Friday, 28 September 2012

Prophecy of the Flame

Title: Prophecy of the Flame
Series: Prophecy of the Flame #1
Author: Lynn Hardy
Pages: 373 (ebook)
Published: November 20th 2011
Published by: Resilient Publishing

In a blinding flash of light, five strangers are yanked from this world and thrust into a land of sorcery as they are granted the looks and abilities of the people they were playing. This band of wannabe heroes soon discovers that having the powers they have always dreamed of, does not make life a dream come true. The Crusaders of the Light struggle to form a cohesive band as they blend twentieth century technology with the supernatural powers of this new world, fighting to liberate the kingdom of Cuthburan from the evil horde threatening humanity. Battle is also waged within Reba, an ordinary housewife who has become the most powerful mage on the planet, as she struggles to remain true to her wedding vows. Drawn against her will to the arms of Prince Alexandros, Reba must choose marriage toa handsome prince in a magical world or returning to the husband she left behind.

Five strangers are live-action role-playing when they are yanked from Earth to an alternate dimension to help fight a hoard of demons. In the process they are transformed into the characters they were pretending to be, both physically and in terms of ability.An interesting concept poorly written basically sums up my opinion of this book. The blurb intrigued me but the story and the writing let it down for me.

Now, I don't really know anything about live-action role playing, so I can't really comment on the start of the book as I have no real reference point as to how it all works and if it all works out slightly conveniently, well it's a book and stuff like that happens. It was upon their transportation to another world that I began to have problems.

There was no 'argh, we've been transported to another dimension!', 'argh, it's completely changed the way we look!', 'argh, we suddenly have all these abilities we were only pretending to have!', 'argh, what the hell is going on!' freaking out at all. They all very calmly accepted what was going on. As I mentioned, they were changed physically to represent their characters, some growing or shrinking by several inches, if not feet. First issue: they would not physically be able to make their bodies work in these conditions. Their brain is used to working with certain expectations of their bodies and they would all be falling over all over the spot if this had actually happened and would have trouble walking never mind being able to practice fighting within a matter of hours. But you know, suspension of disbelief...I'll go with it as a first problem - and one quite often overlooked in fiction when people switch bodies or what-have-you.

That they've all suddenly acquired various magic/fighting skills is far too convenient. There is no learning curve (necessary to the story as there isn't enough time to have them learn but poorly explained away) and they're all instantly ridiculously proficient and have full control of their abilities. Archmage Reba - the POV character - is the most powerful mage ever apparently, and there is no problem she can't fix instantly and with apparently very little effort. There is no getting to grips with her abilities, no mistakes, and only one instance of her trying something that doesn't work straight off. Seriously?!

I think it was this that bothered me the most. She can create anything from anything with a few rhymes. At first there is at least the limitation of it bringing on migraines but then boom, perpetual healing spell cast and there's no problem. Public speaking a problem? Another spell - she's the best orator in the world! She's forgetting stuff? Perfect memory! She's fighting? Super strength! Walking just too darned slow? Flying! Oh, and while she's at it why not give herself better boobs and eternal youth! I get this was Hardy trying to make it so we can identify with her ("Yeah, she's super-powerful but she still worries about normal stuff!") but it just felt ridiculous.

And because of there being no problem she can't solve, the story just felt superfluous. Why spend all this time preparing for a big battle when she could just wander off and blast them? For me it never really felt like anyone was in any real danger so there was no tension. It basically felt like there were a series of problems thrown up simply for Reba to solve.

A spell (shockingly!) means they instantly understand the language, and apparently know the names of things that have no equivalent in English, though only sporadically. Name of the castle? Fine. Name of the stone the castle's built of? Nope, got to ask what that is. Names of the demons (which no one had seen a day earlier, yet all of which now have names which everyone knows) - fine.

Reba is given a maid. But she's more than just a maid! She's basically also a prostitute for Reba's pleasure. Why on earth they'd assume she was a lesbian/bi is never explained, and it certainly doesn't seem to be the norm. Then the maid gets all offended when Reba turns her down! I didn't see the point of this at all.

One positive was the emotional trouble Reba is in. Married back in our world, she is confronted by a very handsome and quite lovely Prince in the new one, and I think Hardy did a good job as she fights to resist his advances, making her position quite clear but wondering what is happening back home. How long she's been gone, what her husband is doing, and what will happen if she can never find a way back.

This aside, there are a few problems with the writing itself. Weird metaphors ("she shook off the unwanted feeling like a coyote shaking off morning dew" - what the...?) and weird turns of phrase (people don't move things - they manipulate them; a simple response is said 'by rote'; 'so-and-so meet so-and-so' is the formal introduction performed by the king) both made this very difficult for me to read. I'd keep stopping to wonder at her weird choice of words. It feels at times like she's used a thesaurus and randomly picked a word without checking that it actually works in the context. (Bringing to mind the episode of Friends where Joey 'Baby Kangaroo' Tribbiani does the same thing.) And in several lists commas were replaced with semi-colons which was mildly annoying more than anything else.

And there was a picture of a horse at the end of every chapter. I have no idea why. Horses were barely mentioned. This confused me quite a lot.

Definitely not a series I'll be continuing with. Or a book I'll ever read again. Or a book I'll be recommending to anyone. Ever.

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