Monday, 1 December 2014

Warrior of the West, by M.K. Hume

1 star

If this book had a face, I would happily punch it every day until next Christmas. As it doesn't, I'll have to settle for ranting about it instead. 

Its predecessor, King Arthur: Dragon's Child, was a decent bit of brain-candy imagining the younger years of Artorex that I enjoyed despite its flaws. Warrior of the West, catching up with King Artor twelve years later, compounded those flaws and nearly drove me to complete rage more than once - throughout the second half I had to take frequent breaks in order to swear at it profusely, nearly break my kindle in fits of temper, and wish a violent death upon virtually every character within.

Now High King of the Britons, Artor has spent the last decade murdering every Saxon he comes across. When his emissaries are killed while negotiating a truce, he mounts an assault on the Saxon stronghold of Glamdring Ironfist. The first half of the book builds slowly towards this, showing a little of how Artor has changed in the intervening years and introducing Ironfist and a few of his compatriots, including the slave Bedwyr. Considering the amount of time spent on him, Bedwyr would appear to be an important new character but it turns out that as soon as Artor has his victory he's promptly forgotten about and never mentioned again.

Unfortunately, this victory also kicked off the deeply problematic second half of the book, during which its focus on characters brought the problems of the first book into the spotlight. While Uther may be long dead, Artor's foster-brother Caius is still around and so subtly drawn that he may as well be called Rapey McStabs-a-lot and have the Death March start up whenever he walked onto the page. But Rapey has nothing on Wenhaver, Hume's version of Guinevere. There was really no need for Hume to mention her dislike of Guinevere in her accompanying notes, as her contempt shone through in one of the most flagrant examples of character bashing that I've ever come across. You could, in fact, replace the whole second half with this and you'd find no real discernible difference:
"Dear Wenhaver,

Love Hate,
M.K. Hume"

I have no problem with unlikeable and flawed characters, but I do have a problem with those obviously set up solely for unfavourable comparisons to a character the author does like. The Wenhaver of this book isn't really appalling for her own sake or that of the story, but so that we'll also worship Nimue (or as I soon came to call her, Fucking Nimue).

Having been saved as a baby in Dragon's Child and brought under the protection of the High King, Fucking Nimue is now grown up and serving as the apprentice of Merlinus, and is the most beautiful, most elegant, most interesting, most intelligent, most caring, most wonderful woman to have ever walked the earth. I suspect that not only do her farts smell like freshly baked cookies, but that she shits sunbeams too (and that eating them would probably cure world hunger and stop all wars forever). She's so fabulous that no-one (including the book) can stop themselves from commenting every five minutes on how bloody wonderful she is, and comparing her to Wenhaver who is portrayed as being every awful thing that has ever been said about a woman. Petulant, spiteful, rude, abusive, promiscuous, immature, irrational and thick (amongst many other awful things), no-one (including the book) can stop themselves from calling her a cow, a bitch, a slut or, more often, a whore any time her name is mentioned. Even when noting her beauty the book can't help but mention that her dress clashes with her skin making her look shit compared to Fucking Nimue (rhymes with Mary Sue!) who, of course, looks like a supermodel even while wearing a sack. 

It's at this point that I started sounding like Samuel Jackson having a vicious fit of Tourette's...

...which the stupid serial-killer sub-plot that sprang up here made even worse. While Merlinus shows off his psychological profiling and forensic skills and generally acts like he's a heartbeat away from pulling out a pair of sunglasses and a bad pun, it soon becomes apparent that even the serial killer is obsessed with Fucking Nimue, though he sadly doesn't succeed in murdering her before he's unveiled as - surprise! - the one bloke that we're constantly reminded is a shit.

If I do read the last in this trilogy (unlikely, although I'd already stupidly bought it after Dragon's Child) it'll only be so that I can root for Wenhaver to screw every man, woman and beast on Cadbury Tor and give Artor such a raging case of syphilis that his face falls off just in time for the Saxons to arrive and, hopefully, kick everyone's teeth in.

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