Chapter 1:

Hello there, and welcome again to the Plane of Literature, where the evil wizards have trapped us and are forcing us to read books that are of dubious enjoyment value. Since we’ve had a request to stop doing The Dark Griffin, the wizards have sent us a new book—and they promise us that it’s really, REALLY bad this time. It’s called “The Pearls” by a certain Deborah Chester, and we’re going to hold it up to the magic mirror for all you folks back in the sanity of your homes:

With that out of the way, let’s get on with the book blurb, shall we?

“Lady Lea—beloved sister of the Emperor Caelan—is beautiful, good-hearted, and magically gifted, with the ability to see into the hearts of others. And when what she sees moves her to tears, those tears are transformed into flawless pearls.

Lord Shadrael, dispatched by his warlord brother to kidnap a member of the royal family, chooses Lea. A hardened warrior, he believes himself impervious to her powerful gifts. But on their journey though the fearsome Hidden Ways of the shadow world, he is drawn to Lea’s goodness and inner strength…

In Shadrael, Lea can foresee her destiny, even as she anticipates great grief. For ultimately, if she is to save Shadrael from his own darkness, she will have to choose between her brother and her abductor…”

Now let’s see. There are already a few warning points here, and if I’d seen this book at the library without intentionally looking for something to pick apart, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. (By the way, if you are wondering why I’m bothering to pick it apart then, 1. Schadenfreude and 2. using the mistakes of others to teach readers what I believe is stupid). Still, here we are with this book, and let’s see:

*First off. Massive Purity Sue alert. There’s no attempt at pretense here—we’re explicitly told all these things about her, to the whole “I cry pearls” thing. Traditionally, it’s diamonds, but what the hell. The problem is that this ability suggests that the Sue will never be wrong about anyone, that her perceptions will equate to objective reality (thanks to the failsafe of the whole crying-pearls-thing), and to quote Limyaael, when your character’s perceptions equal objective reality in the book the only thing you can do is draw and quarter her.

*Following up from the whole purity sue thing, I don’t like the way said quite-possibly-purity-sue is described explicitly as being having positive traits. It suggests that whoever who was assigned to write the blurb either 1) is reflecting the book’s style of prose 2) didn’t have enough confidence in the characters to bring out their traits that the readers need to be “primed” through the blurb, or 3) just didn’t care, neither of which bode well for the book.

*And of course, there’s nothing remotely new in this blurb—or at least, that I can see. By all appearances, it’s your average high fantasy romance with a bit of action thrown in to give it a bit of plot framework. I’ll freely admit to having a tendency to shy away from fantasy romance, but I do read it if it’s well done (unlike a LOT of paranormal romances nowadays). But this—it’s all been done before, without even “hey, it’s a vampire!” or “hey, it’s a werewolf/djinn/ghost/angel/random mythic yet hunky and studly male who is ripping off my bodice!” to try and make it new! (And I’m not complaining that it’s not paranormal romance, but you get what I mean).

Of course, the blurb could be completely misleading; we’ve seen that before with Touched by Venom. But what we have so far is hardly enthusing, since the blurb suggests that rather than being internal, the problems faced by the characters are mainly external, which doesn’t lend itself to good character development. and I could be utterly and completely wrong and the book could actually be good, which to be honest I hope it is, but at this rate I wouldn’t be betting my lunch money on it.

Anyways, let’s get on with the chapter proper.

We open in the crossroads and apparently border town of Kanidalon (since customs offices are mentioned), whereupon we get the obligatory page of description about the town. I understand that this author is rather established and can afford to start slow, but really, just because you can doesn’t mean you should, for the sake of the readers. Of course, Kandalon appears as your stereotypical dark and seedy town—where there’s plenty of crime, everything can be had for a price, I’m sure you know that stereotype that I don’t have to write out the paragraphs of exposition dedicated to it.

Then on the next page, the scene shifts to a small nameless village somewhere close to Kandalon itself, making me wonder why we wasted all that time describing Kandalon proper, and it is into this village that the evil™ warlord Lord Vordachai rides into with his minions.

Of course, we must have some form of exposition about him, and so we get another page of it. Of course, Vordachai has to look the part of the evil™ warlord, complete with being big, brutish, having lots of spikes of villiany on his weapons and armour, having “dark, beady eyes”.

Victor would like to file a formal protest.

