Saturday, January 30, 2021

Do I Feel Like Reading More of Mercedes Lackey's Work?

So here it is. The truth. I closed out reading Mercedes Lackey’s By the Sword feeling unfulfilled and unmoved by the book. So I'm wary of trying more of Lackey’s work. Don’t get me wrong, though. I enjoyed Lackey's Diana Tregarde series, as well as the first book in her Elementals series. As for the two dips I’ve taken into her Valedmar series, I've yet to come away with a hunger for more. And after finishing By the Sword, I am stuck wondering whether Lackey’s work is worth it to me. You see, By the Sword started off great. I was into Lackey’s fantasy character, Kerowyn, catapulting in her own direction in life. She wasn’t interested in becoming anyone’s wife or housekeeper. Nah. She desired the mercenaries way of life, or a means to be a hero to people.

Cool fantasy stuff, indeed.

Unfortunately, by the end of the book things changed for me.

Where do I go from here?
Although this book appears as a stand-alone within Lackey's Valdemar world–it isn’t. To me, anyway. You’ll need as much familiarity with Lackey’s Valemar world to appreciate what’s all present in By the Sword. Sure it could stand-alone on its own. Yet, I wouldn’t suggest taking it on without reading Lackey's Vows and Honors series. At least! There are miles of info-dumping in By the Sword. Info-dumping that bulldozes the potential for action and… well… a pace in storytelling. The book ran dry quickly. Recycled and dry to be exact.

Next be familiar with Lackey's overall style of telling her stories. She has a fairytale quality of telling her stories–which I do like. However, sometimes her emerging plots might not deliver, nor even land because of this. The fairytale plodding, pondering, romanticizing, and rhapsodizing stalls (as well as stale) the need to move the story forward. In By the Sword's case, her scenes over stayed their welcome to often. The R Wave of a scene starts off strong then gradually becomes poor.

By the Sword had scene after scene of too much time spent thinking in a cave, while all the interesting events were outside said cave. Too much time thinking over a war map, then lacking of said battle fully on stage. There was even overthinking in a forest bespelled to keep Kerowyn and one of two of her companions in the book lost. Needless to say, no sense of danger or challenge came out of that event.

Meanwhile, those storytelling beats necessary to hook the reader into reading through those lags kept going missing, as the story moved on to another footnote in Keroywn's life. By the Sword's "stall-the-reader" tactics distracted from how there wasn't a fully functional engine underneath its overarching story. Put it this way: Lackey's actual conflict always seems to take place off stage somewhere, leaving the characters on stage to trudge around calculating and contemplating as a result. Don't talk about how the sword was pulled from the stone. Take us to the character pulling the sword from the stone. Don't rehash someone's drunken night at the bar after the fact, take us to the drunken night at the bar.

By the Sword launched off exciting, while carrying some high expectations stakes for the reader. However, like my experience with Lackeys Arrows of the Queen, I didn't get a darn thing for what I came for. I mean, I read it through and through. But after awhile it was just to say I finally read it. I was too deep to turn back.

So I got a lot of thinking to do about my next attempt at Lackey's work. Is she really worth it for me?

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