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Monday, May 21, 2007

"Maledicte" by Lane Robins

Pre-order “Maledicte” via Del Rey HERE
Read an Excerpt from “MaledicteHERE
Maledicte” Release Date: May 29, 2007 (US/UK)

There’s not much I can say about Lane Robins, author of “Maledicte”. As far as I can tell, she doesn’t have a website or blog yet, and about all that the jacket cover reveals is that she earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Beloit College (Wisconsin) and that she lives in Lawrence, KS. So, I think the best thing to do is just let her book speak for her…

Set in a Victorian-like backdrop, complete with aristocracies, a budding industrial revolution, and such debaucheries as prostitution & drug addiction, “Maledicte” reminds me somewhat of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series, mainly because of the similarities between the books’ use of court intrigues, meddling gods and sinful eroticism. Even more so, I’m reminded of “The Count of Monte Cristo” due to such shared themes of transformation, love and vengeance. And with certain plot developments I even saw shades of Romeo & Juliet as well as other Shakespearean dramatics, while the legends surrounding Black-Winged Ani, “god of love & vengeance”, actually brought to mind The Crow comic books & adaptations. Despite all of these resemblances and the familiar subject matter, “Maledicte” possesses its own voice and offers some fresh perspectives to what might otherwise be considered stale material, though I think readers will either love or hate the manner in which the book is told.

Basically, “Maledicte” is a character-driven melodrama that revolves around the title character, a girl and street urchin who’s trying to pass off as a male aristocrat in her quest to recover her lover Janus and avenge his kidnapping. More or less an antihero, Maledicte is interesting to follow, partly because of his/her clashes between his/her male/female personas, the compact with Black-Winged Ani – the benefits/downsides of such an alliance, the price owed when terms are fulfilled, and how much of Maledicte’s single-minded vengeance is of his own doing or the god’s – and of course Maledicte’s machinations within the Antyrrian court, which provide some of the book’s finest moments. Of the supporting players, there is Baron Vornatti and his servant Gilly who prepare Maledicte for the court and aid him in his subterfuge, Michel Ixion earl of Last and subject of Maledicte’s wrath, the aforementioned Janus, Lady Mirabile, King Aris and his three counselors, Kritos and various others who all play a part in the drama that unfolds.

For a book that is driven primarily by its characters and their interactions with one another, there were some issues that I had with the characterizaton. Stylistically, “Maledicte” is told from a third-person point of view, mainly following Miranda/Maledicte while Gilly, King Aris and Kritos also provide narratives. Truthfully, it's difficult to discern who all of the major players are at first, since the viewpoints jump around so haphazardly in the beginning, and this could be a problem for readers starting the book, though thankfully it gets better as the novel progresses.
Secondly, was Miranda’s powerful thirst for revenge and her feelings towards Janus, which are never really clarified until later in the book, and then done so in a manner lacking any emotional impact. Personally, I felt that some backstory or opening scenes explaining Janus & Miranda’s affections for one another, and further details of their pasts, would have greatly benefited the novel since Miranda’s quest for finding Janus is obviously pivotal to the book. This would also help readers better visualize Miranda & Janus' evolution from street urchins to courtiers, which are only hinted at throughout the novel. Specifically, I felt that the scenes involving Baron Vornatti, Gilly and Miranda’s training should have been expanded on, giving readers the chance to see Maledicte becoming an aristocrat, rather than the truncated versions that we get. I also felt that certain motives and actions of other characters could have been better explained, providing greater effect to the emotionalism that the story is trying to convey.

With so much focus on the characters, what about the rest of the book? Well, if you’re a fan of worldbuilding, then I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere, since the kingdom of Antyre is sparsely described with little information provided on its history or current events. Of the larger world, only the foreign kingdom of Itarus and the uncivilized Explorations are touched upon, and these just slightly, while even the gods – Baxit, Ani, Naga, Espit, Haith – have little mythos revealed about them despite their relevance to the story. Even minor details like the description inside a house or palace, or the layout of the city is practically nonexistent, which can be detrimental to the story at certain moments. As far as the prose, Ms. Robins' writing is uneven, at times elegant & beautiful, at others, clumsy & confusing...not unexpected for a first-time author.

Despite all of these issues, I have to say I enjoyed reading “Maledicte”. If you can overlook the lack of worldbuilding & exposition, the inconsistencies of the writing, and the occasional soap opera-like moment, there's a lot to like in "Maledicte", including Machiavellian characters, erotic tension, sharp & witty dialogue, an up-tempo pace, sinister supernatural forces and a melodramatic plot that twists & turns until its touching conclusion, which basically wraps up the story, while leaving enough threads to be explored later on. Sure, it's no Kushiel novel or "The Count of Monte Cristo", but for a debut, "Maledicte" is respectable and showcases potential, especially in the case of the talented, up-and-coming author Ms. Robins who I think will have a lot more to say in future releases…

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You did a great job criticed the book, mr. Robert. I read the book and I agree with everything you said. It is such a beautiful novel. Mal is such a complex character. I hope Ms. Robins will write a sequel since there're some questions were left unanswered.

Anonymous said...

Lane Robins is currently working on the sequel to Maledicte. I thought you would like to know! She will be at our library--The Putnam County Public Library, Greencastle, Indiana, on Saturday, September 15th, for our inaugural FESTIVAL OF THE BOOK. Robins will be on the First Author Panel at 11 a.m. Go to our library's website www.putnam.lib.in.us for more information about the FESTIVAL.

Robert said...

I'm glad you liked the book and I very much appreciate the info on the sequel. I'm glad that Ms. Robins is working on another Maledicte book and I can't wait to check it out. Thanks again and much love & respect...

H said...

Mr. Robert, I found this site searching for….. you guessed it-- Lane Robins website! It is funny, as I have just finished Mal's breathtaking struggle between love and vengeance, (by n by a fan of Gilly!) With regards to “world building” I am one who builds and visualizes worlds that aren’t described in detail as much as I would like, as the Relicts, and Antyre had not been in this book. I do it now without thought. I was so wrapped up in Mal’s struggle with black Ani, love and vengeance that I hadn’t truly gave it a thought until I read your critic. This is why I have booked marked you, I find I will be able to check out your sight and get a true insight on author and book, and ready away, Thank You. whahoo!!

Rob said...

Actually, she does have a site. I host it. Heh! lanerobins.com redirects to maledicte.com

Lane is always trying to improve her writing, and always looks back on what she has just done and cringes. As do many of us.

But yeah--She is, as someone else pointed out, finishing up a sequel to Maledicte, and is also working on a new series under the name of Lynne Benedict.

Robert said...

Rob, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad that Lane has a website now--very nicely done btw :) I'm definitely looking forward to the Maledicte sequel as well as her other series!

Paine's Martyr said...

I thought the book was completely amazing. It was a poignant look into the obessive feelings that all sentient beings are driven to madness for. I found myself thinking during this book, something that is so hard to come by in today's literature. It brings you that amazing trance of good literature that you hate to break. The characters each burning with their own flame, their own worldviews, and yet, all sharing the same feelings, in differing strengths and varying willingness to act upon them. All in all, an amazing read. I loved your review it was straight to the amazing point of the book!

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