failing like never before


Debroah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy

I used to pick books by their cover. In the days before smart phones and readily available internet book reviews, my best determinant for a book's quality was the flashiness of the cover and the catchiness of the title. But now with a smart phone always in my pocket, I can instead rely on "expert" reviews for assistance. Some list of highly rated books had Debroah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy near the top, so when a trip to my local library revealed an entire shelf filled with multiple copies of the trilogy, I checked out the lot. My "expert" opinion of the trilogy, here, is mostly spoiler free.

Enter the women...
Diana Bishop is an Oxford educated PhD and Yale history professor, who is highly respected in her field of study and amazingly brilliant. Because her hobbies include rowing, running and yoga, she remains fit and eye-catchingly beautiful despite approaching middle age. She is also, of course, a (super) witch of unusual talent and strength, despite her attempts to forgot her witchy heritage. Bishop is clearly an all around exaggerated and cooler version of author and USC history professor Debroah Harkness (who received her PhD from well respected, but nonetheless uncool cow college, UC Davis).

Enter the vampire...
Matthew Clairmont is (about) 1500 years of age, fabulously wealthy (thanks to hundreds of years worth of accumulated riches), astonishingly brilliant and unnaturally well-educated (since he spent his unnatural lifetime accumulating degrees in various subject areas) and of course, broodingly handsome (because all vampires are HAWT). Clairmont has that bad-boy vibe, with a bloody and messy past (what member of the un-dead doesn't) hidden beneath a gentlemen's veneer. But his best characteristic is his deep love and undying devotion for his one true love, Debroah... I mean, Diana Bishop.

With Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! and Heart!...
The star crossed lovers Bishop and Clairmont must use their combined powers and a little help from their magical and non-magical friends to embark on a twisting adventure of self-preservation and a quest to save the world from evil.

Although the All Souls Trilogy thankfully avoids true Twilight levels of creepiness, it clearly possesses all the right elements to follow in the wake of the very profitable teen vampire novels. One of the most notable similarities being an unrealistic romance between a blandly awesome Mary Sue and her vampire Darcy, that goes from zero to fanfic faster then Hermoine Granger can raise her hand. A little sprinkle of creepy night time voyeurism and a dash of B.O. sniffing is even thrown in for good measure.

Although occasionally fast paced, the trilogy is generally slow moving. Too much time is spent describing the layout of a reading room at an Oxford college and the mechanics of requesting books. In the time it takes to describe Bishop's early morning run I could have just taken my own morning run. Add in numerous flashbacks, time jumps, side plots and ancillary characters, and the story is a lurching, disjointed slog-fest desperately in need of a therapist.

Taking the advice "write what you know" true to heart, Harkness plays to her strengths and litters the trilogy with historical tidbits and by the second book, we start to see quite a bit of historical fiction involving the likes of Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. But Harkness overindulges, and excessive in-depth descriptions of all things 16th century England are endless, contributing little to an already dragging plot and only succeed in stoking the enthusiasm of history buffs on the hunt for historical cameos.

All novels suffer deficiencies. A Twilight lover might find it in their heart to ignore the flaws of this trilogy. And make no mistake, this is a series meant to endear itself to the same people who enjoyed Twilight. For someone like me, the moment I started to see Twilight connections my guard was up and every word that followed faced a deeply prejudiced reader. I still finished the trilogy, with a generous helping of speed reading, because I hate to leave a book unfinished. When I turned the last page and everything was tied up in a nice pretty pink bow, and all the heroes were holding hands and singing kumbaya, I breathed a sigh of relief.



Twilight and More

I read all the rest of the Twilight books and even Stephanie Meyer's draft for Midnight Sun. It was like a sickness, I wanted to throw the terrible stuff away but I simply couldn't get over how bad it was. But now after reading more of Meyer's writing, I feel I need to rant again. Once was simply not enough.

