Saturday, 30 June 2012

Book: Blue Magic

I love a good Fantasy yarn. Spun correctly, the characters, no matter the crazy names and dialogue, or what they're involved with, come off the page as believable on some level.

I like to use the Beer Scale for Fantasy novels. Would I buy a beer for this character? Would I sit down and drink all night with this character? It's not scientific, but that's the gauge I use when reading the genre.

Unfortunately for "Blue Magic" I'd walk out of the bar if I saw any of these characters in real life.

"Blue Magic" is the second book, in a series of two, written by A.M. Dellamonica (and published by TOR Books), so it's entirely possible that I've missed out on some serious backstory with these characters that exist in a world where Magic is about to blast into our world from a vent in the Pacfic Northwest of the United States. But probably not given the way that the text goes out of its way to continually repeat who the characters are, a bit of their motivation, and what they're thinking. Early in the novel, this was appreciated because I came into it blind. But when specific traits and backstory are harped on 150 pages into the book, I started getting resentful. I got this feeling that the editor or the author had little confidence in the reader to remember anything that happened beyond the last six pages.

"Hey, remember this thing I talked about eight pages ago? Well, here's a reminder!"

And even with that constant harping about the Magic explosion that's about to occur, the three-way war for control and/or destruction of the magic vent, and various character traits I didn't get attached to any of the characters.

My other reason for not caring for "Blue Magic" is that it's established that with Magic anything is possible. Healing wounds, making universal translators, allowing doppelganger creation, quick transportation by "bramblegate" and so on, is cool on the surface. Think about it too long and you realize how many problems this creates within the novel's internal logic.

Early on in the book, I was thinking that if the Magic allows for time travel, they should just go back in time and "fix" everything or at least change enough things so the outcome's not so dire.

That's exactly what one of the characters attempts and his excursion to the past is concluded in a handful of pages and the result, "Sorry, can't do that!" I thought Magic was the answer for everything but it turns out that there are limits -- altering Space-Time being one of them.

At the end of it, I just didn't like the book.

I think the main plot points -- the ageless battle between Magic and human forces, and the onset of an Age of Magic -- are great but the characters inhabiting the place are so unremarkable, the internal logic so flawed and the absence of credit that readers can remember things that there's no reason to buy any of these people a beer.

- Aaron Simmer

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