10 November 2011

Post 446: Theft of Swords

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan. ISBN: 9780316187749 (eGalley - publishes November 23, 2011).

With as much as I bitch about the formulaic tendencies of Mystery novels, many fantasy novels suffer from the same issue. Theft of Swords definitely suffers a bit from formula: most of the plot elements are fairly predictable, there's a bit of Side Quest Syndrome, and the female characters are, uh, flaky, even the ones who aren't supposed to be. But somehow this doesn't bother me as much with fantasy books and there's probably a good reason for that: It's not my world.

Most mystery novels are set in present day or recent history, which I am both familiar with and have a personal vested interest in. The idea of all females being vapid and indecisive is frustrating and obnoxious. However, in fantasy I can kind of let that go a little more and say, "Well, they're referring to a society that purposefully keeps women from being anything but decorations, so..." I know it isn't true, but it does make it easier to not get so angry I throw the book across the room. Also, there tends to be less victim blaming with the Princess in Distress type in fantasy novels (because they are valued as plot points) versus the same type in Mystery novels (because they are devalued as being "sluts" who were "asking for it" or meddling shrews).

Additionally, mystery novels typically don't have unique background elements to hold my interest. Fantasy novels on the other hand, even if they have formulaic elements, usually have different interpretations of elves, dwarves, dragons, magic, etc. Sometimes I like to read fantasy novels just to see how that interpretation works out, much for the same reason I like discussing religion (particularly with people who are not strongly attached to specific religious ideas). And I'm more interested in a society, even if they are full of macho misogynists, than I am in following one misogynist as he tries to discover who murdered and killed the husband of a smokin' hot broad he'd love to bang, but won't because he's a "good guy" and already has a smokin' hot broad for a girlfriend.*

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Review copy provided by Netgalley.
*I know not all murder mystery novels are like this, but I've read enough that have similar problems to not be interested in most of the genre's offerings.


  1. So back when I took that Noir class I got really into the idea of mysteries that transcend that trope, and I bought a handful of "1980s Feminist Noir", but I haven't read any of it yet! They're all books written by females and featuring queer characters in some way, but this doesn't necessarily mean they will do right by their female characters. Aaaaanyway....do you need guest bloggers in december/janurary? Motivation!

    Oh yeah so also my point was, I'm even less inclined to accept this kind of thing from a fantasy world, but probably because i don't like heavy focus on world building and am much more interested in complex character-building, and a woman is used as just a plot device, that smacks of lazy writing. to me.

    recently a friend of mine was like" i have this fantasy story about five young boys who go on a quest, can you help me with it?" and my first suggestions was ..."um, can there be at least ONE girl?" so now there're two girls. but anyway. I talk too much.

  2. Anytime you want to guest blog, I'd love to have you.

    I _do_ enjoy world building. I am not excusing this lazy writing, but I am saying that it is easier for me to enjoy a story that has things I hate in other genres if it's present in my preferred genres because it has other elements I enjoy. It doesn't mean that I thought Theft of Swords was the greatest book ever just because I was still able to enjoy it, it just meant that I was able to roll my eyes and ignore certain things and continue reading.

    Love your comments, as always.

  3. A lot is said about the male fantasy of wanting to "save" a "damsel in distress." Do you think that works a lot into the fantasy template? Has it become misguided or was that notion always lousy?

  4. Given the power dynamics of medieval Europe, I feel that that plot line is perhaps more accurate for a world built off of that model. I do think it's often less _interesting_ than alternative models. So overall it's always pretty much been a lousy notion, but has the added onus of also being misguided in its perpetuation.


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