Review: Elizabeth Willey, A Well-Favored Man and A Sorceror and a Gentleman (fantasy)
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Okay, four things. I really liked the pun in the first book's title.
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