The book of the week is one I’ve had a little while, Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn. I read one of her mysteries some time ago, in which the heroine sees ghosts, Ghost of a Chance. It was pretty good, good enough that I added her to my List. I was interested in Witchling now because, as mentioned, I’m in a groove of here-and-now urban(ish) fantasy. Sadly … This isn’t good. I’m not done yet – most of the way; I suppose I’m approaching the climax of the story (as opposed to the main character’s multitudinous climaxes) (sorry), and … This should be ramping me up to an anxiety to know how (not if) the three half-Faerie sisters at the center of the book (and assorted sex partners) are going to win the day and save the world against unimaginable odds.
The writing is not good. There’s a great deal of unaccountable repetition, much in the manner of Hell’s Kitchen: recapping what happened a few minutes ago, or what JUST HAPPENED A SECOND AGO, for the benefit of … I never can figure who these things are aimed at on the show. Really, I was here. Not suffering from catastrophic short term memory loss, I recall it. As it turns out, it’s as intensely annoying in print as it is on tv – maybe moreso, actually, because in order to get to page 100 you generally have to read the 99 preceding pages. Not always, of course; maybe Galenorn anticipated the skimming that is inevitable with the book. There’s a strange sort of sputtering stop-and-start feel to the narration, like hitting the gas to rev up to fifty and then stomping on the brakes and hitting the gas again.
I found the introduction of the main character fairly annoying: it took a very long time to learn why she was coming as such an arrogant bitch. She expresses what seems to be contempt for FBH’s (Full-Blooded Humans), at least men in terms of dating them and the ones who come seeking her out because of what she is, even though she accepted a pair of very expensive shoes from the latter. What it is that she is (besides not someone I like much) isn’t revealed for a good couple of chapters. (At least it seemed that long.)
One thing that bugged me all out of proportion was a bit toward the beginning. The situation has been outlined, and it’s already starting to look grim, so, naturally, Camille (POV character) goes shopping. She spots an ottoman in an antique shop, and likes it, but backs off when she sees that it costs $700. She and her sisters inherited money and land, she explains, and they get a bit of a salary for being operatives for the Otherworld Somethingorother, but she definitely can’t drop that much money on a footstool. Instead, she goes across the street and spends about $270 on lingerie. At least the $700 footstool would have been something all three of them would have used, and daily as opposed to whenever sluttiness was called for.
I can’t think of another book where the first-person narrator spends so very much time describing her own clothes. I’m supposed to care that she dons a lavender whathaveyou with the vintage coat and so forth and so on and on, with ankle-high boots with precarious heels? I can’t possibly care as much as she does, given that her attention is so captivated by her own clothes that she pauses at a grisly murder scene to make note that one of her boots is scuffed and she needs a new pair (never heard of polish?), and her main reaction to having been slightly possessed and beguiled into a violent and intense sexual encounter is that her clothes got muddy. If anything I’m contemptful because she’s going out where there’s bound to be some hiking involved, and she’s dumb enough to put on those heels. And it is largely in her hands that the safety of two worlds rests. Harry Dresden she ain’t.
Going back to the sluttiness: I suppose there’s a segment of the fantasy reading audience who seeks out the play-by-play stroke-for-stroke (so to speak) sex scenes. I wasn’t expecting it; it didn’t seem particularly well done; it just seemed inserted. (No matter what I say right now will sound like a double entendre.) I think they’re supposed to appear as three strong, independent, not-quite-human sisters. I see them as three slutty – no, that’s not fair, the vampire hasn’t been banging anyone (I’ll come back to that phrase) – two slutty sisters, one of whom is only newly slutty and is otherwise about twelve years old mentally (Hello Kitty pajamas?), the other, the one whose eyes – again sorry, whose lavender with silver streaks eyes we see through… she’s amusing, in that up until a few chapters in she has been chaste for a while (thank God the readers are spared that boredom!), until her astonishingly beautiful (of course) Bad Boy (sorta evil, actually) lover turns up. Then there’s the other guy… *sigh* I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to build interest in what’s going to happen when the two guys come face to face. I don’t care.
(Wait! I forgot! Vamp sister is sniffing around someone. Literally. I was right – they *are* all sluts.)
The language is annoying – not as in Blood Engines, where it was the four-letter vulgarity that bugged, but as in … you can’t do better than that? There is some four-letter vulgarity (in this case including frequent references to a male anatomical part for which surely there is a less childish word she could have used), but it’s more pervasive than that. Pratt’s book seemed to be mean-spirited but not ill-written. This is … amateurish. Camille goes about calling everyone “dude”. She’s not a cowboy, or even a cowgirl, and the book was not written at the height of the 90’s. Stop it. The slanginess doesn’t translate to good/realistic dialogue, it comes off as awkward and cliched silliness. Also, there are some bizarre phrasings; e.g.: when they call their father for help (via a mirror), the vamp sister (Menolly, and the writer needs to apologize to Anne McCaffrey for that) leans forward, her face eagerly drinking in the sights … Really. Like a moisturizer. Interesting. Most annoying to me in this department is the nickname for the bad guy: Bad Ass Luke. I mean, he doesn’t have to have a name like Voldemort (or even He Who Cannot Be Named), or The Necromancer, or anything like that, but does every character have to say the whole silly thing every single time? And I’m expected to believe that a many-hundred-year-old Faerie coined the nick? Hm.
The repeated use of “nekkid” was about as much fun as thumbtacks in my shoes, too.
The buildup to the confrontation with Bad Ass Luke is starting to grate. Yes, thanks, I remember the almost-every-page references to how bad ass he is (ohhhh! Hence the name. Got it). Yes, I remember that he attacked the ladies’ father and his squadron, and destroyed everyone but dad. Which is why I think it’s kind of humorous that dear old dad, who was spanked by the baddie in the company of said doomed squadron (all supposed to be old and powerful faeries), now expects his three offspring to take him on with a couple of other guys and win. Considering that Camille is a half-assed witch (which ranks her far below Bad Ass, obviously) whose spells apparently backfire more often than they work (and yet she keeps trying to work them, and trying bigger and more powerful things), Delilah is a were-kitty cat with no control over her change and the emotional maturity and wisdom of a tween, and Menolly is a cranky vampire with Issues… Maybe dear old dad just wants to clean up the family tree a bit. The story has done far too good a job of convincing me that Camille is absolute rubbish at witchcraft and that the world would be safer if she quit; I won’t believe in some miraculous upsurge of control and skill.
And if Luke is so very bad – sorry, Bad Ass – then why is it he’s been working purely through agents of varying potency up till this late point? Some firsthand experience of the … dude might have been effective. And if he’d tried a little harder – either concentrating those agents’ efforts or popping in briefly himself – he could have wiped out the sisters and their boytoys without too much trouble. Missed opportunities are so sad.
I may not bother finishing this if I can turn up something else (and I think I can). It’s first-person, so obviously they win; it seems idiotic that they do so, so I should want to read on to find out how. Actually, I think the only thing that could make me finish reading would be the promise that the last few chapters contain a detailed description of the fangirls who frequent Camille’s shop coming to their senses and beating her with their shoes.