rymenhild: Korra and Asami, cuddling in a turtle-duck boat (korrasami)
[personal profile] rymenhild
Second review of the day, now with significantly less queer erasure!

Serial Box's Tremontaine (a serial novel by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant) has a delightful premise and terrific setup. In the nameless city of Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, perhaps fifteen or twenty years before Swordspoint, Duchess Diane de Tremontaine is trying to protect her privilege and status. Colliding with Diane's plots are Kaab, a lesbian spy from a chocolate-shipping not!Incan family; Micah, an agender autistic math genius; Rafe, a feckless gay university student; and Tess, a lovely forger from Riverside; and, of course, Diane's husband Duke William.

The plots, the swashbuckling, the queerness, and the postcolonial theory inherent in this collective story are all just the sorts of things I like. I read every entry and enjoyed it. But...

The but... has to do with a structural issue in Tremontaine, which is the multiple-author thing. Each writer has her or his own style. I love Kushner's writing, of course, Johnson's work with Kaab is strong, and the other writers bring various strengths and the occasional weakness. But I get really frustrated when reading Malinda Lo.

The thing is, I wish I liked Malinda Lo's work. She's obviously intelligent and interesting and she writes about lesbians. I couldn't finish either Ash or Huntress. I didn't care about the characters and I was bored.

Lo has three installments of Tremontaine, all pivotal to the development of the season plot. I like what happens in those installments. But I find Lo's sentence structure and dialogue distractingly clunky. The balance of exposition to character development is off. For example, here's a Riverside gamin in Lo's Episode 4 who doesn't sound human:

The boy preened at the flattery. “I do. I was born not two blocks from here, raised on these streets. I know my way about. That’s why Tess hires me to take messages for her. She knows I’ll do it right.”

Clunky exposition doesn't matter in the mouth of a passing boy. But in episode 12, when Diane, famed for her subtle control, meets Kaab in verbal battle, the scene should be all delicate hints and poisonous suggestions. It's not. The whole Tremontaine series is weakened thereby.

I will be buying and reading Season 2 of Tremontaine, but I hope for more even writing quality in future seasons.

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rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
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