Lori's Book Nook

Hope for the Mediocre

Posted on: August 8, 2007

A co-worker and I have discovered that we both read fantasy novels. She took it upon herself to lend me a rather silly series, by a writer I’d never heard of before — Tamora Pierce. A quick Google search tells me that she is a fantasy author who writes books for young people. That just tells me that publishers don’t think young people can handle any richness to their writing. Here’s her motivation for writing, from an interview (quoted here):

I got into this to write about girls who kick butt. In the mid-’70s, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sheri Tepper, C.J. Cherryh, that crowd particularly, started to change the field. For me, there was a problem that a number of these characters were gay or celibate female warriors, and I was neither. So I wrote fantasy with female warrior heroes who like guys. Robin McKinley and Barbara Hambly both started to publish their fantasy at the same time, so I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Is she comparing herself to Robin McKinley? Author of The Blue Sword? Funny though, how Pierce’s heroine, Alanna — who isn’t a lesbian, no way no how! — has a series of adventures very similar to those of Harry/Harimad-sol in McKinley’s book. Desert adventure, finding her powers…

Thank goodness, she’s not comparing herself to Bradley, Tepper, or Cherryh!

What problem do I have with this writer?

  • She takes absolutely no time to develop her characters beyond the bare minimum.
  • She tells, and tells, and tells, and never once shows.
  • The plot points are so transparent it’s annoying — since she doesn’t take any time to develop the world or the characters, when someone blinks, you know it’s significant.
  • Three words: Deus ex machina. Magic is unexplained, it just bang! is there to save the day.
  • Each of the 4 books in the series I read (oh yes! All 4…I’m not complaining on the strength of only reading one — not too onerous, they were quick reads), had enough action for 3 or 4 books. Huge quest material, dealt with in 4 chapters. Move on to the next with a “And they all went back to the city.” Come up with another 3 adventures, some innocent shtupping (’cause remember, she’s not a lesbian. NO. Not a lesbian!), some more ways for Alanna to be utterly wonderful and perfect and strong and the best fighter and . . . ingredients for one more Tamora Pierce book, 3 more for any other writer with a modicum of talent for exposition.

I wish I could say I was exaggerating. But if I’d been introduced to this as a pre-teen, I would have been scarred for life, my ability to appreciate good writing forever damaged.

I’ll go back to Lois McMaster Bujold (or Sheri S. Tepper or . . .) any day.

I interrupted my reading of this tripe to pick up one of Bujold’s latest, that I’d been trying to ignore, trying to prolong the anticipation — The Sharing Knife: Beguilement. (Read the first couple of chapters here!)

Bujold really takes the time to develop her characters, and their world. In one sequence, 2 of the characters ride 3 hours into town…it takes 15, beautifully written pages.

Pierce would have done it more efficiently: “They rode three hours to town.”

Gads. I don’t usually write negative reviews, but I need something to show for the wasted time!

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1 Response to "Hope for the Mediocre"

[…] it’s because (1) they’ve written it,  (2) they’ve tasked me with reviewing, (3) they think we have the same taste, or (4) they know we have the same […]

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