Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quick Take - Sacred Hunt, by Michelle West

I have recently finished both The Hunter's Oath and The Hunter's Death, by Michelle (Sagara) West. I had been meaning to read them for some time, but had not gotten around to it. I have 200+ books sitting around in various stacks (here in The Omnibus Cave), so when searching for a new read, I wait for one of the many to mystically reach forth and seize my attention.

It is my understanding that West later continues in this setting with the Sun Sword series (six books) and the House War series (a projected five book series, with four already out). I have seen it mentioned elsewhere that West plans to continue writing in the Essalieyan setting in a new series, sometimes referred to as the Black Gauntlet and sometimes as the End of Days. Outside of the Essalieyan setting, West has written a series called The Sundered (published between '91 and '94) and an episodic series called Chronicles of Elantra ('05 to present).

The Sacred Hunt is a quick duology that introduces the reader to the Essalieyan setting. Originally released in the mid-90s, Hunter's Oath and Hunter's Death are among the earliest of West's bibliography.

The Good:

West handles characterization better than most. West's characters 'come alive' from her story and are easily believable. West also has a setting that holds a great deal of promise. While the Sacred Hunt does no more than to scratch the surface of this, her subsequent series in the same setting surely go more in depth on topics of culture, history, theology, et al.

The Bad:

One thing that I have particular difficulty in dealing with are editorial and proofread errors. There are spelling mistakes that can jar the reader's rhythym. There is also some haphazard sentence structure. While neither common, nor rare, there is the occasional sentence that can also break the reader's rhythym, requiring the re-read and re-re-read of the sentence in order to simply figure out precisely what in the hell? the sentence was trying to communicate.

An element of West's style that began to irritate me a bit was the confusing use of generic pronouns (e.g. he, she). The twist of the tale would change from one POV to another, and yet spend a paragraphy or two, or sometimes a page or two, using the word he, or she. By the time the reader is able to finally deduce which particular POV this is, the reader's perception has to be reset, and then the reader needs to re-read that previous portion in order to fully appreciate the gravity of what has just transpired in its appropriate context. While this may have been intentional, and seem clever on face-value, it becomes a chore.

The Remainder:

Overall, I am not sure whether or not I liked West's writing style. I instinctively want to say I liked it. Under more intense and analytical consideration, West's style may have been the catalyst for some of the elements I listed under "The Bad." It's hard to say either way.

I would describe West's style as something part way between a stream of consciousness and regular dialogue. As one reads the tale, one gets the sense of eavesdropping on another's own internal, mental dialogue. For the overwhelming majority of the time, I found that it worked rather well.

The Verdict:

Recommended to Highly Recommended


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