Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Stone Song (Cold Iron #3) by D.L. McDermott

Sorcha never believed her grandmother when she warned her about the fairies, when she took away Sorcha’s violin and forbid her from music – a fate that, for a girl born with the mystical voice of the druids, is almost impossible to imagine

She learned how right her grandmother was when she fell into a fae’s clutches and it was only by chance and her long buried powers that she managed to escape. Now she’s much more careful – but the fae have still come looking for her; Elada with his claims of love and alliance and the Prince who wishes to enslave her for his own terrible needs. Worse, there are many fae with long memories of the druids’ abuses – and are still bitterly seeking revenge.

The framework of this book is interesting. The underlying world building is excellent – we have the ancient druids and fae with a terrible history that is interestingly balanced on both sides. There’s a lot of hatred to bury that is especially difficult and complicated given the immortal nature of the fae who, of course, remember the atrocities the druids committed against them and their loved ones. Asking them to just let it go is complicated. We have at least 3 different fae factions who, to a greater or lesser degree, all fear the Prince successfully bringing the court back. But they all have dramatically different views when it comes to humans and especially druids – the politicking as these groups try to work together but clash is excellent to navigate.

But when you look at the details it doesn’t follow through so well. There’s too much call-back to characters from previous books (and I think part of this is, I admit, from my missing the second book), like Conn and Beth and Helene – I’m not sure why they’re even in this book since they didn’t really add anything to it.

The plot itself starts quite well – though romance is a large part and (as mentioned below), I’m not a fan of it. Sorcha is interesting enough – but the ending is a rather clichéd kidnapping complete with “I must go alone because bad guy said so” which is so infuriatingly overdone and hardly ever makes sense – especially considering Sorcha’s complete ignorance over what she’s dealing with. We have a side order of trusting the bad guys to keep their word (complete non-spoiler: they don’t).  And relying on her super power kicking in despite her being very new to it, barely able to control it, not even able to use it most of the time AND not expecting the bad guys to have a counter measure for even though they know she has it and are all super worried because of that. As an extra bonus, the bad guys who super-duper want her dead, are going to wait a long time before they actually kill her.

It’s one of those plot lines where she should probably be dead. Really really dead.

One of the recurring threats presented in this series from the fae is that they are super-duper sexy and their voices are impossible to disobey unless you’re touching cold iron. This opens the door to lots of sexual abuse – and that happens. When Sorcha and the Prince face off, he tries to seduce her – with lots of groping - and there’s no real story reason for it. Once he forces her to remove the iron ring, which he’s quite capable of through non-sexual means, there was no need for any more. And there was certainly no need to give her the wine of Uber Horniness. I have wracked my brains for an excuse for this – especially since this wine is supposed to be super expensive and rare and I can’t think of anything he achieved having her drink it that he couldn’t have achieved by threatening her best friend (which he did anyway).

But, of course, having drunk the Horniness Wine, she now must have sex. Oh Elada, you must take this burden on yourself! He totally finds her hot (she also finds him super hot even though she usually runs screaming from any of the fae and certainly wasn’t going to have sex with one out of terror of their coercive power – but Horniness Wine removes all choices) but he didn’t want their first time to be like this and he wanted it to be special so it’s totally ok and he’s a complete nice guy who just has to have sex with her when her consent is completely incapable of being given because of Circumstances Outside of Their Control. Ugh, no.

And what does it achieve? Why it fastforwards the romance – after Elada has apparently dealt with his people’s millennia old grudge against the druids who slaughtered and banished them because she has a pretty singing voice, Sorcha can then super-quickly get over her granny’s childhood conditioning of hating and fearing all things fae (to the point of living in an iron saturated home) and her own year of slavery and abuse and fall in love with Elada. They talk moving in together within a week of meeting. I kid you not – I think there’s some time (weeks I hope) for training in which they get to know each other, but they’re pretty much dedicated to each other long before then. Elada was considering magically bonding himself to Sorcha before they even spoke.

Top it off, there are no minorities in this book at all, despite the gazillion and one unnecessary cast members.

It’s a book with high potential, but the execution just doesn’t cut it  - and that’s a real shame.