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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Witching Hour

**½ The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. Horror.

I mentioned
before that I have a love/hate relationship with Anne Rice's books. This one falls into the latter category.

Where to begin? Well, to start with, it took me over a week to read. Granted, it's over 1000 pages long, but that normally doesn't happen. It should have taken 3 days, maybe 4. Too bad I'm unable to put a book down once I've started reading it.

It's the start of the Witches of Mayfair series, about a family of witches, and the main story, to the extent there is one, is about the most recent descendant coming into her inheritance, but it's nothing as straightforward as that. Not even close.

I'll try to synopsize. Rowan Mayfair is a brilliant neurosurgeon, with a magic sense that, combined with her medical experience, allows her to know which seemingly hopeless cases can be cured. She was adopted at birth and knows nothing at all about her birth family. A man who restores old houses, Michael Curry, drowns while Rowan's on her boat. She rescues and revives him, and they fall in love.

Then there's Deirdre Mayfair, who's in a sort of vegatative state, and it turns out she's Rowan's mother, and the whole family are witches.

Enter Aaron Lightner, a member of the Talamasca, a group that studies supernatural phenomena, and has a big long file--mostly in the form of letters--on the Mayfair family.

Problem #1: Dr. Rowan believes that stem cell research is Coma with fetuses. This one happened early on, well before I was irritated with the book, and when I still expected to enjoy it. And every time I'd gotten over it, up it pops again, making my nutshell impression of the book a 1000+ page diatribe about the evils of stem cell research. It's perfectly fine to use magic to kill people who irritate you, but you're going to hell if you take some cells from an aborted fetus. Whoops. Sorry about that. As you can tell, it pushed my buttons. Particularly since Dr. Rowan is pointedly pro-choice.

Problem #2: The book starts with the POV of a doctor who's suspicious of Deirdre's care. It gives his whole life history (another problem--I'll be getting to it). Then nothing at all comes of it. Nothing. Ever. The doctor never shows up again. The plot thread is just completely dropped. It's bad enough when this happens in the middle of the book, but when it's what starts the book?

Problem #3: We get detailed life histories about every single person introduced in the book, whether it has anything to do with the plot or not. Some of them are interesting, but they're huge tangents, and I lost track of the plot for hundreds of pages at a time.

Problem #4: The book jumps back and forth in time. Part of this is caused by #3, but even within an individual character's story, there's jumping back and forth in time. It's disorienting, and not in a way that serves the story.

Problem #5: There's very little discussion, explanation, or demonstration of the witches' magical powers. Rowan has a little healing power, and other than that, their main magical power seems to be that they can see "The Man," Lasher. Oh, and when they die, it storms. That's pretty much it, except that they're very good at intrigue, manipulation, and shady business dealings. I'm quite possibly more demanding on this score because I've read an awful lot of fantasy, but I expect more than just "they're scary witches"--I'm not going to believe it unless you show me.

Problem #6: The History of the Mayfair Witches--the epistolary file introduced by Aaron Lightner. It's dull, dull, dull. Not only that, but it's prefaced with a note basically saying "I don't care what you think, it's not anachronistic!" accompanied by, in my head, the sound of a foot stomping. And the "letters" are really unconvincing as letters. At one point, someone's running for his life, and he stops to write a letter. Okay, I can buy that he wants to get the word back to the Talamasca. But you cannot convince me that he would take the time to describe the foliage or any of the other things that are depicted in excruciating detail that have nothing to do with the plot.

Problem #7: I did not buy the romance between Rowan and Michael Curry. You'd think that, in over 1000 pages, there'd be space to develop it convincingly, but no. She saves him, they reunite, then they have hawt secks and voila. They're in lurrrvve. Not buying it. I'm particularly not buying that they've instantly got a relationship that's stable enough to weather everything that'll get thrown at them.

Problem #8: Michael's psychic ability. It's quite cool, actually, that it showed up without warning, but that's when I expected it to be explained eventually. It wasn't.

Problem #9: Too much just wasn't explained. And some things that were huge problems just disappeared without being solved.

Problem #10: Rowan ends up being TSTL. Well, I guess that could have been predicted, given #1, but it was still an annoying surprise.

The thing is, this could have been a pretty good story if it were about 400 pages long. Cut out the life histories of every single character. Cut out the flashbacks. Cut out that damn history. Focus on the story in the here-and-now and develop it better. *sigh*

I've got at least 2 more Anne Rice books in my TBR pile. I'm approaching them with trepidation.


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I'm surprised! I really like this book, but then again I'm an Anne Rice fan. :)
*sigh* Yeah, I've really enjoyed some of her books, but others.... That's why I ended up making a long list of all the things that bugged me--whenever I have mixed reactions to an author's books, I feel compelled to try to figure out why.
Wait. It gets better. When Lestat and Rowan meet up in Blackwood Farm.

Never met an Anne Rice book I didn't enjoy BTW.
I don't remember this as being 1000 pages. I remember liking it, though. It has been years since I read this. Maybe I should re-visit it at some point.

Ya never know w. a Rice novel if you are going to love it or hate it.
I like the history of the witches and all the life histories way more than the actual plot!
Ahhhh....the book that took you over a week to read, instead of an 3-4 days reading....but still your smartness with reviews are still in attached. Love that about you *LOL*!

A great reviews, Darla! :)
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