Saturday, December 15, 2012

Answering Review Request "Tainted Dawn"

Barbara Peacock asked me to read her novel "Tainted Dawn" which takes place in Europe during the yeas 1792-1815. It stars Edward, an English bastard of a ship captain, Jemmy, the only son of a poor English family, and Louis, a french revolutionary and son of a tailor.

It starts out well enough but sours quickly. Since I became a volunteer book reviewer there has only been one book that I had to force myself to finish. This is the second one.

A better name would be "Tainted Daddy Issues". All the protagonists are dominated by bad relationships with their fathers and since there is no plot these issues dominate the story.

1. Louis participates in the October Days and his father's servant blackmails him for silence. After he losses everything, his dad finds out and disowns him. With nothing left but his ideals he runs to his mentor/father figure and quarrels with him. Then he's pulled by friends to the Indies and projects his father onto the plantation owner he works for, seeing him as another 'little big shot'.  He defies him and is punished by him for the same reason; ramble rousing.  Instead of advocating equality he advocates hatred of Englishmen.

2. Edward thinks of nothing but making his late father (who has never seen, let alone met) proud and later projects this relationship onto the captain of the Blanche.  In between he is mistreated by a third captain.  That section might as well read 'Edward is insulted and hit with a stick' over and over again because that is all that happens. There is no further plot or character development. It didn't need to go on for so many chapters.

3. Jemmy runs away from home to get away from an unappreciative father but runs back to him because he had a dream of him being hung. This means deserting the royal navy and bringing more trouble to an already troubled family which makes his father even more dismissive of him. Everything this boy does relates to his father in some way.  
Miss Peacock confuses character arc for story arc for there is no over-arching plot or plot thread connecting her three protagonists. There is only the three of them and their daddy issues. The chapters are spliced together without rhyme or reason other than 'alternate every time'. This destroys the purpose of cliff hangers because the suspense is gone. It breaks the build up and disperses the development of story. It's like taking a bite from a hamburger only to have it pulled away and given something else which is also pulled away after a bite. It's frustrating. More than that, it leads to confusion about what's going on because three separate stories are intertwined. Some chapters are about different people entirely and only peripherially related to the three.  

1. Edward and Jemmy overlap at first because they're on the same ship but have nothing to do with each other. After Jemmy leaves, they do not reunite nor influence each other.

2. Edward and Louis do not meet again until the last arc of the book. It breaks my suspension of disbelief that they could remember each other after months of separation and difficult times because they had a brief over a petty incident.

3. Jemmy and Louis never met after the first chapter. Their stories are entirely separate. They might have seen each other if Jemmy was indeed part of the pirate group at the end but one would think Peacook would bridge such a jump from 'running from the law in the English countryside' to 'priating ships near Spanish colonies'. Louis could have done his 'all men are equal' spiel to the boy who just got burned by 'the quality' to justify the piracy and in the process learn that not all Englishmen are evil.
I feel as though she wrote three separate stories and then shuffled the chapters together to increase the work's length. She would have been wiser to write an anthology.
There is no resolution. Even though all three of them are fictional characters none of them get a resolution. Louis is shipped back to France with the same ideals and mindset; no change. Edward is still in a precarious 'sent/forced home' situation because his mother doesn't want him at sea.  Jemmy is last seen running through the countryside with Nan; a fugitive from the law. He plans to go to New York but Edward's section says he died in a Spanish colony helping pirates. Does Beacook mean to imply that he was doing pirate work to pay for passage? If so, what about Nan?
One special note. This is a historical novel but Jemmy's 'future seeing dreams' are vital to his third of the story. Without it he never would have gone home and instead stayed on the ship and so he wouldn't serve as the unwitting cause of his father's death.  I cannot tolerate such a plot device, especially when there aren't any other supernatural elements. The sailors don't mention Davvy Jones or mermaids or sailor superstitions!
There is one redeeming aspect; history. If one considers these not characters, presay, but instead character-actors playing for the time period than their personalities and their stories are less important than the events they witness and the ideas they represent. I am a history buff, indeed, that's the reason I decided to read this book in the first place. Seeing the history on the ground level, so to speak, is a different perspective than historical texts and can justify some of the stupider things the characters do.

Unless you are a history buff you will not like this book.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Tainted Dawn" a D

Click here for the next review request: Song at Dawn

Click here for the previous review request: Jake Johnson and the Halfbloods


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