Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Accidental Highwayman

Books with excessively long titles in the style of 18th-century novels amuse me.  To wit:

Sorcery and Cecelia: Or, the Enchanted Chocolate Pot

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

et cetera.

I was primed and ready to be a gung-ho fan of The Accidental Highway Man: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Various Sundry Magical Persons Besides.  Look at that title!  It is glorious in its verbosity, and I had high hopes for a YA romp through the highwayman's England.


I only made it a few chapters in and already a lot of the story had already happened.  This was bizarre.  I was under the impression that a plot should unfold, not happen in the first third of the book and then meander for another two hundred pages.  Also, the author tries to pull off snarky footnotes but with little success.  I found them more irritating than amusing.  However, I must say that the voices are suitably authentic, as were the realities of living at that time (beer for breakfast, bathing but rarely, etc.).

Here's what I got through: Kit Bristol was formerly in a circus troupe, but his certificate of indenture was won in a card game by his new master, to whom he is a manservant.  His new master is solitary, but Kit's got a roof over his head and food in his belly, so who's to complain?  Then, the BIG BAD REDCOATS march into town and declare WAR  on all the highwaymen.

Wait, wait, wait.  Question: Was this a problem they had formerly ... ignored?  Simply not noticed?  I mean, I highly doubt that one day the head of the British Army said, "Blast!  People are being robbed by highwaymen!  Let's get some hangings done, lads!"  I would assume this was more of an ... ongoing struggle.  But never mind logic!


Right, right, back to the war on highwaymen.  A shopkeeper's wife suggests to Kit that his master may in fact be the notorious highwayman Whistling Jack.  Kit, being excessively perceptive, never, not once, considered his master's nighttime habits as unusual, nor his possession of an exceedingly fine and furious horse.  Poor horse is creatively named Midnight, because he's black.  At least it wasn't Blackie or something.  

Fortunately-ish for Kit, his master, who really is Whistling Jack, gets shot and gives him a will.  In order to draw away the brigands who shot his master, Kit dons Whistling Jack's outfit, jumps on Midnight's back, and rides pell-mell across the countryside in search of this witchy fairy type person. There, he learns that his master (now former master, deceased) had a contract with the fae to rescue the fairy princess from being married off to the Crown Prince (chappie who would later become Mad King George III).  How convenient.  AND the "will" given to Kit is actually a map of what is to come, because Whistling Jack could see into the future, or something?  I don't know.

There's all this buildup about rescuing the princess and how that will fulfill the bargain and Kit doesn't know if he can do it and blah blah blah and he accidentally frees her.  Actually, the scene is written in such a way that it's not obvious that she actually escapes.  Afterwards, Kit was saying to himself, "Wow, that was pretty easy, rescuing her" and I was like, wait, that happened?  Not clear at all.

So of course she's spunky and stuff and how the rest of the novel gets fleshed out, I simply couldn't tell you, because at this point I was bored stiff.  How many times have I read this story already?  Done with better characters and fewer clichés?  Oh, about a million.  And to think that this thin story is going to be stretched out into a trilogy makes me shudder.

The summary is more interesting than the actual book.



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