Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blog Tour - Merlin's Harp by Anne Eliot Crompton

First published in 1995, re-published March, 2010 by Sourcebooks.

Nivienne never thought she'd be in direct contact with barbaric Humans - let alone help them. She's only heard stories of the evil that occurs outside the forest. But her dear friend Merlin has brought word that Arthur's kingdom - where Humans dwell - is threatened by the Saxons. If Nivienne doesn't help it, it could be the end for her own peaceful home. Nivienne must now learn to trust the Humans and her heart. Even more difficult than going to war alongside your enemies is discovering you are falling in love with them. (book back blurb)

Well this was, um . . . not good. Really, at all. I don't think it's ever taken me so long to read a book so short. Like wading through snow up to my hips. It's so overwrought and drowning in such flowery language that it's hard to connect to anything that's going on in the story. I often found myself having read a page without really reading it and only skimming it when I went back over it.

To Crompton's credit, she stuck very closely to faerie lore which is to her benefit but even greater to her disadvantage. Because she stuck so closely to the lore, I felt nothing for Nivienne. Faeries are traditionally heartless and don't emote as humans do. That certainly came through in the reading but at the same time it also made me not give a crap about Nivienne. And so help me if she said, "I, Nivienne," one more time, I was going to put my hand through the pages and slap her. I get it goes with the tone of the writing but it's overwritten so, to me, it was just annoying.

Plus Nivienne constantly refers to herself as brown. Maybe my eyes aren't working correctly but fish lips on the cover is a white girl. And can I say how much I hate it when people purposely push out their lips in a vain attempt to make them look fuller? The Olsen twins do it all the time. Makes me want to throw things at them and see if I can get them to stick.

But more to the story, the whole Saxon war I felt was glazed over. I was three quarters of the way through the book before I realized that we'd already moved beyond that. For me, the focus of the story wasn't quite right and what was being talked about was secondary to the greater problem going on in the background. The characters just kind of glided through their surroundings as if they were inconsequential and didn't matter to their greater scope of things. The urgency of the Saxon threat in the blurb is unfounded in the story and barely appears to make a dent in the consciousness of the characters.

It didn't help that the text was, within chapters, non-linear. Nivienne kept having these sort of flashbacks where she'd go off on tangents about what happened in her past because something in the present reminded her of it. It started to ebb towards the end but it was really prevalent in the beginning. I often found myself having to read back a few paragraphs because I'd realize that I had missed a time jump. Very jarring and interrupting. That's one of the motivating issues I had with getting into the story aside from not connecting with Nivienne.

The best part was the last few chapters where Arthur and Mordred got into it. It's really the only part that's not completely glossed over with insubstantial nothing. I think if that part of the story was more played up, not only would Nivenne have become a more well-rounded character, it would have made the story stronger. I got to see facets of Nivenne in those few scenes that were absent the entire story (presumably because of her Fey nature) that I really liked. But too little too late, really.

Overall, I really appreciate that Crompton kept so close to the lore even though it was detrimental to the success of the main character. I liked how she played with the King Arthur legend and made it her own. Other than that, I think the writing style is trying too hard and what story is there is drowned by it. The MC isn't human and thus I couldn't connect with her for 95% of the story because, for all intents and purposes, she remained emotionless. I think if the writing weren't so flowery and the story were told from someone else's perspective, or Nivienne was allowed to emote a little more, it could have been much better. As it stands, I couldn't rightly recommend this one. Read Le Morte d'Arthur. Much better.

My apologies to Paul at Sourcebooks.


Morgan said...

Too bad you didn't like it. I love the cover, though but it's never good to have too much flowery words. Great, honest review!

Rebecca Herman said...

I almost bought this but I now I think I won't. Thanks for the honest review.

Aubrey (AKA Stacey) said...

Oh dear, the description and cover grabbed me but then I read your review! Thanks for being honest about it!!!

Krista/Tower of Books said...

I've honestly only heard negative reviews about this book. :/

Arya said...

I'm soooo glad to have read your review. I hate books like that and I've had my eye on this one.
Oh, and totally agree about fish lips haha! =)

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Thanks for the honest review!!

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