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Friday, December 07, 2007

A Rumor of Gems

**½ A Rumor of Gems by Ellen Steiber. Fantasy.

I bought this as a bargain book from Amazon during one of my periodic quests to find new authors. It had great reviews.

Heroine Lucinda lives in a world like ours, except that gods are real and all the various gemstone lore is literally true. Her boss and friend Tyrone dresses up like one of those gods, incurring the god's wrath, and endangering his life. She meets Sebastian, a shapeshifter, who enlists Eros's aid in seducing her.

Meanwhile, there's Alasdair, who has such an affinity for gemstones that they follow him around and are always falling out of his pockets, etc. He's there because something evil is loose in the world and he's trying to stop it. It's already affected the young boy Michael, and Alasdair is trying to rescue him.

Oh, yes. In addition to gemstone magic, gods, and shapeshifters, there's also a bit of time travel.

I'd complain about stuffing so many disparate fantasy elements into one story, but I've seen it done elsewhere to good effect, and I was intrigued by the various concepts, though I'd really have liked there to be some sort of connection between them. The gemstones had nothing to do with the gods, which had nothing to do with shapeshifters, which had nothing to do with time travel. It was almost like a few separate stories mashed together.

Unfortunately, and this is a problem with a lot of fantasy novels, the worldbuilding took the form of long discourses, mostly in this case about the properties of various gemstones. I got the disconcerting feeling that I was in a gemstone infomercial, because every time I'd start getting involved in the story, it would stop and I'd get another lecture on another gemstone.

Even the time period seemed confused. I know from the book jacket that it's supposed to be a contemporary fantasy, but the feel of the story is more like a swords-and-sorcery kind of fantasy, except that characters do have a few modern conveniences like telephones. They don't seem to have cars, though. And when Lucinda goes into the past, there's almost no difference at all. Certainly, nobody notices anything unusual about her.

But even that I could have tolerated if I'd liked the characters. Lucinda is distinctly unlikeable. She's a bitchy, promiscuous man-hater. Promiscuity I can handle, but not when it's as mean-spirited as it was with Lucinda. Also, if you look around here, you know I read plenty of erotica and sex-scene-filled romances. But Lucinda was just crude.

Worst of all, though, was that there was no change. She learns some things, but nothing that changes her. She warms up to one or two individuals, but that's not even close to being the same thing as learning not to be such a bitch in general.

And what really, really made me want to throw the book against the wall, especially because I kept reading until the end hoping it wasn't true, is the book's message of intolerance, bitterness, unforgivingness. This is a bit of a spoiler, but I'm going to include it anyway, because I think it's a good point to know ahead of time: ****spoiler**** Lucinda never forgives Sebastian for going to Eros, even though he apologizes and admits it was a mistake and it's understandable why he did it. So let's add hypocrisy to the book's message, because Lucinda's character requires a lot of forgiveness from the people around her. ****

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Bitterness and unforgiveness? Sheesh. You're right. Why would I want to read about that?
Hmmm not sure if I want to pick this book up...

By the way, you are tagged! ;)
Well, quite a few people on Amazon seemed to really like it, so maybe it was just me.

Thanks for the tag, Julia. I'll get to it soon!
Hey, I stopped by to let you know I posted the stories from my TT - you're up for a prize, so come and see! :-)
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