Review: Elizabeth Willey, A Well-Favored Man and A Sorceror and a Gentleman (fantasy)

Alan P. Scott - Rants - Reviews


After several abortive attempts to put together a polished review of Elizabeth Willey's first two published novels, A Well-Favored Man and A Sorceror and a Gentleman, I've come to the conclusion that I can't do it. So I'll just make the three comments below and have done.

As with any review of any fiction, I may include details which you consider spoilers - but I'll try not to do it intentionally.

  1. I liked these books, even though I don't normally read or enjoy genre fantasy. Despite their rather pedestrian covers, Willey's books are a cut above their generic counterparts. I have rec.arts.sf.written to thank for bringing Willey's name to my attention; without this group I would most likely have missed out on these enjoyable experiences.
  2. Willey's prose style is refreshing: complex sentences and superb control of diction are, sadly, neither characteristics of modern fantasy in general (specific counterexamples are welcome... I do enjoy, for example, Charles deLint's work). I especially like the way she differentiates older characters from younger by having them use more archaic diction. And, she is the best I've yet seen (apart from the Elizabethans themselves) at making archaic speech ring true... so many writers seem to think adding "eth" to the end of every verb and calling everyone "thee" regardless of relationship makes speech "Elizabethan." Willey can have her character Prospero rattle off sentences like "Hearken to me, cease thy larking, thou'lt learn all needful to thee in good time." with nary a misstep.
  3. That said, though, I found the plots rather... Amberish. Not to the point of plagiarism, mind you, but the tropes are ones I feel I've seen before. The worlds' elemental sources, travel to alternities via mirrors and spells, dragons and gryphons and all... in Willey's hands these are engrossing, true, yet still and all they are cliches, and I hope she does not become so enmired in sequelae that she forgets to write something entirely original one day.
  4. Okay, four things. I really liked the pun in the first book's title.

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