Friday, June 10, 2011

Killers and Plumbers and Elves

Though Killer Elven Plumbers would have made a much more interesting book...maybe.

David Levien's '13 Million Dollar Pop' was a damned good thriller. Unfortunately, I'm getting pretty jaded and find more and more of what I read to be implausible and full of plot devices that are so out there that they take me out of the book. This is not the fault of the author, who is writing in a genre that is, by and large, full of implausible, if not impossible, plots. It's what makes them so very entertaining. And, truthfully, it wasn't the underlying plot--which dealt with politics and real estate speculation and a "racino"--that was the problem. It's the string of dead bodies that seem to pile up behind the protagonists of these novels that I have a problem with. In a spy novel, one can believe that some government agency or another will come by and clean up any mess that was left behind. But, when your protagonist is a civilian, the trail of carnage just seems like a prison sentence waiting to happen. I was able to finish Mr. Levien's book before I started questioning things, though, which is nice. I don't mind questioning events in retrospect; it means I was fully invested while the plot unfolded.

'Ravenwood' by Andrew Peters is a debut middle grade novel that I wanted to like much more than I did. The main character is a fourteen-year-old plumber who literally works in shit all day. He lives in a city (state? nation?) that exists in the trees and whose citizens never touch ground. Our hero, Ark, overhears a plot to overthrow the king and is the only one who can save his treetop home. The title implies there will be ravens. And things went along pretty well for a while. I could even forgive all of the "clever" flora-related wordplay. But, it wasn't too long before I realized that this was one of those "message" novels and was all about technology vs. nature (Spoiler alert: Nature wins). The characters were interesting and the final battle involved a poop cannon, which will definitely appeal to young boys (though it may also give them ideas), but the preachy love-the-trees-ness was just too much for this reader to take. Why does it have to be a choice between nature and technology? Can't there be a balance? If one were to judge by novels like this, then the answer is a firm and resounding "no".

'The Lady of the Storm' is the second novel in Kathryne Kennedy's Elven Lords series. It is a traditional historical romance, but set in an 18th-Century England that is under the rule of Elves. England has been divided into seven Realms, each home to Elves with an affinity for one of seven magics. Humans are little more than slaves, and half-breeds, especially those with any power, are despised and, in some cases, hunted down and killed. It's quite a lovely novel, with a well-developed relationship between the hero and heroine and a plot full of intrigue and adventure (and magic). But if you're looking for historical accuracy, or, you know, a lack of Elves, this is not the novel for you.

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