As I’ve said before, the problem I have with this sort of labelling is that it doesn’t encourage readers to think or form their own opinions of characters based on their words and actions. Instead, it attempts to force readers into accepting characters as the author wants them to be seen through the use of established stereotypes, and that annoys me to no end. It’s bad enough when the author tries to arm-twist me into hating someone through the gratituous hurting of children, but it’s absolutely and completely disgusting when physical appearances are used.

Of course, the first thing Lord Vordachai does is ask for the headman and demand to know how many inns and/or drinking establishments there are in this dusty little village, which by the author’s own admission, is “tucked away in the foothills”, “hard to find”, and “a place no prudent man entered if he valued his life or money purse”. (Pages 1-2).

Guess what? There are three. Now, I could better accept it if there was heavy traffic through the nameless dusty village, but there isn’t. The only people who come here are criminals, which means most of the market is domestic—so who stays in the inns?

Oh wait. Inns are there. They’re part of the scenery. Much like the ale which is served in them on the next page. Or the solders in them playing drakshera, which apparently is a game in which you balance a dagger by its point on the tip of your tongue without your tongue splitting.

Is that even possible?

That aside, though, I’ve flipped a few pages forward and noticed a rampant tendency to call rabbits smeerps—quails aren’t quails. Oh no, that would be too mundane, boring, and clear. No, we’ve got to muddle it up by calling them “qualli”. Fine. Whatever. I don’t care. So long as it doesn’t get too confusing for everyone involved. But please, do try and remember this cartoon whenever you see a made-up word in a fantasy novel:

Yeah. Enough complaining. Finally, we get to see one of our main characters, who is Shadrael. He’s sitting in the inn nursing a drink when one of his spies (who, alas, is described as a “rat-faced man”. Because people who look like rats are rats who rat people out. Oh look, I made a joke. How clever am I.) comes up and tells him Lord Vordachai’s in town. Hooray. So Shadrael’s all unconcerned as his brother call out for him, with a large number of insults and expletives mixed in (how else would you know he’s a stupid, loud buffoon?), and eventually after a stupid game of Silly Buggers they go out to talk some, whereupon we get the obligatory paragraphs of description regarding Shadrael which I will summarise for the sake of your continued alertness:

*Shadrael used to serve the shadow god. The implications of this are unclear.

*He is a seasoned soldier—well, technically the term is donare, which I suppose given the context means a very special soldier of some sort (how exactly is as yet unclear), who has passed into army legend by daring to take the Kiss of Eternity, a.k.a. shul-drakshera

All right, this is getting a little more than stupid. How can I be properly impressed by this whatever shul-drakshera if I don’t even know what it entails and the risks involved? Of course, contextually I can tell it was something dangerous, but compare “I did something really, really dangerous” and “I went out and single-handedly wrestled the nine-eyed cyclops of the Dank Dark Tower of Doom”. It pays to be specific here, because with all these stupid made-up terms it’s just annoying.

Anyways, the next twelve pages can be summarised as such, because really, there’s a LOT of Silly Buggers being played while the below conversation is going on. All right, I understand the brothers don’t like each other. All right, I already know Vordachai is your sad, stereotypical buffoon. There’s no need to stomp all over the pacing and have them bicker at every possible turn like Designated Love Interests, although I suppose it might be interesting if they were Designated Love Interests. Wouldn’t that be—ahem—interesting.

I’m not complaining about proper character development, but there is a point where it becomes padding to thicken the book, and this has definitely crossed that line by slowing the plot to an abyssmal crawl.

*Vordachai is resentful of the fact that the previous emperor’s promise to let the province of Ulinia become independent has not been fulfilled. Comes up with a plot to kidnap the current emperor’s sister who is travelling, and hold her for ransom in exchange for the province’s independence. Hurrah.

*This is where Shadrael comes in—for a price, he and his minions are to kidnap her en route. A letter will be dispatched to implicate someone else as the culprits, and Vordachai will put himself in place as her rescuer and save her and so get the freedom of his province as a reward. Hurrah hurrah.

There’s still a LOT of bickering, but eventually Shadrael agrees and that’s the end of the chapter.

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  1. LucyWannabe on 21 August 2009, 11:41 said:

    Dear lord…it sounds like a story I once wrote when I was 15…

    A fact that is not encouraging.

