Book Reviews: Grimspace, The Collegia Magica trilogy

First, a quick sales note: Amazon’s mysterious algorithms have priced the paperback version of my book at a 36 percent discount. I don’t know how long the discount will last, but for the time being, the price is a pretty reasonable $8.29.

Next up, a couple of reviews. Unfortunately, I haven’t really loved any of the books I’ve read lately.

I really wanted to like this book. I feel like we need more swashbuckling sci-fi with a feminine perspective, and so I was very ready to root for down-and-out starship navigator Sirantha Jax. Unfortunately, the writing struck me as lackluster, the plotting choppy, and the characterization…well, I guess I’m pretty sick of hearing about the sheer alpha-male dominance that Romantic Hero #10,567 exudes, and how Our Heroine instantly decides she hates his guts even as she is drawn to him on a primal level, blah blah blazzzzzzz…huhwah? Sorry, I think I fell asleep for a minute there.

Don’t get me wrong: I find the whole realm of male strength to be a fascinating topic, and I’m as happy as the next gal to read in-depth excavations of the subject. Particularly if the “subject” is frequently sweaty and/or shirtless. But I guess I feel like strength is more convincingly signaled through discipline and quiet courtesy than through bluff and bravado: I’d rather read about the scientist’s focus, the artist’s dedication, or the soldier’s stoicism than hear at length about how “dominant” some dude is while he stomps around the ship displaying his not-so-hidden manpain at every opportunity. I abandoned this book about halfway through.

The Spirit Lens is the first book in a trilogy, and the fact that I continued on to the second and third books is mostly a testament to the power of the “whodunit” plot. I was initially irritated by the book’s narrative style: the setting is a Renaissance-style fantasy world, and the point-of-view character tends toward a wordy, circuitous locution that only exacerbated my tendency to skim. But he’s given a mystery to solve, and I was drawn deeply enough into the plot that I was dismayed when the book ended without fully resolving the central conspiracy. I had my suspicions about the villains, dammit, and I wanted to find out whether or not I was right!

As it happened, I liked the second book (The Soul Mirror) a lot better, mostly because the narrative point of view shifted to a character I found much more sympathetic. But the third book was a disappointment again: repetitive in structure and kind of weirdly plotted out, introducing new characters to do important things while the fates of important figures from earlier books were forgotten. A love triangle was introduced, and shattered, in the book’s last twenty pages. The world-shaking conflict that had built across three books was ultimately resolved off-screen. I’m not sure if there are more books intended for the series, but I won’t be reading them. Still, I don’t want to be too harsh in my assessment: the setting was original and interesting, the pacing was strong, and at least some of the characters were likable. I can easily see how this series has won its fans, even though ultimately it didn’t work for me.

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