Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chronicles of Elantra

Today's review is going to be a little odd, in that I neither remember nor care much about any of the series of . . . I don't really remember how many books, that I'm kind of sort of reviewing. Confused yet? Annoyed with me for wasting your time? Enjoying the experience? If yes, yes, and yes, then run right out and buy any one of Michelle Sagara's series of fantasy/romance/word jumble books, the Chronicles of Elantra.* You'll love 'em.

Book one, Cast in Shadow, introduces nineteen year old (ish) Kaylin Neya**, an intrepid magical police force type person with a shadowed past. (See what I just did there?) She lives in a lame, dirty city ruled by people who are also kind of dragons or something, and yet they generally take human form; you can tell they're dragons by the crazy eyes and the fact that they talk even more like cryptic douchebags than everyone else in these books, quite an accomplishment I might add. Then, there are bird people, who are somewhat less messy and squawking than they could be, and some people who are also some kind of cat? Or something?

On the outskirts of this hot mess of a town are the fiefs, basically slums ruled by evil fairies. Or maybe they're demons. Anyway, one of the fairies, Lord Darkface or Nightshade or Doombottom or some such, seems to have a thing for Kaylin, although no one can really tell why, and at some point he leaves a small mark on her cheek to prove his lurve. (I think it was her cheek, could be shoulder. Doesn't really matter.) Then, from out of the deep, dark, foul-smelling depths of Kaylin's childhood comes her old friend Severn, who supposedly murdered two girls who were also their childhood friends, because some kind of magical tattoos appeared on Kaylin's body. Or something? Then they bicker and glare at one another, and it's obvious that he's in love with her. No one cares. She has a friend on the magical cop force who's a giant cat. Again, no one cares.

This sort of nonsense continues throughout books two, three, four, and five, at which point I threw in the Magical Towel of Varlon. Various types of mysterious, ancient magic are unleashed, caught, used, exploded, tattooed on people, and wondered at, but never, never are they explained. I'm quite seriously attempting, dear readers, to provide a coherent description of these books, but they just, don't, make, any, sense. The most magical thing about this series is the way Sagara managed to type so many words without any of them stringing together to form meaning. Sentences, yes. Paragraphs, even. But no story.

Here's a sample page to demonstrate what I mean, and guys, I opened a random book from the series to a random page.*** I swear to God:

     "That's why he's trying to die. That's why he's trying to shed his name. It's not for power," she added. "It's not for the freedom from the tyranny of the name. It's for freedom from the man who holds it. Don't you understand? He's lost his name. He's trying to divest himself of it in the only way he can because of the leoswuld. He's doing it because he knows he can't be a vessel for anything if he's . . . undying. Whatever gift the Lord of the High Court gives, he won't give to the Lord of the Green."
     The Lord of the Green looked at her. Only at her.
     But he did not deny the truth of her words.^
     "He can't kill himself," she said quietly. "He doesn't have that much control anymore. I think he tried to make you kill him." She added, "I hold your name." Speaking to the younger brother, holding the gaze of the older.^^
     The Lord of the West March stiffened; she'd almost forgotten Andellen was present. But this was important enough that it almost didn't matter.^^^
     "If you wanted to be free of that, how would you do it?"
     "I would kill you."
     "And that would work?"
     "You're sure?"
     "Then find the person who holds his name and kill him."
     "That, kyuthe, is why you are here."
     "In truth I cannot think of the man who could hold my brother's name with any certainty. But there is one who must be able to," he added grimly. "And if I cannot free my brother, it will end here."
     The words made no sense. On so many levels.

^ Do people generally contradict whoever they're looking at?
^^ Good writers are allowed to break the rules of grammar. Ahem.
^^^ You know what? Never mind.
^^^^ Given the indeterminate number of people present and the lack of speech tags, and the fact that she just told him she's the one who holds his name, or was that someone else? Anyway, I think What? sums it up adequately.

Your perfectly fair question -- Why, oh why, Indiscriminate Reader, did you so indiscriminately read five of these muddled European fairy tale/furry convention/teen angst/italics party/lack of speech tags things? -- can be answered easily: I kept thinking that something had to happen. Kaylin would get in a furry cat suit and get it on with Lord Doombottom, or she would italicize all the magic words on her legs and get fired from the copy desk, or maybe Michelle Sagara would someday hold the name of a competent editor and force him to be an undying vessel for her next novel. Anything.

All that happened was that my patience ran out somewhere in the middle of book five, Cast in Silence. The title is misleading. When I cast it across the room, it made a very satisfying thunk.

Your other perfectly fair question -- Why did you bother to review these? -- can be answered simply as well: like a PSA, I'm hoping that this review keeps kids off heroin and away from these utterly dull and useless hack jobs. I take that back. Do as much heroin as you want, just stay off the Elantra, man . . .

One star.

* Yes, she did get that from a fantasy name generator at the Wizards of the Coast website, now that you ask.

** Totally just had to look up the character's name on the author's website; you never know where the name generator's going to place all the y's.

*** Cast in Courtlight, this edition, page 226.

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