Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sword in the Sheath

Okay, totally cheap. And rather lame. Which is kind of appropriate, because today I'll be discussing Sword of Darkness by Kinley MacGregor. I was very psyched for this book. Being a total medieval and Camelot wonk I loved the premise, in which there is a shadow Camelot, presided over by Morgen LeFay, Arthur's half-sister, who has been given lots of different interpretations over the years. Here she's full-on evil, but we don't know if Arthur's the father of her son Mordred (I'm guessing no, too dark). She's surrounded by dragons, gargoyles, and dark and tormented possible future anti-heroes. Avalon is presided over by the female Merlin, and she is surrounded by the not-so-dark, but still tormented former Knights of the Round Table. Everyone's immortal and can time travel, so that they can make all sorts of 'witty' and 'sarcastic' comments inappropriate to the time period. First up at bat: Kerrigan, the Pendragon, or ruler, of this "dark" Camelot.
So I didn't hate this book. I did put it down a lot, which I usually don't do with Sherrilyn Kenyon (who is MacGregor). It was not nearly as compulsively readable as many of her books. The problem for me was the hero and the heroine. Kerrigan, the king and wielder of Caliburn (sort of a dark counterpart to Excalibur), is supposed to be the baddest of the bad, demonic in fact. Instead he is pure Kenyon: he had a rough childhood, nobody's ever been kind to him. He's not so bad, he just needs a good woman to listen to him, empathize, and downright pity him, and he will dissolve into a puddle of luurrrrve. Seriously, some smiles from an innocent virgin and Kerrigan's grinchy heart grows three sizes. Bleh. That brings me to Cindy Lou Who, er, Seren, the apprentice weaver, who I actively hated as I have not hated a heroine in a long time. Oy vey, the self-righteousness, the innocence, the purity, the torture. She firmly believes in the good in people, and is constantly chastizing Kerrigan for not being nicer, even when he's saving her sorry ass. She's just so good, I kept expecting her to chime out, "God bless us, every one" A la Tiny Tim. At one point she's like, oh, I love the good part of Kerrigan, oh no I love all of him. Yeah right, you know she'd constantly be lecturing him and trying to change him. Ooh, she bugged with her platitudes.

Seren the super annoying has been chosen to be the mother of the next Merlin (not a specific person here, rather a title for a wise and powerful magician). Both Merlin and Morgen want her, for her child will shift the balance of power between the two realms. However Kerrigan kidnaps her out from under Gawain and Agravain (good guys from Avalon), and things progress much as you would expect from there. I wanted this to be darker, and it was a bit by the numbers--Kerrigan was classic DH, as was Morgen (Artemis). There was the usual humor, sometimes funny, sometimes clunky. But it was really Seren and her "might does not make right" schtick that killed it for me. I'll keep reading (though perhaps from the library), because with a better h/h this could be good. I'm left with the impression that MacGregor/Kenyon really enjoyed writing this, she knows her Arthurian lore, I just wish she would push her boundaries a bit, stray from what has become rote. Darker and more tormented please. Or not. More something, though. Please.


Bev (BB) said...

I started this one then decided I wasn't in the mood to absorb a new convoluted alternative fantasy universe. And I'm not sure when I'm going to get back to it.

SGM said...

Dev this is so great! I can't believe you've been hiding it from me. You have inspired me to read romance novels - forget the teen stuff! I read Tangerine at my old, old job and loved it. Love the blog.


Ellen S. said...

Hey Dev -
Wow, you really are serious about your competitive research. I love your writing style, can't wait to read your manuscript!