Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Blood Knight; The Born Queen by Greg Keyes

The quality of writing continues to be strong in the final two books of The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone; more of the same good stuff, right up until the end...The Sefry, a humanoid race apart from humans that scream of 'Elf', get real interesting as their secret is let out. I was happy to see that while they fit the elf mold they turned out to be something greater, though we never really get to see them in their element; which might have been a great divergence in development from the otherwise standard fair.

All the characters of substantial import have been introduced by now, and I was rather sad to see that dead King William is still the only guy I really cared about. I was more detached from everyone else and had trouble investing myself in their lives and difficulty.

The music is magic thing came into it's own. I rarely knew what Keyes' literary allusions referenced despite my education in music but I know that I approach music in fiction perhaps too seriously. So perhaps the terminology used makes sense to someone from that world--or other readers. I, myself, have no idea what a voice of 'black joy' or 'a doleful grace note' sound like. A non-musical bend what does, 'eyes like green ice' mean? While the prose maybe overwrought in places, at least he's trying, and as I said in my previous 'not a commentary' Keyes' succeeds on making the genre fantasy banalities a bit more interesting than most in my opinion. To substantiate my 'overwrought' claim:

"The first bass line began, a male voice, rising and falling, the roots in the soil, the long slow dreams of trees. Then, after a few measures, a second line entered as deep in pitch but in uneasy harmony with the first: leaves rotting into soil, bones decaying into dust, and in the lowest registers the meandering of rivers and weathering of mountains." The Born Queen page 349.

What the hell does any of that mean (particularly the second half of each sentence)? I'm supposed to know what it sounds like?

The maturity of Anne, the eponymous Born Queen, has been phenomenal. Her 'growing up' is very real, both due to her experiences and Keyes' writing. Her development has been very convincing from book to book. After all that is set up and poised to take place, she has got her work cut out for her in book four and that is really where things start to fall apart.

Anne becomes unstable in many ways, and all the growth a maturity seems to vanish. She becomes a coquettish school girl rather fast--a step back for her--and indecisive where she used to be absolute. With one hundred pages left in book four I couldn't believe there wasn't a book five. There was no way that I felt Keyes' could tie things up (or even explain what the hell had happened!) in so short a remaining page count.

Primary characters start dying with astounding speed in The Born Queen. And our 'bad guys' become so weak that a decent analogy can't be made. The head-scratching, ill-explained plot events were all very interesting and great as far as story telling were concerned, but things happened so fast and were never put into context to a degree for the ending to be satisfying.

The mythical beast that had been plaguing the land are unofficial allies. Stephen, the mild mannered scholar monk, develops a multiple personality disorder. Robert and Cazio becomes irrelevant and personal animosity between Aspar and Fend, ends with the dullest of fizzles. When it was all over, I was a bit upset not because the story wasn't what I wanted, rather I felt if Keyes had developed further he is a strong enough writer to have made things feel much more organic than they did.

What initially seemed like an overwhelming amount of characters--and I still think two or three could be omitted without hurting the core story--all come into their own, and blend together wonderfully. Keyes' mapping out of the story and framework, is extraordinary. However, given the quality of his plotting of events, and the general merits of his writing I can't help but shake the feeling that what should have been a quintet was contractually obligated to stop at four.

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