  2. Anonymous45 on 21 August 2009, 12:01 said:

    “when what she sees moves her to tears, those tears are transformed into flawless pears”

    You know Lord Shadrael was so evil he made Lea cry all the time he could get so rich from selling her tears…

    Hey, if you went traveling and she was your companion, and you ran out of money for food, all you need to do is make her cry, and sell the pearls and you’ll have a royal feast…

    And then they could do a game show, like “Who wants to be a Millionaire” where the contestant who made Princess Lea cry the most. The winner would get the tears she cried out and sell them and make big bucks!

    I wonder if you take to say LA, or Mexico City will the pollution make her cry black pearls? Those are like worth so much. And if you want pink pearls, you’d probably have to put her on a diet of krill and plankton like a flamingo.

    And if her kingdom ever goes into a recession, she could pull it out by crying over its fate.
    Man, this is arguably the most useful princess I’ve ever seen…

  3. Fauna on 21 August 2009, 14:18 said:

    Oh, Anonymous, that was hilarious. Someone should write that anti-fanfiction ASAP.

  4. Aquanaut on 21 August 2009, 14:47 said:

    So huh … What’s going on through the first chapter ?

    The cover, despite too shiny to my taste, is allright. It isn’t a great cover, but ain’t the worse either. It’s just feel inappropriate for the premise of this book.

  5. Puppet on 21 August 2009, 20:03 said:

    Good review, overall 9/10. =)

  6. Kyllorac on 21 August 2009, 22:08 said:

    Is the name of the town Kanidalon or Kandalon? Does the brother have name? I thought he was Vordachai on first read through.

    The book blurb made me want to run far, far away. You did a pretty good job pointing out all the reasons why. XD

    Anyway, at least this Vordachai person has a reasonable motive and plan. Of course, the plan is doomed to fail… And I can already see Miss Purity Sue and her Designated Love Interest with a Dark and Troubled Past find a way to be together without any real unhappiness on Lea’s part.

  7. Snow White Queen on 22 August 2009, 00:22 said:

    @ Anonymous: That is hilarious. Someone should write that. I mean, you could really get a lot out of it. How would a girl feel if she’s forced to cry all the time so people can harvest her tears? They might do it by insulting her, so she might become severely psychologically scarred. Her tears might even lose their potency…or- there’s so many things you can do!

    Dude, that’s AWESOME!!!

  8. Artimaeus on 23 August 2009, 14:31 said:

    Or she could learn how to cry on command, like most child actors/actresses.

    A fine review. It seems like a formulaic romance story set in the middle ages, with all of the dull trappings. Purity uses, designated love interests, and shallow villains. Has anyone heard about this author before (“The national bestselling author of The Sword, the Ring, and the Chalice Trilogy”)?

  9. Danielle on 23 August 2009, 18:42 said:

    Wow. That story sounds like one I wrote when I was 15 and still in my bad LOTR fanfiction phase. Only this one has more made-up words.

    And like Anonymous said, that is the most useful princess ever! What is this Dark Lord Vordechai going to do with her, anyway? Maybe he’ll take her to a really sad movie and collect all her tears so he can buy his province. Or maybe he’ll pretend to fall in love with her so that whenever the cops are after him, he can just tell her about the problems he’s facing, make her cry, and bail himself out of prison. And when he wants to buy her pretty things, all he has to do is make her cry and then make a necklace out of her tears!

    Or maybe he’ll just pretend to rescue her and get the freedom of his province as a reward because he’s an idiot.

  10. Anonymous45 on 23 August 2009, 22:08 said:

    Lmao omg that’s even better! XDDD

  11. Danielle on 23 August 2009, 22:57 said:

    bows Thank you, thank you, thank you very much….

    Hmm…what else could he use her for? He could make her cry and then use her tears as a dowry….if he were a bit more altruistic, he could tell her about the plight of people in Darfur and sell her tears for relief money….he could listen to her cry about the puppy she lost when she was four and then use her tears to buy her another one….

  12. Griffin on 24 August 2009, 12:01 said:

    I’ve just got to wonder… If she cries pearls, how exactly does that happen? It says “And when what she sees moves her to tears, those tears are transformed into flawless pearls.” At what point exactly do the tears turn to pearls? I’m assuming she weeps normal tears, and then they transform… But I could not help but ponder – if they come out as pearls, its really got to hurt for those pearls to come out. Or then I picture this princess with massive tear ducts from whence the pearls flow.

