Friday, April 6, 2012
Innocent Darkness (The Aether Chronicles, #1)
Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Innocent Darkness is a story about Noli, a girl who lost her social status and her chances for a good marriage when her father disappeared, and is forced to go to a boarding school for troubled girls, from where she is later taken to Faery to become the human sacrifice that will save the entire realm. She is found and taken by the queen’s ruthless huntsman Kevighn. He somehow falls in love with Noli even though she’s just one of many girls he’s kidnapped and brought to his queen to be killed. Noli’s best friend V, whom she has feelings for, turns out to be none other than the earth court prince in exile and comes rushing to save her.
If someone had given me a copy of Innocent Darkness without the cover and the publisher info, I’d have dropped it after less than 20%, thinking that it’s self-published, and one of those books that gives self-publishing a bad name. Innocent Darkness seems unfinished and unpolished. It lacks structure, it’s full of rough transitions, repetitiveness and contradictions. In fact, to me it seemed more like a draft than like a finished book. It was very rough around the edges and uneven in more ways than one. The transitions between different points of view tended to be too abrupt and badly handled so they always came like a slap in the face.
In some ways, the book seemed very childish, but then there was just enough sex and opium to make me uncomfortable. (Reading about either of those things doesn’t make me uncomfortable in itself, but in this case, it didn’t fit well with the rest of the story.) I am glad that the author decided to tackle the topic of sexual abuse; after all, something like that is highly probable in a boarding school where unprotected girls get examined by a male doctor who has absolute power over them. I just wish the rest of the book wasn’t quite so naïve.
The language was another thing that didn’t sit well with me at all. I’m certainly not an expert in English language, I’m not even a native speaker, but I can recognize a failed attempt when I see one. It wasn’t nearly formal enough for that time (1901), alternate history or not, and throwing in a few archaisms and repeating them over and over again couldn’t have possibly worked.
I didn’t actually do a search to see how many times the exact words ‘opium and soft women’ were used, but it must have been over fifteen. To me, this shows that the author doesn’t know the first thing about opium users (or soft women) and that she didn’t do any research whatsoever, but instead adopted this expression because it sounded good to her (or it sounded like an appropriate activity for a man beyond redemption) and insisted on repeating it twice in every chapter. That brings me to Kevighn, the Faery queen’s huntsman, who indulges in all this opium and soft women and is one of the most underdeveloped characters I’ve ever come across. I’m still not quite sure what his role or his motivations were supposed to be, but his entire situation was left completely open, which makes me think that he’ll be very important in the sequel.
At the beginning, I liked Noli’s best friend V, even though he was a bit of a cliché, but as the story progressed and he was conveniently given the role that was most needed at the time, the whole thing (and his character) became utterly ridiculous. The way the plot was solved was also entirely predictable and childish and in complete contrast with the darker parts of the book I’ve mentioned earlier. That ending would have fit better in a children’s book, but for an adult, or even a young adult, it’s almost insulting.
I guess I’ve made it abundantly clear that I won’t be reading the next book in the Aether Chronicles. At best, this book needs a lot more work, but frankly, I’m not sure it can be saved.