Anyway, full rant later. Here's a representative bit.
(For the record, Dr. Przybyszewski is a professor of history, not of art history.)
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(some parts of this were originally posted as comments over at James Nicoll’s.)
Do not buy this terrible, terrible book. I spent $1.99 on it, and that money would have been better used had it been sliced into a fine chiffonade and sprinkled over the cat dish.
Sword of the Lamb begins with an infodump. Not just any infodump, but five pages (all pages are denominated in Kindle screens, sorry) of Lord Elor Ussher Peladeen writing a letter stating the following:
You’d think all this could be wrapped up in a manly and understated page, perhaps two if you wanted to let the upper lip tremble a trifle. But, no, we have to hear about the Crest Ring of Peladeen that he took from his father’ dead hand, and how his wife wouldn’t go to her relatives instead of dying, but they probably wouldn't take her in anyway. Then again, there’s his son, but his wife thinks he’d probably die anyway too. Oh, and the soon-to-be-dead guy is on “the Helen estate on Castor. That planet is less hospitable to human life, and invading armies, than Pollux.” We never hear from this character again. Five pages of text to establish that there’s a society of the Phoenix rebelling against the lords of the Concord. But, hey, every book needs some setup.
The next chapter is extracts from the journal of Richard Lamb. He, too, is about to die, an old man at age 19. Once upon a time he saw a Bond (peasant) revolt, and it was awful. Okay, I like Richard Lamb, he seems interesting, I’ll stay.
Next we're in the head of Theron Rovere. He is a teacher who is being fired by the noble family he works for. Theron has bravely taken responsibility for a paper he did not write, but which would cause his protege, who did, to be punished. As a result, Theron is being handed over to the cops in his protege’s place. After the conversation with the parents, Theron heads off to bid farewell to his students, the heirs to the house. Before he tells his students that he must leave them forever, Theron makes with a pop history quiz. The action -- such as it’s been to this point -- stops dead for thirty-nine (39) pages of world-building. All of those thirty-nine pages are exchanges like
“What stars has the Concord explored?”
“Kruger 60 A and B, Van Maanen’s star, and Altair.”
Alexand added, “The Concord also sent expeditions back to Sirius and Procyon.”
“That’s right, Alex," Rovere said. "When was the last Concord stellar expedition?”
Did I mention 39 pages? The only events so far in this very long book (we’re 6% in) is that one character has written a letter saying he’s about to die, another character has remembered a peasant revolt, and a teacher has talked with his employers about why he’s being handed over to the police. Then we get the pop quiz. This is the sort of book where the author has worked very, very hard on the world-building, and she’s damned if you’re going to overlook it. If she had to think it out, you have to read it.
75% of the way in the hero has joined the Resistance mentioned in the opening infodump. He asks “Exactly where am I? Geographically, that is.”
“You’re in the southern hemisphere of Pollux, latitude about twenty-five degrees, longitude thirty degrees west of the Leda meridian. You’re on -- or rather, under -- the island of Fina, a name which also applies to our little community. It’s one of a number of small islands at the southern tip of the West Pangaean continent. We’re near the Comargian Straits between the Selamin Sea and the Polluxian Ocean.”
Right about here is where a normal person would be breaking eye contact and remembering that he’d left the hydro-fluid running in the closed-circuit electrostatic sanitizer. Not our hero. “That suggests more questions, such as how did I get from my touch-down point near the equator to twenty-five degrees south in the ten minutes in which I was drugged?”
Such a good question. Maybe something is about to happen.
“But I assume that’s one of the questions you can’t answer now, or I wouldn’t have been drugged.” He smiled in response to her brief laugh, then, “At least I’m oriented spatially now. …”
And there, I fear, I must leave them; my tears are shorting out my Kindle.
But wait, there’s more! Note the deft and sensitive handling of ethnicity in the future.
"James Neeth Cameroodo, Lord of Mars, tall, stringently lean, the hint of negroid structure in his dark face revealing his racial origins as the leopard of the House crest revealed its geographic origins in Terra's Sudafrika."
"...the man who entered was a marked contrast to Cameroodo. Sato Lao Shang's racial heritage was oriental; he was slight of body with wizened features and a balding head, yet he carried himself with profound dignity."
The love interest has "Shang heritage" and looks like "a Selaneen doll; something so exquisitely fragile it should be encased in plasex as the finest Selaneens always were." She, and the hero's mother, are smart women who pay attention to the world; all the other upper-class ladies are stupid and talk about nothing except fashion and love affairs.
More quotations, because I don’t see why you shouldn’t suffer as I have. There are nuggets of characterization like
"Ben was silent, thinking of Rich, she knew, the sadness in his eyes out of character in that tough face that usually epitomized so fully the SSB major, even when he was out of uniform, as he was now."
“They were all uncomfortable, even Marien Dyce, Chief of Computer Systems, whose sturdy figure and matronly features always made her seem immune to uncertainty.”
In a tender moment, our hero is trying to obliterate himself in meaningless sex with Elianne, who is hot but stupid.
"he looked into her eyes, cloudy green, and she smiled; a slow, sentient smile." I assume this is a thinko for “sinuous” or possibly “simian”.
"He reached out for that consummatory limbo, past conscious reaction, past thought, in extremis, where the center of motivation dissipated into every cell of his body, and he no longer had to think--only feel and act and react and act and feel; a complex of instantaneous perception and response, his consciousness so narrowed there was no awareness of Elianne except as an inseverable adjunct of his own body."
It’s so hard to decide whether to act, react, or feel in any given situation. Good thing he’s past conscious reaction. Elsewhere in the book, our hero is overcome by the emotional horrors of his situation
“He recoiled, quivering, assaulted with peals of sardonic laughter. And what merciless god sent this clawing beast -- the black angel of grief?
"The ebony wings pounded the air, the talons locked in his flesh, and if he didn’t scream, it was only because his lungs couldn’t find air enough. And if he didn’t weep, it was only because he hadn’t yet surrendered. Tears would be the white flag of defeat.
"And death … or something like death.
"Something he couldn’t name.”
All of that was a metaphor, by the way. I’d have been ecstatic if there’d been an actual clawing beast, and not just because our hero’s twisted limbs would now be carpeting the page like tortured driftwood. Oh, damn, I think Wren‘s writing style may be catching.
In summary: the writing is wretched, both at the sentence level and at the structural level. The characters are uninteresting. The worldbuilding is omnipresent and tedious beyond belief. This book is Book One of the Phoenix Legacy; if I were you, I'd take that as a threat.
George RR Martin has said that omitting scenes of rape and sexual violence from the epic Game of Thrones series "would have been fundamentally false and dishonest", as fans express mounting concerns about the graphic way certain scenes from Martin's novels have played out in the television adaptation.
...But Martin told the New York Times that although his books are epic fantasy, they are based on history (the series is loosely inspired by the Wars of the Roses). And "rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day"."To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too). Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil," the author said.History, according to Martin, is "written in blood", and although Westeros – the fictional continent where the series is set – is not "the Disneyland Middle Ages", it is "no darker nor more depraved than our own world".