Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Valdemar 07: Brightly Burning (Lackey)

Rating: 3/5
Year: 2000
Genre: Fantasy
Read again? Not likely

Book 7 of the rather long Valdemar series. Only 19 more to go. This is one of the few stand-alone books. I'm glad it's not a trilogy. I don't think I could handle two more books this boring.

*grumble* This book takes its time getting started. Lavan Chitward is the second son to a prosperous textile merchant. The family has just recently moved to Haven, the capital of Valdemar. He doesn't want to be in the family business, so his parents enroll the 16-year-old in a fancy private school--and that's where the trouble starts. One would think that this formula would be so well-known that people wouldn't pick on the New Kid, because Bad Things Happen. Guess these kids never saw "Carrie."

The school's administrator is more interested in the parents' money than in doing well for the kids; the teaching staff are paid according to test scores, and there's no real incentive for them to maintain discipline. This is left to the oldest students. What could possibly go wrong?

Lavan quickly becomes a target for the gang of thugs who rule the younger classmates, leading ultimately to his being beaten with a cane--and four of them die in a blast of fire caused by their tormented victim. Sadly, by that point, I still didn't care enough about any of the characters to feel anything for them. It was too obvious that we're supposed to hate the bad guys, too obvious that we're supposed to feel oh-so sorry for the poor, innocent kid.

*more grumbling* Wow, does this thing drag. Almost 450 pages, and the four punks don't die until around page 129. In the meantime, we are clubbed into submission with Lackey's heavy-handed approach: he's unhappy. He's not happy. He's not happy. He is not happy. He's not happy. He is in no way happy. He is not happy in the least. Did I mention he's not even slightly happy? Happy, he is not. He's also lonely.

On top of that, Lackey has pulled out all the stops for vocabulary! If there's a long-ass way to write a sentence or piece of dialog, she does it. I think she could have cut this book in half just by tightening everything up. She must have been paid by the word--either that, or she's fallen into the "I've sold millions of units--I can do no wrong!" trap that keeps Metallica in the studio. Guys, "Load" was a load, and "Death Magnetic" just isn't cutting it. You've got your money--you can relax.

Then there's the characterization. Everyone's a cardboard cutout from Central Casting: the emotionally-distant, Social Climbing mother; the emotionally-unavailable "yes-dear" father; all the Heralds are such nice people; the bullies are faceless, without much humanity; the King could be played by Sean Connery's body double. There just aren't any actual people in the book--and people are what stories are supposed to be about. Even Lavan is a stereotype: he's got wavy, red-brown hair to further evoke the whole fire-starter image.

Maybe it was a contractual obligation. Maybe she's running out of ideas. Maybe she's as tired of writing Valdemar books as I'm getting of reading them. Maybe she's just not happy in the least...but this is by far the worst of the Valdemar books--"The legendary story of Herald Lavan Firestorm," according to the subtitle. Bleah.

Don't get me wrong; there are a few good scenes scattered amongst this otherwise steaming pile, but they're not enough to save the book from being forgettable. I'm just glad it's over.

The book starts off with an unintentionally funny dedication: "To all the unsung heroes who stood by on the evening of December 31, 1999 to ensure that we crossed into the year 2000 with our safety, security and peace intact." Me, I was stocking the cooler where I worked and completely missed the end of the world. "O noes! Our toasters will stop working!!"

Nickname Watch (strangely, only a few this time):
Lavan (the main character): Lan (LAN? Will there be a kid named Wi-fi next?)
Samael (older brother): Sam


Anonymous said...

Seeing how tedious you make the Lackey books sound, I'm wondering if you've kept them all these years just to flog yourself with. "Oh, no, I forgot to pay the phone bill! Well, three volumes of Lackey should teach me a lesson." -- LR

JW said...

It's been a few years since the last time I read them all in series (not including "Brightly Burning" and the "Exile" books, which are newer, and the Gryphon books, which never did appeal to me that much.

I've only red "Burning" twice, now--and now that I've got a write-up on it, I'll know not to next time *g*

The Lackey style never actually bothered me before this time around. I think the next time I decide to do the series, I'll just pick a set, then go on to something else like I'm doing now to add some variety.

Anonymous said...

Brust is the only author whose books I can just sit and read striaght through as a set. Everyone else, including the Hornblower books, which I love, I have to intersperse with unrelated books to avoid OD'ing. -- LR