Scenario: I’m in the library. It’s 5 minutes until closing. I’ve got to find a book fast. My library is a small neighborhood branch and there’s not a huge selection. There are plenty of fantasy books, but it’s hard to find one I haven’t read that’s not a sequel to something I haven’t read. I’m starting to panic as I’ve got only one minute left. I grab a book that has the little “fantasy” sticker on it (black unicorn with glowing horn dancing on a purple background) and it’s something I’ve never heard of before: Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan. It seems to be the beginning of a trilogy. I grab it and I run to the check-out counter. Phew.
I get home and take a closer look at my find: The publisher listed on the spine is covered by the glowing unicorn, so I turn to the title page. There’s a picture of a heart with an arrow through it, and underneath is the declaration: “Tor Romance.” I roll my eyes and groan. I don’t like romance novels. But, I’ve got nothing else to read, so I decide to give it a try because even if I don’t like it, at least I can use the review on this website. . .
Actually, the story was pretty good for a romance. The writing was lively and active, the characters were interesting, deep, and well-done. Ms. Vaughan has a way of making them come alive with well-described mannerisms and facial expressions. The main female character is feisty and likeable, the main male character is a barbarian warlord (how hot is that?). The story was interesting though, other than the purple unicorn sticker, it didn’t have many fantasy elements. I suppose we call this “low fantasy,” but my speculation is that some romance authors call their work fantasy so they can use a completely made up world which requires very little historical research. (I’m not accusing Ms. Vaughan of this in particular, it’s just an aside.)
But now I know what it is I don’t like about romance novels. It’s not that I don’t like romance. I DO like romance, I consider myself a fairly romantic person, and I like romantic sub-plots in my fantasy — they aid characterization and help us to empathize. What I DON’T like is that romance novels all have the same goal. We’re just waiting… and building tension… and getting all hot and bothered … until finally… The hero and heroine hit the hay. It’s always the same climax. (Sorry for the bad pun, but I hope you appreciated the alliteration).
In a romance novel, the romance is the main plot (I guess that’s why they call it a romance novel, eh?) and everything is written around it just to provide a context for the physical relationship. So, as a rule, romance novels are not known for being excellent literature, and this novel doesn’t break the rule. But it does break several grammar rules, and elementary ones, too. For example:
- “But experience had been a hard teacher, harder then Eln had ever been.”
- “His broad, round face was
- grim, and while not as dark as the man on the cot, he was darker then most.”
- “The expressions ran the gauntlet from pity to amazement to mirth.”
- “It was early enough the market was not crowded.”
- “The tent seemed to glow it was so bright.”
Verb tense changes:
- “After I passed Anna’s inspection, and been given a quick hug, . . .”
There are other issues: spelling errors, pronouns missing their direct objects, possessives missing apostrophes… I could go on, but I won’t. (You’re welcome.)
No matter how high-spirited the heroine, or how hunky the hero, I can not forgive these sorts of mistakes. They are too distracting and it’s inexcusable. How does it happen that a published author doesn’t know basic fourth grade grammar? Perhaps the mistakes are just typing errors, but why didn’t Tor’s editors catch them?? Unbelievable! SHAME ON YOU, TOR! I will not be reading any more Tor romances.
The Chronicles of the Warlands — (2005-2011) Publisher: SHE MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN HER PEOPLE AND HER FREEDOM… Xylara is the Daughter of the Warrior King, Xyron. With her father dead and her incompetent half-brother on the throne, the kingdom is in danger of falling to the warring Firelanders. Before she was old enough for a marriage-of-alliance, Xylara was trained as a healer. She can’t usurp her brother or negotiate a peace — but she can heal the brave ones injured in battle. But not only her countrymen are wounded, and Xylara’s conscience won’t let Firelander warriors die when she can do something to save them. She learns their language and their customs and tries to make them as comfortable as possible, despite their prisoner-of-war status. She never expects that these deeds, done in good faith, would lead to the handsome and mysterious Firelander Warlord demanding her in exchange for a cease-fire. Xylara knows must trade the life she has always known for the well-being of her people, and so she becomes… The Warprize.