Monday, April 13, 2009
I found Maledicte by chance while browsing through the new books at the book store, keeping an eye out for new authors. I picked up a copy, got it home, and more or less forgot about it.
Months later, I unearthed it and read most of the first chapter, then forgot about it again.
This is often to kiss of death for a novel with me. Once I've picked it up and started it once, I have a lot of trouble ever making myself start over. When I do get around to it, I very often find myself richly rewarded, as when I made myself pick up Harriet the Spy again, or when I finally sat down and read all of Dracula or Puck of Pook's Hill.
There honestly wasn't much to recommend the book when I did pick it up: a novel of love and vengeance. A girl pretending to be a boy to maneuver through court politics in a decadent kingdom. Gods meddling in human affairs. All well and good, but...yawn. We've all been there and done that, right?
This novel definitely has its flaws, with many earmarks of a new author. While reading it, you're often reminded of details that have been many times discussed, just in case you've forgotten since it was last mentioned earlier on the page. While the story unwinds itself through tragedy, betrayal, love...there's nothing here you don't sort of expect.
And yet, I really loved this book.
I loved the world, with the tumbling, god-ravaged Relicts to the glittering, festering court. I liked Miranda, who became Maledicte after stumbling upon a dead goddess who wasn't quite so dead, and very ready for a new foothold in a land deserted by its gods. It was a pleasure following the twists and turns of the story, and if the path was maybe a little familiar, it was so in the way of the best fairy tales--it isn't so much that you know how it's going to end, or even maybe how it will get there. The pleasure is in the players, and how skillfully the game is laid out before them.
Despite its flaws, or maybe in part because of them, I was absorbed in this book. It's the first one I've had in a long time that stayed with me, nibbling at me until I could pick it up and read further. When I was close to the end, I stayed up late into the night, and only gave it up before I hit the final page because I needed to get to work the next day.
And who each of the characters was at the beginning was not who they were by the end--and their journey there was convincing as I read through each step, through each little change that brought them to the endgame, and finally to an ending that thoroughly satisfied me in an almost guilty way.
Is this great literature? Not particularly.
Do I care? Not in the least. I pre-ordered the second in this series, Kings and Assassins, which is due out in late April. And this time, I won't put it down after reading only a couple of pages.
Up next: The Host