Sunday, July 15, 2007

Book Review: The Serpent Bride

I originally went to the library to pick up some underrated science fiction novels, but it didn't have any of the books I was looking for and I was forced to scan the New Fiction section for possibilities. I picked up The Serpent Bride because it sounded like it might be trashy fun: something on the order of Jacqueline Carey, but less porny.

When you Google "The Serpent Bride," the first result is a Harry Potter fanfic in which the author misspells Ginny Weasley's name multiple times in the first paragraph. Despite this, and despite my not having read the fic in question, I would probably recommend the story over the novel.

Things in this book that are more awful than Ginny/Draco:

  • Schemes to save the world that require forced marriages and involuntary pregnancies, which of course turn to love.

  • A southern place called Isembaard with a magical ruler.

  • An evil sentient glass pyramid. (Steve's reaction: "You know what would be better? A talking pie! That solves crimes!")

  • Birdmen with names like "WolfStar," "StarDrifter" and "StarWeb," some of whom can work magic by tapping the power of the "Star Dance."

  • The mortal incarnations of Light and Water, who are allegedly attempting to avert Armageddon, making rookie mistakes like trusting birdmen crossbred with innately evil wraiths, not killing the crazy guy they know is obsessed with the evil pyramid, and breaking up the forced marriage they so carefully orchestrated (because hey, mortal incarnations of Water have needs, too).

  • A female character has her position ripped from her, her child murdered, and is brutally gang-raped as a result of the actions of one character. She then falls in love with him.

  • Repeated grandfather-granddaughter incest.

  • People who sleep with each other because "blood calls to blood," not out of any conceivable motivation, because that is what the nonsensical plot requires.
The goofy names and CamelCase alone (StarDrifter? I think that was the name of a My Little Pony) made me want to throw the book across the room, but for some sick reason I kept reading, expecting that surely things would start to make sense soon. At first I was cutting it some slack because I thought it was by a new author, but then I realized she had published six other books in the same world. Six times times before, some editor has read a manuscript with orange-haired, purple-eyed winged sorcerers who screw their relatives and thought: $$$! This is a sign of the coming apocalypse. In fact, that makes The Serpent Bride the seventh sign, so get under your desks, children, because the end is nigh.

As even an animated critic would understand, it's a lot less fun to write a positive review than a negative one. I also read The Lies of Locke Lamora recently and enjoyed it, but I haven't written a post yet because it's more difficult to explain why a book is good than why it's bad. I may do a joint review of it and its soon-to-be-released sequel. In the meantime, read it, or some of the books in the Volokh thread, or even fanfiction by ESL students. But please, do not read this book.

UPDATE: Aspiring authors: Check out this filleting of a recent YA fantasy novel. Take heart that if these books can get published, so can yours.
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