It's Book Review Wednesday, my favorite day of the week! Today, we're diving into a Roman-esque fantasy world that I found surprisingly enjoyable…
Out of Mischief
How to describe Aleria anDalmyn? Elizabeth Bennet with a slingshot. A leader unsure of her direction. A warrior princess trapped in the landed gentry of a backward realm.
As Mechanical devices like printing presses and rifles creep through the mountain barriers of her landlocked homeland, Aleria deals with her own lack of connection with her world. She finds that being rich, talented, and educated doesn’t prepare her for the realities that the rest of her countrywomen face in their daily lives.
And then one of her stunts goes wrong and throws her into an ordeal that destroys her confidence and cripples her emotions. Seeking a solution, Aleria starts down an unusual path for one of her station. Her Battle Arts Master warns her, “Use violence to solve a problem and you become a different person. Violence will be one of your options for the rest of your life. There is no going back.”
That suits Aleria. For her, there has always been only one direction: forward.
My Review: 4 Stars
Right off the bat, in the opening chapter, this story snagged my attention. I'm a huge fan of anything that has to do with thieves, pranks, and mischief in general, so the flippant, devil-may-care attitude of Aleria (the main character) was right up my alley.
However, within a few pages, the story got a bit bogged down by all the girly stuff--doing hair, talking about boys and losing virginity, dresses for the fancy ball, etc. It was just a bit too much emphasis on the shallow side of teenaged life, without any real depth.
The first half of the book was very slow. It gave a little bit of insight into the world and built up the character of Aleria a little, but not enough to keep me interested.
Then, around the half-way mark, the story got more interesting. Aleria finds herself captured by a group of bandits, enduring things her pampered life had never prepared her for. Some of her reactions to the situation are to be expected, but I found some of them to be unrealistic. For example, after the situation is explained to her, she still reacts like a spoiled, petulant child, rather than the clever, scheming girl she was set up to be. Somewhat inconsistent character for that part.
There is no real climax in the book, no big ending that makes you think, "Phew, I'm glad that's over!" It's a solid book without any highs and lows. The characters are also a bit two-dimensional, with no real depth to them. There's no digging deep in this book, but it's a simple, shallow fantasy adventure.
I loved the world, but I wish there was more of it explained. Not even the Academy where she is studying at the beginning of the book is explained, or what she's studying, or why. Lacking in depth.
Still, great story, and worthy of 4 stars!
Here's a Taste:
Raif reached in, grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the tent. He spoke in an urgent whisper. “Don’t dance.”
“Don’t dance. Whatever I do, whatever I say out there, don’t show yourself to them.” He laughed harshly. “Come on, Sweetheart. Dance time.”
He jerked her towards the fire, but his voice hissed in her ear. “Think of something, but don’t dance if you value your life.”
She began to resist, making him drag her. It was a relief to be able to fight.
The ring of outcasts laughed as they approached, throwing catcalls and lewd comments.
“What’s wrong, Raif? Is she modest?”
“I hear she dances nice enough in your tent.”
He tossed her into the firelight, a hateful grin on his face. “All right, Sweetheart. Show us what you can do.” He motioned with his hand, and the musicians struck up a raucous tune.
Aleria stood, her head bowed, shoulders slumped, trying to think how to look unappealing. Watching him through the fringe of her hair, she could see his expression change.
“Come on, girl. Dance!”
Still she refused to move, her pleasure in the defiance drowning her fears as to where this scene might lead.
The crowd waited hopefully, soft jibes and sloshing bottles circulating.
“You heard them, girl. Entertain us.”
Again, she did not move. It seemed easiest. His face changed again, anger pulling at his brow. He strode to her, grabbed both arms and pushed his bristling moustache in her face. “Dance, girl, or you’ll regret it.”
“He’s sure got a way with the women, ain’t he?” The voice came clearly through the murmurs. The soldiers chuckled.
“Dance, you slut!” He shoved her, spinning her around. She stumbled and sank to the ground, cowering before him. As the crowd laughed louder, he hauled her up. She hung limp in his hands, ignoring the way his fingers dug into her arms.
As the jeering increased, his breath came faster, his colour rose. He held her up to his face and shouted curses and insults. Still she refused to respond, only cringing lower. He really doesn’t mean this. It’s part of the act. He’s only trying to save my life.
Finally he calmed, looking around at the crowd.
She peered up, and realized with a shock that he was grinning.
“Well, I guess she can’t dance!”
About the Author:
Brought up in a logging camp with no electricity, Gordon Long learned his storytelling in the traditional way: at his father’s knee. He spends his time editing, publishing, travelling, sailboat racing and writing fantasy and social commentary, although sometimes the boundaries blur.
Gordon lives in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, with his wife, Linda, and their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Josh.
Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LDYUZUC
Watch the Youtube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb9gCM3G41w
Visit Gordon's blog: http://airbornpress.ca/writing/blogweb/index.php