15 - 80

Jul. 4th, 2006 07:48 pm
threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
South Canterbury just got squashed in a Ranfurly shield challenge game today. I am from the South Canterbury area and I am just old enough to remember when their rugby team actually won the shield. That was way back in the days when the provence could boast a genuinely competitive side at the national level. These days they are a genuine minnow and only manage a few wins at the lowest level. But I still follow them - it is just what you do.*

Local sf writers get published at about the same rate as South Canterbury win games. Probably for similar underlying motivations, I try to read as many local genre publications as I can - especially books by first-time authors.

Thus I read Chasing the Bard by Philippa Ballantine. A fantasy where Faerie meets William Shakespeare. This is where the problem starts for me. I am not a big fan of stories where the fey have a big role. Creatures with shallow motivations and huge wild powers just don't seem to be good working material. Of course you can get around this by reworking the fey tradition to make them inherently more interesting. But when you are invoking Shakespeare, you really have to start with the shallow characters types shown in A Midsummer Night's Dream. From where I sit, it is giving yourself a handicap. Philippa seems to realise this and seems to have spent a lot of effort trying to add depth to her faerie characters, but I just couldn't escape the feeling that it was just tacked on. As a result I never really got any engagement with the characters and therefore the book wasn't the easiest of reads.

Structurally, the book seems well plotted, fairly well researched and resolved although the ending is a bit cluttered. There certainly is quite a bit of potential here. To go back to the rugby analogy, this is a competitive effort but still needs some more polish to be competitive at the top level. Think Hawkes Bay - top of the second division but struggles against a first division side.

At this point I'm visualising the patron of a South Canterbury pub, leaning on the bar and saying "the boys gave it everything but were just outclassed". It can be a bit difficult criticising somebody you know and there is a temptation to go easy on them - give support to the local and all that. But rugby teams don't get better if you don't identify and try to fix weakness. I think I have given an honest opinion here, but it can be a bit hard to tell.

* South Canterbury is in the Crusaders' region. Following the Crusaders does ease the pain a bit ;-)

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