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Even at just under 2 hours (audio book), I could barely finish this first installment of a new fantasy work that is being released in serialized form. As I listened, I cringed and grimaced with each awkward simile, each stereotyped character, each superfluous detail. I thought, wow, it’s so obvious this is a first novel, the bad grammar and misused words grating more and more with each passing minute.
For instance, I wondered why a “noblewoman” would describe another character as “clueless” when the rest of her speech was written in a (bad) attempt at “High English.” It’s not that I object to “clueless” as a word in general, but I do object when it is placed in the mouth of a character that is otherwise speaking English that is so stilted and Olde Fashioned that I half expected her to break into iambic pentameter at any moment. “Surely you can’t have been missing me already?” --her first sentence in the book—is a prime example.
Imagine my surprise when, upon doing a bit of research in order to finish this review, I realized that Ms. Kushner is the author of a well-loved fantasy series! I am still trying to get my mind around that piece of information, because the heavy-handed descriptions of place, the overuse of dialog and the creaky plot felt nothing like the work of someone who had already published a successful novel.
I was drawn to give this serial a try because it features not one, but three strong female protagonists, and because it purportedly deals even-handedly with queer issues. Unfortunately, I cannot get beyond the stilted writing style to listen beyond this first episode. Even though I understand that other chapters are written by other authors, this inauspicious beginning has me running to download something completely different for my next audio listening experience.
[I listened to this as an audio book. The passages about the Duchess are performed by Katherine Kellgren in a snarky and exaggeratedly aristocratic voice that I think had a lot to do with my antipathy toward the whole book. Two other narrators read other passages of the book with more naturalness but still not enough to make me want to buy Chapter Two.]
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