Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Slow Going - A Progress Report

It's been slow going on two books that I've been reading, Slathbog's Gold and The Crown Conspiracy. Both of them have two primary problems, in my opinion. Interestingly, they both share the same problems.

The first is a lack of women. In Conspiracy, there are four characters traveling together. In Slathbog, there are eight. I really haven't had patience with such female-exclusionary plots since The Lord of the Rings. (And to be honest, it made me impatient, as well.) I mean, come on. Eight characters, and not one of them could have been a female? Not even a token female? I don't find eight men traveling together very interesting to read about, even if one of them is a boy from our world. I don't find four men traveling together interesting to read about either, but at least Conspiracy does have a major female character.

Both books might have been a bit more interesting if they both didn't also suffer from the second problem.

Lack of conflict. Conflict propels a story along and makes it interesting. In Slathbog, the eight characters get along perfectly. If there is any dissension, it hasn't shown up in 91 pages so far. They just travel and talk, and show the new kid cool things. Whatever the leader says goes with hardly a murmur of discontent. And there's no sign of a woman anywhere. Conspiracy is a bit better at conflict, and I have gotten a lot further along in this novel, but I still think there should have been a lot more tension, especially between a certain royal and his two abductor/rescuers. And I would have liked to seen some conflict between the rescuers as well. There is some interesting conflict elsewhere in the story, but a case of authorial bait-and-switch made me put the book down for a while.

These two novels are also heavily Tolkein-derived. This probably accounts for the male-centric plot. Both have elves and dwarves. One has a dragon. Elves and dwarves definitely seem to be out these days, with the notable exception of books for the Young Adult and Middle Grade age groups (which Slathbog is). The only exception I can think of is Magic Lost, Trouble Found and its sequels--and I bet Lisa Shearin has a lot of YA readers. The only other new book I've read recently with elves in it was Griffin's Daughter. And that was published by a small press, like The Crown Conspiracy.

This isn't really a review--more like a progress report. I'm sure I'll finish Conspiracy--things are heating up for the final conflict now--but I'm not so certain about Slathbog. There's just not much to interest me there. And The Stranger by Max Frei is calling.


Tim of Angle said...

"In Slathbog, the eight characters get along perfectly. If there is any dissension, it hasn't shown up in 91 pages so far. They just travel and talk, and show the new kid cool things. Whatever the leader says goes with hardly a murmur of discontent. And there's no sign of a woman anywhere."

Perhaps there's a connection.

Tia Nevitt said...

I'm willing to concede that, at least to a point. But come on. Men grumble and fuss and squabble and compete just as much as women do. And a group of men who get along perfectly just ain't much fun to read about.

Even the Knights of the Round Table were wont to pull out a sword at the slightest provocation. Sometimes, they didn't even need provocation--they just challenged everyone they came across. And look how timeless that tale is.

sbp said...

"Perhaps there's a connection." LOL ouch.

As long as there is beer there is nothing to argue about.

Who knows maybe one of the books are male slash?

Dark Wolf said...

I totally forgot about Max Frei's "The Stranger". I have to look for a copy or I will wait the release date. Thank you for reminding me, Tia :)

Robin Sullivan said...

Sorry to see you are not "eating" up the books you are reading. Based on your comments on other books I really thought The Crown Conspiracy was going to be right up your alley. But sometimes it is about timing and it may be that recent reads are having an influence.

I never really thought about the fact that The Crown Conspiracy has 4 men traveling with no woman. In the next two books there is some traveling and there is a woman in both of these cases. I guess I never stepped back to take a tally. I will admit that the first book is very "male centric" but that changes 180 degrees with the second Avempartha where two very large roles are female based. In any case I hope by the time all is said and done you will have enjoyed it.

ediFanoB said...

For me it's interesting that you talk about Max Frei. The German edition of THE STRANGER by Max Frei has been released in 2007. There was some hype around the book and so I bought and read it. Unfortunately I didn't really like it. It was boring. Neither fish nor fowl. So I look forward to your review of THE STRANGER
Anyway for me it's quite interesting what you wrote about THE CROWN CONSPIRACY. The book is on my list since I read Dark Wolf's review.
Based on this I also read Liviu's review.
So I wait for your review. I like to get different point of views.

Tia Nevitt said...

Robin, I just finished it tonight, and overall, I did enjoy it. I'm not sure I'm going to make it through the other book, though. I'll have my review up in a day or two.

Edi, Mulluane also reviewed it on Old Bat's Belfrey, and I began reading it on her recommendation. So you are probably safe reading it; it has gotten favorable reviews just about everywhere.

So far, The Stranger is a bit . . . well . . . strange.

Tia Nevitt said...

Robin, I meant Slathbog's Gold, not Michael's next book.

Reasonable Poster said...

Dragons, dwarfs, elves, and bandits are huge in YA and children’s literature. Personally, I think Slathbog’s Gold fits in perfectly. My two boys ages 10 and 13 devoured this book. They couldn’t get enough of the treasure hunting. Perhaps they’ll someday read Tolkien, but until then I’m grateful for a book that got two reluctant readers to not only put down their video games but also compel them to ask for the sequel. As for female characters, sure, it would’ve been nice to have one as an adventurer. However, I discovered the book has two female characters, one an Oracle and one a Queen of the Dark Forest. These women were powerful and wise. Just as women should be portrayed.

Tia Nevitt said...

Thanks, Reasonable, for giving me some reason to keep reading. I figured that boys would love this sort of story.

Robin Sullivan said...

Hey Tia, Well I'm sorry to hear Strange but very glad to hear you liked The Crown Conspiracy. When I read your comments I thought to myself....She would really like Avempartha more than Crown Conspiracy so hopefully you'll take a look at it as well. It has much more feminie influence.