    Honestly, I was shaking my head at “beautiful, good-hearted, and magically gifted” (which somehow reminded me of a certain Bella Swan?). If she’s beautiful AND good-hearted, how is she supposed to grow? Oh, and she is magically gifted. How? She sees people’s hearts, and she weeps… pearls. Gar.

    I honestly don’t remember much of the synopsis after that. I was too flabbergasted. Pearls? PLEASE.

  13. Anonymous45 on 25 August 2009, 00:39 said:

    Meybe she’ll grow ugly and evil?
    Judging by logic and the given cover, as a normal story involves a conflict, I get the impression she will be seeing some very extremely ugly things during her rescue (one of them probably being Lord Shardael no lol jk), I mean like mutilated dead people and burnt she will probably be crying A LOT, so just think what crying a mountain of pearls daily will do to your system—no doubt you will develop nutrient deficiencies..
    And so she’ll see she is turning ugly and become upset and get low self-esteem and get angry… and then we’ll get to see her ugly side… which will lead to her being rejected by society, so she will cry more pearls out of pity for herself, which will exacerbate her malnourishment…
    …..hey…O.o maybe she’ll die from it…

    It could be a tale of perfection screwing up itself… how tragic…

  14. Danielle on 25 August 2009, 13:25 said:

    Oooohhh….when she shows her ugly side, does she weep black pearls? Then maybe Vordechai or whatever his name is could keep taunting her about her appearance and she’d keep showing her ugly side. Then, when she looks in the mirror and sheds all those selfish, vanity-inspired tears, they’ll turn into rare and valuable black pearls! So it could also be a tale of a greedy miser and a vain little snot screwing up their own fairy tale.

  15. SMARTALIENQT on 26 August 2009, 01:17 said:

    But as stated before with the Varden and the lace, the price of pearls would go way down, since they’re so easy to get. Want to ruin your enemy nation’s economy? Send them Lea, she’ll kill it for you after watching Bambi.

  16. Danielle on 26 August 2009, 13:18 said:

    I think it’d be more interesting if Lea’s pearls were like leprechaun gold in Harry Potter—they disappear after a few hours.

    Hey….then Lea and Vordechai could become like a medieval fantasy version of Bonnie and Clyde—Lea cries a bit, sheds a few pearls, they hawk them for some quick cash and skip town before they disappear! Their faces could be on every wanted poster in every village, but since everyone knows that people in the Middle Ages were crummy artists, it would just be two really shifty-looking stick figures!

  17. Anonymous45 on 26 August 2009, 16:39 said:

    No they’d probably make religious-looking sculptures of them and put them in every town…

    ..And then Jack Sparrow comes after her trying to get the Black Pearls from her ugly crying…

  18. Danielle on 26 August 2009, 16:49 said:

    And then she could get kidnapped by the undead pirates! And they’d try and collect her pearly tears, but they’d disappear and so then they’d kill her. The end.

  19. Kyllorac on 28 August 2009, 15:14 said:

    Someone has got to write that. XD

  20. Anonymous45 on 28 August 2009, 19:53 said:

    I agree. :)

  21. Aldrea945 on 16 December 2009, 15:09 said:

    Cool reveiw. You lost me after the back part though.

    Princess: I’m perfect! I cry pearls!

    Me: Cry then.

    Princess: Why?

    Me: Knocks her upside the head. Because I want to buy the White House! Duh!

    Princess: Oh. Cries a single tear. There.

    Me: Looks at it. I need more than that!

    Princess: You’re not getting any.

    Me: Stares blankly then looks like a maniac. Cuts her open. White, black, pink, and red pearls explode around me, filling a dump truck. Thank you. Kicks the body off a cliff. I’M RRRRIIIIICCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

  22. fffan on 20 February 2010, 01:42 said:

    @ kyllorac: hear hear

  23. fffan on 22 February 2010, 03:44 said:

    Harry Potter has hundreds of made up words and it’s not what I would call a bad book series.

  24. Kyllorac on 22 February 2010, 09:18 said:

    But in Harry Potter, the words are all consistent and used for a reason, not for the heck of it, which is the case here. A lot of made up words in fantasy tend to be the apparent result of the author mashing keys on the keyboard and randomly substituting them in for other words in the story.