David Madore's WebLog: Brightly Burning

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Brightly Burning

I had bought Mercedes Lackey's novel Brightly Burning some time ago, and only last week did I start reading it. Well, I do not recommend it: as a matter of fact, I stopped reading it halfway through. This is disappointing because I had very much enjoyed Mercedes Lackey's The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy (Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise and Magic's Price), and (although to a lesser extent) Take a Thief, all these novels taking place in the imaginary realm of Valdemar. I heard about The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy because it is one of the rare heroic fantasy stories whose main character is gay (though I mentioned another one in this 'blog); now, quite independently of that, it is a very good story (or three stories, I guess). On the other hand, Brightly Burning was simply boring. There's this sort of enveloping “well-meaning” atmosphere that just gets on the nerves after a while: it's just a tad too obvious that the author simply took some scenes, or a plausible story, from the contemporary world, and transposed it (with some added magic and all that) in her fantasy realm. But things don't seem any bit plausible in a supposedly medieval setting: a good number of these characters of hers are simply modern college kids (the intended readership?), with modern college kids' worries, not believable at all in the context in which they are supposed to be. Like, the hero and his pal going away for Christmas holidays—except it's called “Midwinter” and not “Christmas”—in the pal's family, who are supposedly peasants but very much gentlemanly; or trying to make us believe that in that super-special school of theirs (the school of “Heralds”), where many are called but few are Chosen, things are so well that highborn and freemen just get along together as equals. Hello, world? Worse than that, entire chapters are spent just painting the background, so to speak: this is acceptable when the background is of very special interest; but, with due respect to Mercedes Lackey, Valdemar (or its Collegium) isn't that fascinating. So I recommend against reading Brightly Burning and I won't go to the end. On the other hand, I repeat that I do recommend The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy: it has its flaws, but it's worth reading.

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