Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!
Sometimes, I really want a book to be better than it is, because I know in my heart, that it could have been. Emissary is one such book. I say this because Locke is a beautiful illusionist with words, there were scenes and imagery that made this forest dweller's heart sing with the beauty of it. There is real power in the way Locke slots his words together, everything vibrates from the page with a really vivid picture of the world and the power of magic. However, as beautiful as it was, the backbone of it was missing.
For the first part of the novel the plot drifted about like it was caught in a breeze. Sometimes it just staggered forward without glancing about. So many people and places to visit, so little time, not a tap root laid down in any of them. I wanted some more background, I wanted to be submerged into the Elves, the Ashanta, the Wizards, but it was all just surface work. I wanted to experience the battles like I was on the field, but the protagonists have this annoying habit of blacking out or being pulled away after the initial lead in and waking up in a totally different locations!
Many fantasy writers might've created a whole chunk of a series using just the groundwork presented in the first half of this book. It was all there, but none of it was explored with enough depth to grab my attention. I really wanted it to! I could have meandered about in Locke's words for an age, but he kept stealing them away from me with pacing problems and a constant feeling of being pulled away from what might've been a truly beautiful experience.
The characters were really hard to fathom, because they all seemed to have the emotional depth of peripheral bit part players. Apart from the secondary protagonist, who seems to get a much better showing when it comes to her background story and motivations, I didn't have an empathetic connection to anybody. The main protagonist was so emotionally blank, I didn't understand why he did any of the things he set about doing. He has a purpose, just no personality. He'd have these isolated temper tantrums that had no lead up. Oh, so you were angry about that! Ok then, you bottled that up so well, I didn't even know you had realised the event occurred, there was certainly no indication of it! Show me what's rolling about in that mind! We are mere readers, not omnipotent gods.
And the romance (or lack there of) might be better left out if you aren't prepared to lay any real ground work. It would've worked just as well without it, and my poor fool heart wouldn't have felt so insulted by the result.
Everything was just way too easily completed and defeated. The magic was akin to a tap that's just turned on, one minute nothing, the next he's the most powerful magic wielder in the world! Ok, I can handle that on a cursory level. Need to advance the plot? Just use that unmatched, undefeatable magic! There's a foe that needs vanquishing? I have a plan, gather round troops!
But why do the troops even trust you after so much apparent oppression, when they don't even know you? Everybody is almost instantly loyal and dropping to one knee. Even the horse, dog and the most reclusive and secretive races in the world! It's all so black and white. The evil overlord, is just evil. No way or wherefore, he seems to exist solely to give the storyline something to strive for. By the end I was almost begging for a betrayal to give some depth perception, when usually I find the plot device overused and irritating.
I need some sense of struggle or my eyes wander. If there is no real sense of danger because there is no belief defeat might ever come, I need some other source of interest. And apart from the beautiful wording, there wasn't anything with enough gravity to truly be interesting. The only thing I really had stake in (the main characters lineage) was blocked and evaded because the world's fate is more important. Apparently!
I did like the ending few chapters. I felt some relief in the protagonists predicament. Finally, he has a real sense of humanity without a all powerful weapon to combat the actual emotion. It was still trite (lucky for the good people's love), but for a few minutes, I cared.
I just think the editor needed to prod Locke and say, yes you write with intelligence and beauty, but you need to use it on the whole book, characters, plot line, pacing, everywhere! Depth, it needs depth! Get dirty with it!
I just realised something as I wrote 'get dirty with it'.. Huh! I have actually seen this stylisation a few times before. It has some of the the hallmarks of Christian lite fantasy. *wanders off and checks out Revell Publishing*. There you go then! Now it makes more sense.. The romance definitely makes more sense.
Right, so if you are reading this because it is a Christian published lite fantasy, scrub the whole review. I didn't read or review it within that subgenres specific outlook! Even though it still doesn't change my point of view, it may absolutely change others that are regular readers of that fantasy category.
If you want a read with grit, grey areas and a real sense of struggle, this probably won't be for you, though if you like it smooth with the overall sense of inevitable victory check it out, Locke does have a way with words.
I'll give it 3 and a half stars: 2 for the beautiful writing and 1 because the elves are mint green.. Ok, ok, not really.. And 1 because it is a decent enough read and half for the ending.
Hardcopy worthy? Not for me, no. I wish it was though. I kind of think Locke's writing style would be better suited to a different style of Fantasy. Something more story driven, less sword and sorcery. A bit more Hobb, a bit less Eddings.. Hmm. It'd probably sit within the category better without stunting the story line as well. I'm just rambling. It's how I roll..