Saturday, November 15, 2014

Court of Thrones of Fire and Ice?

There is definitely a market for Court.  I don't think I am that market.  Intellectually, I understand where Cat Patrick was going with this, but it just didn't work for me.

The basic premise is that there is a secret government operating within the borders of the United States--namely, in the state of Wyoming.  I suppose if I wanted to hide a government, I would have gone to North Dakota (no offense, North Dakotans)--Wyoming has Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, etc.  ANYWAY.  This secret government--Eurus-- was established by some dudes who didn't want to hang with the Founding Fathers, so they somehow made trails all the way out to Wyoming where they could live with the "Native people."  Joseph Dyer didn't like that his daughters couldn't go to university in Puritan New England (what century, exactly, was he from?) and his buddy, John Seymour, didn't like that his "Native woman" wife was being attacked by their neighbors.  "Dyer, Seymour, and several other men and their families snuck away.  After a long and dangerous journey, together they created their version of paradise: a kingdom that blended the best of England with Native cultures.  Dyer was thought of as the Father of the Realm, and Seymour's Native wife, who ensured their survival through tribal relations, the Mother."

Okay.  That was my first stomp-on-the-brakes-screeeeech moment.  Once again, Native Americans are reduced to magical helpers and not treated as sovereign nations of their own (which they are).  No reason is given, but the reader assumes that the people with whom the European men intermarry simply assimilate into the government created by their husbands, which is, again, ridiculously ... I am actually at a loss for words here.  If there is a word that means skeevy+offensive+unbelievable+irrational all in one, it fits in that ellipsis.  I assume that the whole Native-wife-keeps-them-alive concept comes from the story of Sacagawea, but, I'm not fully buying this either.

Now, this presents problem number two: genetics.  Unless these "several" people had fabulous DNA, it's unlikely that they could generate descendants who didn't have serious birth defects.  I suppose you could argue that the men all married people of the nations of that area, but I doubt that you'd get enough genetic variety.  Plus, the narrative makes a distinction between those who favor "the Father" in looks (i.e. Western European) and "the Mother" (American Indian of unknown tribe/nation).  Evidently, after 300 years, there is still distinguishable phenotypic variation.  Wow.  *Note* I am not a geneticist, but I did make Punnett squares in high school human biology and I know it's a pretty bad idea to marry your cousin.

Anyway, even if you skip all that, things start to get pretty familiar.  The heir to the throne suddenly becomes King even though he's a horrid little twit who enjoys getting drunk at any and every opportunity.  He's basically this guy:

*Note the Second* I've neither read nor watched Game of Thrones but everyone at work is obsessed and I think I've absorbed some of the culture via osmosis.

WAIT A MINUTE.  When, in the course of writing a book review, it becomes blindingly obvious that much more was borrowed than previously thought, a lady lowers her opinion of the book even further.

Back to that in a moment.

This heir, Haakon (unfortunate name, that), is formally betrothed to Gwendolyn Rose.  There are five main families in the kingdom, and each one controls a different aspect of the nation's functions.  The Roses are the PR people, centered in Jackson Hole, which naturally prompts the question: Harrison Ford, Eurean or not?  Gwendolyn leads a double life.  Let us all collectively gasp!  



In fact, she is so subversive that she sneaks out into the Real United States to a bar in like Idaho or something and plays zombie roller hockey or ... something.  Because there's obviously a huge market for that in Idaho, with lots of lithe young ladies willing to check each other with sticks.  At the bar/hockey rink, she sees a swoon-tastic feller with whom she falls in insta-love and for whom she ponders leaving her life in Eurus.  I really wish she would have.

Instead, as she sneaks back in after her night of brawling-lite, Joffrey Haakon comes to Gwen's rooms and announces that the Council (there is always a Council to muck up people's lives) has declared they must marry by Christmas for his Kingship to be legitimized in the eyes of the people.  Never mind that his dad was king and he, being the only child, is the obvious heir.  Obvious succession rules are obvious.

Cut to yet another character named Mary, who is not a member of Court but instead skips school to ride her horse across the Wyoming plains, which, to be perfectly honest, sounds awesome.  Mary is also the victim of either a genetic freak accident or an author's overenthusiasm for words that do not mean what she thinks they mean.  Mary has "black-streaked titian hair."  Titian hair is so named for the color of golden red so often seen on the women portrayed in paintings by Titian.
Titian's Flora.  I tried to pick one with less boobage than most.

I have never heard of someone's hair being naturally streaked with black if it is a light red.  There's no indication that Mary colors it, either.  Plus, red hair is a recessive gene, and with generations of presumed intermarriage and blending with the unnamed "Native people" of the area, it's rather unlikely that she would have red hair.  Much less black-streaked red hair.

Mary's big deal is that she is Totally Not In Love with her best friend, which means, "Yes, I am totally in love with my best friend."

I couldn't deal with this any more, so I skipped to the end to find out that many things happened with supposed deviousness.  To bring back my revelation that I talked about earlier, the major plot twist regarding Haakon is pretty much the same one as in Game of Thrones.  If you can Google, you can figure it out.  Not really a spoiler.

And that really irritates me.  You can't just take someone else's story, clean it up a bit, toss in some roller-derby-style "edginess," and pop it into the state of Wyoming.  Sorry, Eurus, which is mostly in Wyoming.

Going back to my opening sentence (you really learn so much about your actual feelings regarding a book as you review it), I would still agree that there is a market for Court.  It probably consists of three subgroups: 1) fans of the author, 2) people who can't get enough Game of Thrones and therefore read anything remotely like it, and 3) people who don't like the explicitness of GoT and would like some roller derby hockey with that, thanks very much.

I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.

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