Enclave Authors, $0.99, 978-0-9994854-6-0
Fantasy Romance, 2018
In the Garden of Gold and Stone by Ryan Muree is described as a young adult fantasy within its own pages. Naturally, it is marketed as romance, because… I guess, young adults are the primary readers of romance these days? Still, no matter, as I fancy myself a versatile reader who can take to most genres and… eeek, why are these people in a fantasy setting talking like salespeople in a Hot Topic outlet? Two men, mind you, which only adds to the whole surreal overtone of this book. “Never mind, this story is clearly aimed at very, very, very young people,” I tell myself and try to imagine myself as seventeen again. No, doesn’t work – still surreal.
Rowec, our hero – “the famous Yvelkian Zchi warrior, slaughterer of fifty men” – is gathering fruits with his brother one fine day, while telling me what a selfish, vapid twit that persistent daughter of the chief is – we all need a disagreeable hot woman to hate in every young adult woman, because apparently teenage girls will be crushed otherwise – when they pick the wrong fruits and cross the wrong people. The lizard people.
One of the creatures grabbed Maur’s ankle and began dragging him along.
Maur screamed. “Please! Rowec! Please don’t let them take me! Please!”
“Wait!” Rowec shouted. “Take me instead.”
The creatures froze and slowly turned their heads.
“Take me,” he repeated. “Take me in my brother’s place. I’m the lead warrior. I’m more valuable. My brother is the village idiot. He’s no use to you.”
Maur’s face soured, but he didn’t say a word.
And he’d better not, the dumbass. Only Maur could find some secret clan in the jungle and steal from them.
Nothing like “dumbass” to ruin what could have been a taut, tension-filled scene. Seriously, just how young and dumb does the author think the target audience of this story is?
Anyway, our heroine, Nida, is one of those lizard people or Tialans. She needs a mate – a human mate, mind you, because of plot. She thinks herself cursed because she looks far more human than her sisters; she has only “sporadic” scales that do not extend past her shoulders… yes, you can stop laughing now. The author isn’t even trying to be subtle. The heroine is “cursed”, but don’t worry, she’s still totally buxom and sexy with no weird genitalia. Totally cursed. Poor thing.
The rest of the story is predictable. Nida is the nicest of all the lizard thing, because heaven forbid we have any other female characters that dare to even try to be on par with the heroine in a young adult story, Rowec is so hot and cute, and these two have to sort out the whole “I’m a human, you’re a lizard thing” issue which, given that the author has taken pains to ensure that Nida is more human than those aliens from V, is nothing particularly interesting or dramatic. In other words, this is a “Look at me! I, the heroine, am really special and you should all love me for the beauteous angst I harbor in my buxom heart because I love the hero and I’m, like, totally selfless and humble for doing that!” story.
On top of that, the author writes like a Joss Whedon-wannabe, only minus any sense of timing. Every time there is a scene that threatens to be dramatic or suspenseful, the author will make sure to have one or more characters do stupid interjections like “Dumbass!”, “Ow!”, and what not. There is such a disconnect here between the story and the author’s style. She has her characters talk like they are in a parody of some sort, but outside of that, the story feels bewilderingly sober. Is this a parody or a straight up story anyway?
Not that it matters, honestly, because the only way this tedious story could have been salvaged is if the author had turned this into an erotica. Let’s have a bunch of naughty snake women sexually subjugate our human He-Man-type hero and have their naughty way with him using all kinds of fun implements! Alas, because the author wants this to be a “young adult fantasy”, and she seems to think that the only way her readers can relate to her stories is to have her characters go all “Ow! Dumbass!” on everyone, In the Garden of Gold and Stone is something best left to those very readers that will like that kind of thing.