Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Raie'Chaelia by Melissa Douthit

Title: The Raie'Chaelia
Author: Melissa Douthit
Publisher: Lucky Bat Books
Release Date: May 27, 2011
Pages: 365 pages (Amazon estimate)
How I Got the Book: Downloaded it for free from Amazon

The Raie'ChaeliaWhen Chalice sets off for Branbury in the middle of the night with her grandfather's instructions, she has no idea of the dangers that await her. The King's men have destroyed her home village of Canton and she is suddenly thrown into a Terravailian world that she does not know. Lost and alone, she is hard pressed to evade the iron grasp of the madman who rules the land. With the help of a friendly Chinuk, an old man, and a book that she discovers along the way, not only does she find true friends and true love, but she also finds her true self and what it means to be the Raie'Chaelia.


I normally start my reviews with a summary of the novel in my own words, but I remember so little of what this novel was about that I can't come up with my own summary. I finished reading it just ten minutes ago from the time I write this opening paragraph, mind you. I'll just jump right in to the critical portion of this review.

Chalice is yet another one of those beautiful, perfect(ly boring) heroines everyone in the story loves. She never has to put in any effort for a situation to work out in her favor, everything comes to her naturally, and she is void of all personality or interesting traits. Where is the struggle? I like to read about heroines who have to work hard to get what they want and have to overcome strong personal conflicts. I don't see why I am supposed to care about her and cheer her on when she is basically a void personified and I know it's all going to work for her out in the end. The supporting cast was nothing but cardboard stock characters.

I skimmed large portions of the novel because of the endless minutiae of everything that doesn't need description. A kitchen and its contents took up an entire page of description and I said I would eat my ring if anything in there came back to be important and my ring remains uneaten. The effect the overdescription has on the book is equivalent to strapping pairs of 500 lb. weights to a baby squirrel. Dropping unneeded commas in the middle of sentences bogged it down further.

To get more specific about the writing quality, calling it a nightmare would be an insult to the truly terrifying nightmares I've had. I have so many highlights on my Kindle of examples of this that looking at it scares me. Usually when centered on Chalice, the prose became so purple that I feared it was in danger of being eliminated from the color spectrum (but according to who you ask, purple is but a pigment of our imaginations in the first place). Multiple sentences end in multiple punctuation marks (??? and !! and ??) and that is best left to the Internet, not a published book.

Here are a few prime quotes:
Passing the hearth, she noticed two doorways, one on each side of the sitting room, and a double doorway in front of her, consisting of crystal squares framed in carved cedar, that revealed a terrace behind it, overlooking the ocean. (The Raie'Chaelia, 4%) (As Reasoning with Vampires taught me, sentences are not minivans.)
"What is it, boy?" she said as she jumped to her feet, spilling her tea, which had lost its heat, and stroked his blond neck to calm him. (5%)
Really, she had known since Branbury. She had to choose. It was a choice between the love of her life and her duty to the people. How heartbreaking life could be! It was almost a cruel joke. She stared at the floor in deep thought. (45%)
She looked down and saw that her cut was angry, red, and full of puss and was still bleeding profusely. (72%) (Ah, what a difference a single letter can make. Puss is either a cat or a girl/woman and I don't think either of those are in her cut. Pus, however, might be.)
"The firestone," Vlaad said darkly, as he looked into the Fierain's eyes and saw a red glint flare up in the burning inferno of insanity that flourished within. (98%)
The point of view tended to jump from Chalice to someone else in the middle of a paragraph for as little as two sentences, but it was usually for a paragraph or two. I like narrative consistency and smooth changes in narrative if it must move to someone else. This novel had neither. The changes in narrative were never of importance either; almost every time, their only purpose was to talk about Chalice and how wonderful she was.

And oh, how predictable the novel was! I don't read fantasy very often (in three years, I've read about three hundred books and maybe seven were high fantasy), but I'm familiar with the cliche tropes. This book has them all in spades. Each twist was called a good while ahead of time and the narrative would often take a time-out to say something like "but they had no idea that someone was watching them and saw it all!" And a woman named Jezebelle being evil? No! That specific choice was sheer laziness.

Dialogue tags are often found with adverbs attached. Personally, I loathe relying too much on adverbs in fiction; using too many shows an inability to master tone and lends to the problem of telling instead of showing. The Raie'Chaelia suffers from an abundance of adverbs and interrobangs both normal (?!) and mutilated (?!?), which contributes to the problem that the novel is told every step of the way instead of shown. Tone is about describing the right subjects the right way, not describing every last piece of a scene and throwing around adverbs like water balloons at a summer camp.

How bad was it? A few more quotes for you:

"Really?!?" said Jeremiah wryly. "What gave you that impression?" (8%)
"Uh ... yeah ... right. Whatever you say, Jeremiah. I'll take your word for it. Fascinating stuff," she said sarcastically. (11%)
"Yeah, thanks!" she replied gratefully. (13%)
"You're not telling me. Alright, well, whatever. Good night," she replied sassily. (22%)
"Hmmm, I have a feeling he knows where you are," Naelli responded knowingly. (28%)
Taking Chalice' [sic] face in her hands, Kirna said strongly: "You brave woman!" (46%) (The typo of "Chalice's" appears more often than it is spelled correctly.)
Can you not get the impression of how the words are said by what is said? Apparently, we are not smart enough to figure it out that way and must be told.

There are two ways the plot of The Raie'Chaelia gets moved: by infodump or by contrivance, and the former is more heavily relied on than the latter. I mentioned earlier I was already skimming large pieces of the book, but I began to skim even more quickly once pages upon pages were spent infodumping. When moved by contrivance, someone burst in with exactly what they needed so Chalice and her love interest Jeremiah would have to actually work for the knowledge or a plot point jumped on top of them. Then it devolved back into infodumps so long I forgot what was going on before.

The Raie'Chaelia seems to have an identity crisis. Its setting is easily defined as high fantasy with just a hint of its sibling subgenre sword and sorcery. Through various infodumps, it is made known the book is also post-apocalyptic, but all this detail seems to do is create an excuse for the underground cities to exist. The merging of two subgenres so distant from one another seems like a great idea and I liked it when it was first introduced, but it was done so badly that it would have been better if it weren't done at all.

At the beginning of the novel was a preface that came off as more than a little condescending to me. Why I didn't turn tail and run away from this book after that point is a mystery to me. More helpful would have been a pronunciation guide so I could figure out how to pronounce Naeo'Gaea, Dar'Maalda, Naie'Ielian, and Bunejab. I could not recommend this book to anyone and have a clear conscience about it.

1 star!

What am I reading next?: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott