy is a sweet guy, and he really makes up for Mirrie's increasingly standard characterization (I notice that this author's heroes are really amazing while her heroines tend to be on the blah side, while her plots... eh). But the whole story is so hilariously over the top that there are times that I find myself laughing out loud.
At the time of writing, there is a French movie called Brotherhood Of The Wolf. That movie is very reminiscent in atmosphere to this book (Native American kung-fu, anyone?) in its in-your-face anachronistic bombastic theatrics. But that movie at least gives me this vibe that the whole screw-you-I'm-cool feeling is deliberate. This book, however, makes me wonder if the whole delicious bombastic theatrics are accidental.
I don't know, but hey, this one is funny and pretty sexy at the same time. The hero gives me flashbacks to that poor dead guy at the end of Terminator, and the heroine has her moments. And who says over-the-top can't be fun? This one is pure cheese with extra corn on the side - yummy.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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