The Soprano Sorceress by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Overall impression of this book: a sometimes ponderous but immersive look at what happens when a modern singer past her prime is dumped into a world where song is magic and has earthshaking effects. Some bright spots and low points throughout.
First off ... people have complained about the detail. Yes, there is a lot of it, but it's necessary to paint a full picture of the crudity of the world around Anna. The problem with the description is not the amount so much as the style - it's very plain and workmanlike. In addition, the description doesn't really "interact" with the characters - it's just there. Contrast that with the strong descriptiosn of the heat and the taste of the food, both of which directly affect Anna ... and consequently came through more vivid and less tedious.
There is a character named Jimbob. In a fantasy world. Now, I'm a stickler for not having "real" names in fantasy, but even allowing for my hardnosed nature ... Jimbob?
For the use of present tense, there is similarly no defense. It's actually a neat device to distinguish between Earth and Erde, but it really should have stopped once she crossed over. It makes it even harder to distinguish between the various countries, their spies and rulers.
On the positive, I found the story kept me reading - I kept needing to see what happened next. There's long periods of inertia, but they don't lose tension. There are also some interesting nuances of ethics, motives and justifications ... with few easy answers and some threads left unresolved. It's realistic without being unsatisfying.
But on the other paw ... just a little too much repetition. And if I was reminded one more time that a certain character reminded Anna of Robert Mitchum, I was going to stab someone. I guess I'm just an uppity youngster. ;-)
I also found that Anna relied too frequently on simply charring people. It strained my belief that she couldn't come up with an immobility spell ... that she wouldn't have done so after the first incident. She lamented having to do it ... except I was never fully convinced that she did have to.
There were other parts of this book that I did particularly enjoy. There's a real concrete sense of primitive culture, and Modesitt draws it out through some uncommon details. Erde certainly felt real, and I cared about its fate. And I loved Lady Essan and ... err ... Farinelli, Anna's horse. The horse is a force to be reckoned with on his own. Overall, the positive outweighed the negative and made for a decent reading experience.
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