Sunday, 7 August 2011

Red Gloves, by Beth Vaughan

Hmm.  Red Gloves.  I'm getting a bit less tolerant of books with beginnings that don't grab me - my time is precious, so I am tending to leave books unfinished if I'm finding them dull or badly written.  Red Gloves almost got put back on the shelf after a few pages.  It started well, and I was intrigued by the character of Red Gloves from the start as she was good and tomboyish in her mannerisms and speech.  I like tomboys, being one myself.

But I lost patience when after a few pages she was trying to seduce the first bloke offered up in the story, and I was disappointed that a perfectly good book could potentially be ruined by smut.  But I persevered because I wanted to see if there would be more to the story - surely a book with such instantly vivid characters would not be just full of filth?  I also hoped that I wasn't going to be expected to like Red just because she was physically strong, sexually independent and confident, and emasculated.

It turned out that I wasn't expected to like her for those things.  And it also turned out that I was rewarded for my perseverance.  There was much more to Red than sex.  What a great character, full of conflict, moody, transparent, complex, challenging.  She was a real treat actually.  She was also very easy to like.  Having said that I don't think she would be to everyone's taste.  And there was a history to the world that Vaughan had created.  I could well imagine more stories and more characters.

I've only one criticism really, though it is quite a big one.  With a story so well thought out as this one, and with so many interesting characters, I would have liked this book to have been three times as long, or even part of a series.  I felt as though the story was just getting going, and then it was over.  The end was rushed, the battle was too vague and was fought at a distance, and also was won too easily, and the conclusion was too obvious and a little too much on the sentimental and mushy side for my liking.  This book had tremendous potential, but it did not quite fulfill it.  I wanted more from this book, but I felt as though I had to fill in the detail for myself.  There were so many secrets - practically every character had one - but almost none of them were revealed and explained fully or satisfactorily.  The secrets of the two main characters were told, but I'm nosy and I wanted to know why everyone had a shifty look and a guilty manner.  If the booked had been stretched out a bit, these secrets could have become the integral parts of the story that I had expected them to be.

Actually I did have another criticism, and that was that the writing was sometimes a bit lazy.  I remember screwing my nose up at one particular sentence: 'Jonas just stood there'.  What?  Are you kidding?  The dialogue is often lyrical in its efforts to place itself in the high fantasy category, and then we get 'just stood there'.  Hmm.  Stood where?  Hmm.  A little bit first drafty, if you ask me; a sentence that was missed in the edit, perhaps.  Now, don't get me wrong, there was no peppering of lazy sentences in this book, and goodness knows my own writing is full of them.  But these kinds of sentence just helped to give the book a feeling of not being finished.

So in short, testing beginning, good middle, rushed end.  Maybe it's just that I like an epic: three or four books make a right good story for me.  A book of 300+ pages only whets my appetite, really.

And so here, I think we have learned something about different tastes ... err, they all ... different.  Mmm.

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