Some times, I just get profoundly disappointed. When that happens, it becomes quite a challenge to keep on with second, third and fourth chances, which is what I’ve been doing with Week‘s Shadow series. I’ve realized, it is time for Brent and I to break up when I was pondering my review, and thought, “why bother?” You know that feeling you get at the end of the relationship when you know it’s not even worth trying anymore? Or–and this might have happened to me today–those times when you might be talking with a paranoid schizophrenic about needing to eat, and you are wondering whether it’s worth talking about dinner when he’s talking about aliens poisoning the tap water? It’s those times when the effort of listing all the mistakes is just too much, or the reception is just too scrambled. The issues won’t be understood, let alone fixed. Yes, that’s about where I’m at.
Why am I disappointed? The first book was okay, if somewhat full of genre tropes. The second was a narrative mess but had some interesting ideas, except for the sexism. Well, I thought, I can get past sexism, I’m used to it, right? Except after a while, this kind of piggishness is unacceptable in anyone born after 1970. The whore with the heart of gold, the priggish virgin just dying to consummate her love, the assassin with the heart of ice who uses sexuality to trap her kills, the prison whore that uses sex to stay alive, the noble whore who uses her sexuality to win support–catching the motif yet? Oh yes, then there are the dowager sorceresses whose order is dying out because they won’t let men be magic users and are kidnapping young women (hello, Jordan). Afraid of women much? Then there is the third book, running wild with more sex stereotypes, crappy narrative and lots of half-baked lectures on madness, justice and leadership.
I suspect that one of the reasons that Night Angel series scores so well is that–bear with me–readers are telling themselves the story. That’s right, you five-star reviewers. You don’t like Week’s writing; you like the story you are telling yourself that fills in his gaping character and narrative holes. Weeks writes screenshots. He illustrates a scene, captures a 10 second or minute video and lets the reader gestalt it together. Why do you like it? Because you fill in the gaps with the stories you like to read and tell yourself, not because anything is particularly original or well done beyond the single concept of the black ka’kari.
Take, for instance, the mythic wood that is death to enter. A couple paragraphs tell us how terrible this wood is, how nothing lives or breathes, that there is only silence. In one scene, sorceress discovers a dead body at the edge from someone who fled there. In another, one group of soldiers attempt to pin the enemy so that they would be surrounded, wood at their flank. Then what happens? Fer goes into the wood, narrative jumps to someone else, then jumps back to Fer reappearing with a sword hilt, a recipe and only hints at a story. You see? What happens there is supplied by my own imagination. Those strange gaps happen at least two or three other times, and it occurs to me that whole novels could have filled in the spaces.
So Brent, I’m breaking up. I shouldn’t need to read your trilogy two or three times to ‘understand’ it, and I shouldn’t have to suffer through sexist tropes if I did. Which leads me to my final thought: it’s not me–it’s you.
One final star (out of five).