Lets start with Meyer's newest Twilight book, Midnight Sun, which is basically just Twilight but written from Edward's perspective. Apparently, realizing just how successful Twilight has become, Meyer's decided the easiest way to make more money and sell some more books was to rewrite the series from a different perspective. That's marketing genius right there, since rabid Twilight fans are probably willing to buy anything that Meyer decides to pull out of her butt right now. I'm not going to tear into Midnight Sun too much since I realize its still only in draft stage right now, but after reading the draft I can predict with high certainty that the book is going to be pretty bad. Seeing Meyer's sickingly stupid story through Edward's eyes doesn't make it any better then seeing it through Bella's eyes; it was a lame story to begin with and Edward's mind isn't much more complex then Bella's.

I simply cannot get over how amazingly stupid and boring Bella is. Throughout the Twilight series, Bella can be characterized by two attributes: her clumsiness, and her love for Edward. In my lifetime, I've had to have stitches on my head three times, once from hitting my head while jumping on my sister's bed, another from running into a gate, and another from slipping and hitting my chin while playing capture-the-flag. So I think I definitely deserve to be classified as clumsy. But Bella takes clumsiness to a whole new level, she hits people in the head with a tennis racquet when she tries to hit a ball, falls off motorcycles, and manages to even trip over her own feet numerous times when walking on perfectly flat surfaces. Meyer's takes great strides to point out just how clumsy Bella is, how needy she is for Edward the Perfect to come and save her and be her guardian angel. When Bella became a vampire, I wondered whether her special mutant superpower was going to her mind shield thing, or super clumsiness. Super clumsiness would be an awesome power if one could control it. Just imagine, that faced with a terrifying foe, Bella attempts a roundhouse punch but instead trips and punches a hole in the ground all the way to the earth's core, sending her opponent sliding to a fiery death. Or when playing vampire baseball, Bella attempts to hit a home run, but instead throws the bat into the pitcher's head and knocks him unconscious (yeah, I know, Edward the Perfect doesn't get concussions), forcing the opposing team to play a human as their pitcher. Disappointingly, Bella's mutant vampire power turned out to be an ability to shield her mind and others from external intrusion.


The Vampires of Twilight

(This could be a little confusing if you haven't read Twilight before, or have no idea what its about.)

I had to see what all the fuss over Twilight was all about, so a few weeks ago, instead of studying, I decided to read Twilight. My literary background isn't exactly amazing, and the fact that I'm an engineering student probably does little to add credence to my literary analysis, but I'm still going to attempt a brief rant against Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

It seems to me that Stephenie Meyer isn't exactly overflowing with literary prowess, although I will conceded that she is a better writer then me (Face it, who isn't better then me?). Meyer has this thing where she feels she has to insert an awkwardly large number of adjectives into a sentence in order to describe one thing. I don't actually own a copy of the book so I don't have it in front of me and can't quote from it, but I think that anyone who has read the book can understand what I'm talking about. Maybe Meyer was just going for a dark, super-descriptive style, but if that was her goal, then she overshot it by a few hundred yards and ended up with something that reads like a grade schooler's attempt at a "descriptive writing" assignment.

I told a friend that I managed to read through Twilight in about an hour and thirty minutes. He was a little surprised to hear that (and rightly so) and asked me how I managed such a (almost) Herculean feat. The reasons behind my speedy-reading time is two-fold: firstly, I've had a lot of experience speed-reading through books, and secondly, (the big secret) I skipped all the parts where Bella expounded upon Edward's god-like attributes. I realize that Edward is supposed to posses inhuman beauty, and that Bella, as a teenage girl, is of course going to be admiring the physical attributes of her vampire boyfriend, but I think the description's of Edward's hotness are a little much. It seemed to me that every time Edward was mentioned, Bella immediately starts thinking about how beautiful and perfect Edward is (his perfect skin, teeth, scent, muscles, voice, etc.), and I started skipping whole lines of text at a time. Forgive me for not being a teenage girl (or a homosexual teenage boy) , but reading about Edward's god-like proportions brought me pretty close to my retching point, which is why I simply started skipping after I realized the descriptions were never going to stop.