Monday, May 08, 2006

Changer of Days (Alma Alexander)

Consisting of two volumes: The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days, by Alma Alexander (Hromic).

This is another split manuscript. How many of these have I read recently? Well, this one is split at a more appropriate point, at least.

The basic plot is good: A young child inherits the crown when her father dies on a battlefield, but is forced into exile when her older half-brother takes over the army and returns to take the crown for himself. The child, Anghara, has inherited formidable powers of so-called "Sight" from her mother and father, and is forced to flee from the home she is fostered at when they become too much for her to control. Along her journey, she discovers that her destiny is more than just reclaiming the throne (which her mother foresaw practically at the beginning.)

Now the problems: Characterization. Almost all of the characters in this book are flat. Their natures seem to provide little in the way of complexity and conflict that could advance the plot in interesting, convincing ways. Anghara's half brother, Sif, after launching a genocide against the Sighted people of his kingdom for sheltering her, waffles and delays killing her once she falls back into his hands. This could have been convincing if we had been shown some indication that something in his character would have made him reluctant, some conflict, but in the past he had seemed ruthless and whole-hearted in his pursuit. The way the story is told, it seems like the only reason he didn't kill her was because it wasn't her fate to be killed, since she still had a destiny to achieve. No, the author didn't explicitly say that, but there's not really much alternative explanation.

Anghara starts off as a precocious 9-year-old, wise and regal perhaps beyond her years. She ends up almost exactly the same, only 9 or 10 years older, at the end. While she knew how to give commands, it didn't really seem like she knew how to have them obeyed. It seemed like her hastily developed romantic interest did most of the leading and planning for her, while she sat around waiting for things to happen to her. Her realization that she is an incarnation of the "Changer of Days" seems to have done little for her, although the first volume foreshadows great promise in that direction; instead, it seems that the only real result is that the deities worshipped in her world are magically replaced by others.

In short, I like this story quite a bit. There are no gratuitous sex scenes to skip over, unlike many, many other books... However, the characters are too flat to be really convincing. The story seems more driven by where the plot needs to get to than by the nature of Anghara and the others.

No comments: