Thursday, May 10, 2007

This is a Review: Revealing Skills

As with all my (not a) reviews, descriptions are half-assed, my taste is mercurial, and ratings are assigned entirely by whim.

In most Fantasy novels, if chapter one introduces the main character mucking out stables or scrubbing pots in the kitchen, you can bet your subscription to Everquest that Young Humble Stableboy/Scullerygirl won't be holding that menial position for long. In no time at all, YHS/S will fall in with Interesting Company, discover a Hidden Talent, undertake a Great Journey and become an Important Person.

If a Fantasy novel also happens to be an erotic romance, the Great Journey may traipse through the bedroom, the linen closet, the dungeon, and various anatomically challenging positions before YHS/S becomes an Important Person and gets his/her hornily ever after, but the basic premise is the same.

But if the author of that Fantasy erotic romance is Summer Devon (aka Kate Rothwell), you can expect tired tropes and genre conventions to be twisted, turned on their heads, and tickled 'til they beg for mercy. This is, after all, the author whose cursed-to-be invisible heroine actually had some fun. Devon also dared to write a story with a virgin hero.

[You have earned the Chalice of Chutzpah, +5 Hit Points]

Revealing Skills by Summer Devon
Tabica is a Young Humble Slave in the castle of a mean baron. When she helps shape-changing escaped prisoner Gilrohan hide from the baron, shenanigans and sexin' ensue. Like every good little fantasy heroine, Tabica has heretofore unrealized magical talents. And since this Fantasy tale is also an erotic romance, I'm sure you can guess what and who it takes to bring those talents to light.

The Summer Devon novels I've read have all had a sort of easy-going good nature. She doesn't go in for overwrought drama or dark whiny angst, and I find that pretty damned refreshing.
[You have earned the Plot that Refreshes, +23 Health Points]
Where another author might have played the very played out "beauty and the beast" angle of the shape-changer trope, Devon's take reads like an ex-rated retelling of an extra-hijinky episode of Bewitched.
[You have earned the Helmet of Hijinkiness, +12 Hit Points]
Devon strikes a good balance with setting, deftly sketching an world that is unique enough to draw you in and familiar enough to keep you reading, but is never cliche. As always, her main characters are appealing and likable from the start. Tabica and Gilrohan could easily exist in a story that didn't feature shape-changers and magic.
[You have discovered the Wand of Worldbuilding and the Cape of Character, +9 Defense Points]
The first chapter pulled me right in. Gilrohan changes into a rat in order to escape the mean baron's dungeon. Tabica recognizes Gilrohan-the-rat as a shape-changing morphlange and saves him when he gets caught by a servant. Lucky for Gilrohan, and for the reader's delicate sensibilities, he changes back into a man when Tabica touches him.

The two feel an immediate, inexplicable attraction to each other, and proceed to act on it throughout the book.
[You have been struck by the Arrow of Inexplicable Attraction, -8 Health Points]
The problem is, while our two lovers' appetites stay hot, the story itself sort of looses steam after the first few* chapters.
[You have become lost in the Fjords of Fiznuckin', -9 Health Points]
The complication that keeps the lovers apart feels contrived. Toward the end of the story, Tabica gains an irrational admirer and comes down with a case of magical who-ha .
[You have been cursed with the Codpiece of Cliche, -2 Hit Points]
Devon is a gifted writer with talent for creating realistic, relatable characters while turning genre conventions on their collective ear. Revealing Skills starts strong and is consistently readable, but it is rather disappointing to watch an interesting, inventive beginning wander into mediocrity.

You are a 4th level Mermaid
(beautiful at the start, but kind of fishy toward the tail end)

* Note, originally, the linked portion of the review read "first two chapters", but the version I read had an extra-long chapter two. I believe the chapters of the final versions are different.