November 21, 2002
Devlin's Luck by Patricia Bray
Devlin's Luck by Patricia Bray. It's apparently the first book in the anticipated (by someone, I suppose) "Sword of Change" series.
From the "anticipated by someone," comment you're probably thinking, "she didn't like this book." Honestly, it's rarely that simple. While there are definitely books I simply do not like (Jennifer Roberson's Lady of Sherwood and Holly Lisle's Minerva Wakes come immediately to mind, as does the soothing memory of my throwing them down the stairs repeatedly) generally I try to find something redeeming about a book. I hate the thought that I would have just completely wasted my time, short though it might be.
The truth is, the book simply breaks absolutely no new ground. The writing style is decent. Heck, given some of the books I've been reading lately, I would consider it fairly solid. The problem is, I read through the entire book thinking, "Um, yeah...and so?" There's a couple of nice resolutions, but it doesn't surprise you. The moral solutions are fairly transparent, and I kept getting the nagging feeling that I had read this book before, just in about a dozen other fantasy selections.
Honestly, it started out with kind of an anti-hero set-up. It has a fairly obvious cultural map of the protagonist being from a seemingly agrarian celtic-style area against the bureaucratic aspects of the conquering civilization. (Country mouse and city mouse, with country mouse's ways having more merit...again, you've read the story.) I had hoped when the protagonist asked for the blessing directed by the somewhat suspicious god of luck that that would have more of an impact on the story, but if it did, it was too subtle. While the first adventure had aspects that were disturbing, the second and third didn't even dent the mold. By the conclusion, you know the protagonist has turned around and while he started by looking at the end, he's starting to look towards the future.
Now to talk about the good parts, there's no ubiquitous romance. The fellow mourns his wife, and he doesn't go out to replace her, nor is there really anything but a moment or two of potential flirting between anyone else in the story. The hints of politics have some promise. The feminist angle is covered nicely as there's nothing that seems to say women don't have equal roles with men, including (especially) in the martial arena. Characters are developed according to their importance in the plot, and you get a fairly good sense of who is who. The workings of magic are fairly obscure (as they should be to a non-mage type) although there is a reference to "levels" and hints of a sorcerous enemy. It's a fairly compact read.
On the other hand, my overall impression is, "Unless you're a real fan of the genre, it's nothing you need to pick up or borrow."
Posted by Meera at November 21, 2002 2:59 PM
Thanks for the review, Meera. We were given the book by a friend (who is Bray's agent), and Lou's read it, but I haven't.
This is her first non-romance novel. It sounds like it's a solid start, even if it's nothing groundbreaking. I'll have to give it a try.
Posted by: Julia at November 22, 2002 8:36 AM
Funny thing about it is that it was just sitting on my parents' shelf. Don't know if they bought it, if it was a review copy, or what. So I read it, because I've been desperate for reading material... as I've done with a lot of books lately. (Will have additional reviews up soon.)
Posted by: MT Fierce at November 22, 2002 9:53 AM