Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Havemercy" by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett

Summary: Margrave Royston is a magician exiled for a dalliance with an ally prince.  In his brother's country home, he meets and begins to fall for Hal, an intrepid young man and the tutor to his brother's children.  In the city, Rook is a member of the Dragon Corp, a select group of men in charge of flying the metal dragons who are the country's best defense against neighboring enemy Ke-Han.  When Rook gets in trouble for inappropriate behavior with a diplomat's wife, Thom, a university student, is brought in to give the Dragon Corp sensitivity training.  As war with Ke-Han grows more dangerous, all four are brought closer to the center of the conflict.

Musings: Despite my affinity for fantasy, Havemercy isn't my typical fare, but I was dragged into reading it by a (literally) breathless student who raved about it.  In truth, Havemercy wasn't quite what I expected, which unfortunately isn't a compliment.

Jones and Bennett have set up an interesting world--one with magicians with particular Talents, metal-but-also-alive magic dragons, and a longstanding feud with Ke-Han.  Unfortunately, the world building typical of an epic fantasy is mostly pushed aside to focus instead on the characters' minute thoughts and feelings.  Each of the four men--Royston, Hal, Rook, and Thom--takes turns narrating, and for much of the book their musings make up the entirety of the narration.  Royston languishes out in the city; Hal feels uncertain; Rook is ticked at everyone; Thom is nervous.  But nothing else happens!  Royston and Hal sit in the country.  Thom wanders around the Dragon Corp's home feeling useless while Rook scowls at him.

To make matters worse, the characters are exasperating! Thought it's clear almost immediately that Royston and Hal are attracted to one another, they never do anything about it. They stand close. Their hearts pound.  They quiver. They sigh. That's it! Within the first hundred pages all I could do was scream "just do it already!" in my head whenever I read about them together.  Don't get me wrong--I enjoy a good pining--but without any action to interrupt all that quivering, the not-really-relationship just gets annoying.

Similarly odd were Rook and Thom.  Though their relationship is platonic, as opposed to Royston and Hal's romantic relationship, Thom obsesses over Rook in the same way as Royston and Hal obsess over one another.  I just couldn't understand it.

Jones and Bennett also have the habit of reusing certain traits over and over again: namely, blushing.  Oh my goodness, this novel is an absolute blush-fest.  Between Hal, Thom, and Balfour (another member of the Dragon Corp), there must have been well over a hundred episodes of blushing in the novel.  There has to be other ways to indicate a character's personality and reaction!

The part that my student was most excited about--the metal dragons--were disappointingly absent from the book.  It's quite a ways in before the reader even meets a dragon, and after that they appear for only a few short episodes.  I would have loved to learn more about Havemercy's (Rook's dragon) temperament, evolution, and relationships.

There's some excitement toward the end when the action picks up, but it's too little squished too tightly together.  The ending is satisfying (something I had worried about considering the book's part of a trilogy), but I just wasn't all that invested by the time it was finished.

Although women exist in the world in which Havemercy is set, they don't exist within the plot of the book.  There are no female characters, and in fact, women are never mentioned except in relationship in Rook's sex jokes.  It's another thing that just comes across as odd.

Havemercy has some good ideas and characters.  Truthfully, I had a lot of fun bashing it in my head as I read, but it didn't come together as a great book.

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