Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saffron Eyes

I recently read Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly. If you're a vampire aficionado, you may want to read it. If it's the middle of finals and you just need something to take your mind off school before bed (like me), this might be worth your time.

But generally, not a very good book. For all the ingredients that should make this good--it's a gaslamp fantasy; it's got an intriguing theory on vampirism; its heroine is more kick-ass than Mina; its protagonist used to be an agent for the British government and is now a linguistics professor; it's got legendary ancient vampires*--the finished product just isn't particularly delicious. But it's got suspense and mystery, so I did get caught up and read it through.

I'll give an example, something that immediately made me distrust the book. Hambly uses her adjectives and adverbs ill-advisedly--she's trying to be poetic, but she goes overboard. And cliches abound. What most annoyed me were the descriptions of the main vampire's eyes. She could have said they were yellow and left it at that. But no, she gave four different descriptions of the eye color in the space of twelve quick-to-read pages. Each description was lovely in its own right ("saffron eyes," "acid and honey"), but all together it was simply heavy-handed. And I was only keeping track those first twelve pages; she continues to constantly harken back to the vampire's eye color throughout the book, rotating through her descriptions. When she could have said, "the vampire looked at me," she instead said, "impenetrable champagne eyes looked into mine."

*What I love about vampires is the immortality, that they can have seen so much history and lived in so many different time periods.

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