Time for two more of my reviews that originally appeared in SFX magazine: The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams is available over at the magazine's website; here on Alexandria is Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder.
Ah, that old tale: Boy meets girl, girl hates boy on sight, boy returns the favour, boy rescues girl from certain death, boy lies on top of girl in the forest for several hours (essential for hiding from pursuers, of course), girl and boy are forced to travel together and bicker like crazy at every step. What happens next, readers?
If you said, “Girl and boy go their separate ways and never think about each other again”, you’re either a) wildly optimistic, well done, or b) new to this whole reading thing, aren’t you?
If you fall into category b), you could do worse than start with Touch of Power, if only for the crash course it provides in romance tropes; the star-crossed pair’s first kiss, in particular, should win some sort of award for cliché, but might be sweet if you’re unfamiliar with the concept. There are gestures at world-building: magic, deadly plants, interchangeable towns with unpronounceable names, and some hilariously simplistic politics (all the various rival rulers were at boarding school together!). But the fantasy isn’t the point, except insofar as the magic system gives Snyder an excuse to have heroine and love interest hold hands regularly; in truth, everything – including a horrific, population-decimating plague – is just a backdrop to the love story.
The prose – especially the dialogue – is clumsy, but it moves quickly and is mildly entertaining. Unless you really like your romance, though, steer clear.