Monday, May 17, 2010

The Drowning City

I've read books that at least loosely fall under the aegis of "romantic fantasy" before: stuff like Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, Stephanie Meyer. In general, I don't like it. That's not surprising; I'm really not the target audience for it. What was surprising, (to me at least) was that Amanda Downum's The Drowning City felt like an example of it. So, given that loose identification, you'll probably not be surprised if I say that I didn't really enjoy The Drowning City as much as I'd hoped to.

I don't know that it's fair to call City really a romantic fantasy, but it certainly felt like one in many ways, and it was... for lack of a better word... very girlish. Not because it had a female protagonist, but because she was a romantic fantasy protagonist. Most of the characters were emotionally very fragile, mopey and sad, and they doted on past relationships. The emphasis of the novel was on relationship building too; the plot was nominally that of a spy sent to find insurgents in a foreign city and offer them aid to distract the empire from a potential bid of conquest. However, that plot seemed to take second place to the main characters all finding potential social entanglements; friends, lovers, and family.

In spite of being a novel about social interactions, I felt that many of the characters weren't sufficiently defined for me to remember them as the novel progressed. When characters had to pop up again because of the plot, I often didn't really remember who they were very well. That question wasn't one of taste nearly as much as it was an actual flaw in the book. It wasn't particularly long; at 350 pages, with an industry average of 200 words per page, it was probably around 70,000 words? As much as I hate to say it, because I believe that the fantasy genre is still burdened with way too many overblown and bloated works, I think this novel would have benefited from several more pages of plot and character development. When things started happening, I felt myself asking, "Huh? What's going on? Who're these people again?" much too often.

I could, however, tell you about Isylt's past relationship with Kiril and her insecurity, and what her dresses looked like. And I could tell you about Xinai's period. Quite frankly, that wasn't was I was interested in.

Up next (I've already started); some Paul S. Kemp Forgotten Realms fiction.

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