Berkley Sensation, $5.99, ISBN 0-425-19072-2
Sci-fi Romance, 2003
For the first 90 pages of Heart Thief, this book is a massive improvement over Robin D Owens’s HeartMate.
Ruis Elder is a Null – he negates the psychic ability called the Flair of the inhabitants of planet Celta. A thief, he spends his time using his stolen jewelry to good use in repairing old Earth machinery. He is caught and is about to be brought to trial when he encounters our heroine Ailim, GrandLady D’SilverFir. She’s actually a young and buxom babe, so all you romance readers already screaming that wrinkles and cellulites are too real and you don’t read romance to encounter these things can calm down now. The GrandLady thing is just a title. Ailim needs money to hold on to her ancestral home. Her family is bankrupt, but she just cannot fail the memories of her forefathers and lose the ancestral home! It’s nice to see that no matter how far and how far ahead in time, a heroine’s stupidity remains constant no matter what.
But Ailim, while not understanding what Ruis’ Null is doing to her Flair, found the silence of Ruis’ presence comforting. And they talk, and in this one quiet moment, Robin D Owens prove just how good she can be in creating simple romantic scenes of people just talking. It is as if somehow, the genius that lies dormant in the author’s psyche has somehow emerges and is caught in a brief freeze-frame – I find pages 11 to 16 pure magic.
Then, there is nowhere else to go but down.
The main problem is that the author does not seem to be able to make up her mind whether she wants to write about anatomically correct Care Bears or a more sensible and adult fare. This book is overrun by incongruous and awkward attempts to be cute. Ms Owens can’t make up her mind whether Ruis is a dark and tortured hero or a Mowgli, so she tries to make Ruis both, with disastrous results. Ruis finds sanctuary is a spacecraft he calls Ship, he finds a companion in a cat he calls his Fam (short for Familiar), and his password for Ship is “machine, EarthSun, and Ailim”. Excuse me, but while these passwords may be acceptable for a Secret Seven shed meeting, it is stupefying to imagine that any sensible mechanically-inclined man will use such pathetically easy passwords to safeguard his safe haven.
Ailim and Ruis may have a very adult sexual relationship, but their dialogues and actions veer from sickeningly kiddy-like to graphic procreation mechanics. It’s like watching a Care Bear cartoon spliced together with a Barbarella movie. Also, the author goes overboard with the cute cat and puppy thing. Both main characters have annoyingly precious animals that soil the place and I’m supposed to find this funny.
Then there is the author’s very annoying “Ruis is misunderstood” preaching. She doesn’t trust me to understand Ruis by myself, so she beats me in the head again and again that there is no justice in this book and Ruis is unfairly persecuted. Thing is, last time I check, someone stealing jewelry and stuff to be used in Celtic equivalents of classic cars is not “stealing to live”. If that is the case, I’ll go steal me a Ferrari and tell the judge that I need the Ferrari to drive to the nearest McDonalds so nobody can put me in jail, you are all evil people who hate me because I’m beautiful, et cetera. By underestimating her readers’ ability to develop their own opinion of her characters, Ms Owens sabotages her own book.
The book’s hopeless descent from a decent futuristic into a thinly-disguised ego-driven fanservice-laden Mary Sue mess aside, I’m also annoyed by the author’s fantasy world-building. What’s with all that EarthSun, SilverFir, ResidenceDen, FirstSon, GrandMistries, UltraIrritating nonsense? Is it too hard to create genuinely non-annoying fantasy names instead of splicing together words like that? Also, Ms Owens falls into the just as annoying fangirl fanfic mistake of using too many apostrophes, as if the more “T’Elders”, “D’Willow”, “T’Holy”, and “T’Annoying” she puts in her story, the more credible her make-believe setting will be. Please. If Frodo isn’t called D’Hobbit and he doesn’t live in ShireVillage StumpMidgets, there’s really no need to go overboard with the apostrophes.
Let’s just hope those thirteen-year old fanfiction.net groupies reading this book don’t get any funny ideas and start marketing their Legolas Loves to Run His Long, Elegant Elven Fingers through My Luscious Long Golden Tresses fanfiction pieces to New York. Judging from the way those editors work, some of these fangirls may get lucky.