Gerald Killingsworth asked me to review his book "Hy Brazil". It's about a young man from Victoria's England getting tangled up in an elfin civil war. I will examine plot, character and polish before assigning a grade.
This plot takes a long time to set up its conflict. The elfin civil war is not properly established until some 200 pages have passed. Edward, the protagonist, does not even arrive in Hy Brazil for 80 pages. Until then, the story reads like a bog-standard historical fiction and I'm lead to believe that the conflict is between England and Ireland; no "Hy Brazil" in sight.
I like historical fiction. If this entire book was about Edmund Spenser's secretary living in Ireland, I would have liked that. Unfortunately, every plot point in this section ceases to be relevant as soon as Edward sets foot in Hy Brazil.
After that there's this section with an Elfin City Lord. It goes on for a while but ultimately goes nowhere. All I can assume is that it's supposed to be a contrast thing with the Elfin Forest Lord (who is basically the same character on the opposite side of the fence). This city lord says he wants diplomatic relations with the human world but doesn't tell Edward why he wants this or what he wants Edward to do specifically. Thus the plot stalls during this period.
Shuffling is a problem. Instead of building up a situation, Edward is tossed from one to the next. Each has little bearing on the one before it. All the stuff about Spenser's writing, tensions in Ireland, and that thing about Calvagh being "kin to the Desmond" is erased. Lord Húon ’l Dainn's brand, the stuff in the city, and mine scene are similarly forgotten. The only continuity is Edward's work on elfin accents and the money he received, which is used to buy himself a pair of shoes (his 4th or 5th pair). "Salvage" is forgotten once "Flora" shows up and she is mentioned once after she's replaced by elfin lieutenants. There's no firm footing. The Elfin Forest Lady straight up says that they're wasting time and that nothing important happened. (Filler!)
At the time, I thought it was like reading "five chapters of prologue." Now I phrase it as "endless beginnings of a story without any middle or end". I'd prefer to start in the forest and in the second chapter.
There is no ending. The story just stops. I have half a mind to think that the file was damaged in transit and that there's more to this book then the copy I have. Books need to have a resolution because otherwise they look unfinished.
There are a couple scenes I like in this story and they are descriptions of supernatural wonders. Mr.Killingsworth inspires awe with these scenes.
Also, I like the first five or so chapters that take place in the human realm. There's lots of detail here and a number of well developed characters. Edward certainly has a strong presence (always a good thing with first person narration) and the use of Calvagh as his foil (a bastard child like him but Irish and much nicer) makes them both better. Spenser, the poet, also makes a interesting contrast with Edward, whose writing skill is his tidy handwriting. It's a Technician vs Performer thing, as we say on Tvtropes.
Doubtless I would have enjoyed the human realm plotline more if I wasn't looking forward to the adventure in the elf realm. My disappointment with the elf realm plotline is likely due to having different expectations then Mr.Killingworth.
Edward is the only steady character. The others are inevitably lost in the shuffling mentioned above and contribute to the shuffling. It's a wheel of Edward meeting new people and being a jerk to them.
Out of all the many characters introduced in the human world, only two move into the elf world. Calvagh might as well have stayed behind because all he does is underscore Edward's jerkassery. He doesn't contribute anything to the plot.
Over the course of the story, more characters share this fate. "Salvage" does nothing and is not mentioned after his disappearance. "Flora" and her brother likewise. In the end, Edward has a half dozen or so lieutenants and I can't tell them apart because they are not visually distinguished and they all act the same.
Edward Harry, the protagonist, is a jerkass. He's arrogant, rude, treats others like dirt and sucks up to his boss. Occasionally, he'll recognize these traits but refuse to improve upon them which makes them worse. Being a bastard son is no excuse for his behavior because he meets three other bastards in this story and none of them are as bad as him. They serve to further emphasis his over-inflated opinion of himself and lack of manners.
Early in the story, he thinks the Irish in his traveling party are discussing ways to kill him simply because they're Irish and he can't understand their language. His boss is writing a pastoral poem and says that Edward inspired one of the characters. Instead of being flattered, he is deeply offended because the character's name doesn't match up to his own, which is the first name of two English kings.
Late in the story, he deliberately pushes the buttons of his lieutenants because they don't treat him like a king which then justifies their dislike of him. The only people he treats with respect are people serving him, and they have to fawn over him like the Grogoch, or it won't count.
The one redeeming trait he has is that he finds murder distasteful, both in seeing it done and committing it himself. Even here he can sound like a jerkass because he sounds like murder is beneath him as a "wandering scholar" rather than morally incorrect. Also, he often contemplates killing elves he particularly dislikes, or about cutting their pointy ears off. For someone that does not hesitate to kill two elves over the course of the story, this is a worrying tendency.
There are no spelling or grammar mistakes.
The first person narration works well because it is within Edward Harry's personality to write down his daily activities. The first page is about how this is his story and that he is the most important thing in it. It's all the more in his personality to give the events his own slant.
Overall, I don't like this book. I find it boring, too long, and starred by a thoroughly unlikable character. HOWEVER, I like the human realm plotline and the elf realm plotline separately. Thus I will give three grades. One for human realm, one for elf realm, and one for overall.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Hy Brazil" the following grades:
1. Human Realm plotline = B- (It feels like Slice of Life and so closure is a non-factor)
2. Elf Realm plotline = C- (for the lack of closure)
3. Overall = D- (i.e. not a "$15 for a paperback" kind of book)
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