The Mage Storms: Book 2
Reading Storm Rising is like reading How Not To Write A Novel 101. You can actually learn a lot from this book. This one should have been named Storm Warning, as in, Warning, This Is Not A Good Book.
Not to say there aren’t good ideas in the book. I care enough to go over this book in detail because stronger editing and several more revisions this could have been a good book! All the pieces of a novel are here, they’re just arranged badly. Also, it could have done with a lot of cutting. I won’t say this book could be shorter—au contraire, there could have been more expansion, more point-of-views and explored conflicts. But a good half of this book is unnecessary exposition. The rest of the book is… plot-motivated exposition. This book is about 95% exposition and as a result it’s a snoozefest.The Mage Storms trilogy is supposed to be epic fantasy, or at least as epic as Mercedes Lackey—with her character-focussed narratives and down-to-earth sensibilities—can be. Just keep that in mind. There’s a solid plotline underneath the exposition.
Essentially the plotline is as follows: while the horror of the Mage Storms was effectively stalled in Storm Warning, the ‘solution’ is only temporary. Mages, priests and artificers from Valdemar, Karse, the Shin’a’in/Tayledras/Kaled’a’in (the Alliance) must learn to work with each other and also make a truce with Grand Duke Tremane’s Imperial forces to find the solution to the problem of the Mage Storms.
This is an excellent set-up for lots of character interaction. Unfortunately, as I’ve already mentioned, the exposition robs the text of the tension and momentum needed to make it interesting.
Part of the problem lies in the prose. It’s clunky. Mercedes Lackey’s prose is workaday but not poetic or slick. In many of her books the prose weighs down the action with unnecessary repetitions, awkward phrasing and passive language. For example, all italics mine: “With the ease of what had become habit, he…” could easily become “With the ease of habit, he…”
“In the anxious concentration on what magic might do to save Valdemar and her allies from the same fate known of in Hardorn, the other projects the artificers and their students had been working on suffered the neglect of the masters” is simply not a good sentence. However it could be condensed into, “In the anxious concentration on how magic could save Valdemar and her allies from Hardorn’s fate, the other projects the artificer students had been working on suffered the neglect of the masters.”
Clunky, ungainly, slowed down prose drains tension and excitement from the narrative. This problem at the micro level of sentences also shows up in the macro structuring of scenes.
Frequently scenes begin with several pages of introspection. Only after slogging through often-unnecessary minutiae and excruciatingly detailed and explained thought processes do we finally get some conversation. Telling, not showing, is the cardinal sin committed here. We are told everything. We need puzzle nothing out for ourselves, because every character is incredibly self-reflective and … very similar in their thought processes. In fact all of the characters seem to think the same way, and nearly all the tension in the interaction comes from characters not talking to one another. When they finally do, there is little-to-no miscommunication, because everyone thinks in the same logical progression.
Now, as an self-reflective person, I rarely have issues with introspection in fiction. It’s usually necessary at some stage. But it’s a weak way to write if nearly all the conflict in the story comes from blown-up thoughts and minimized interaction. Interaction should be the heart of the conflict. Especially in a story where people—lots and lots of people—need to come together and engineer a solution, there should be a multitude of interpersonal conflicts played out onscreen.
Worse, most of the introspection details either forced angst or interpersonal struggles that we never get to see happening.
BEYOND THIS POINT THERE BE SPOILERS