I’m really sorry for taking this long to update again, job hunting’s been a real bear and I’m still trying to get settled back home for the summer.
On to the review.
Laurel doesn’t fit with her New York family. The child of a guardswoman and an unknown father, she’s never fit with anyone least of all when she loses her temper and accidentally unleashes her magic. So, she’s shipped off to her uncle the lord Redmantyl to learn to control her power. She digs through his libraries in search of knowledge until he’s forced to take her as an apprentice for her own good. And then the thespers arrived.
I’m having a bit of a hard time thinking of what to say about Maiden in Light. It felt like the author, Katheryn Ramage, had several stories that she wanted to tell but wasn’t quite sure how to put them together. From the blurb, as I read it on Goodreads, I expected to be dropped straight into the action. I expected to start off with Laurel becoming her uncle’s apprentice, then a few chapters of that, then going off to search out the bad thing. Instead the first half or so of the book is taken up with a rambling account of what was apparently four years of Laurel’s life starting with her journey to Wizardes Cliff. This includes setting up several characters to be far more important than they were, events that had no bearing on the plot, and some fairly minimal characterization that could have been better taken care of with more show and less tell. The second half of the book introduces the plot that was promised in the blurb only to instead jump into excruciating detail regarding Laurel’s aunt’s matchmaking and setting up for a conflict that never really happened.
I’m going to get a bit more nitpicky here than usual, Maiden in Light had potential but that got buried in problems that really shouldn’t be ignored. The pacing was really bad, the first half of the book could have covered a few months, a few weeks, or a few years. I really couldn’t tell how much time was passing until someone mentioned someone else’s age for a comparison. There were two chapters back to back that detailed visits from traveling performers, known in the book as thespers, but there was no real indication that they hadn’t done anything more than leave the gate and then come right back in.
The book also tended to get dragged down in telling about a character rather than showing them. The readers keeps hearing about how brave and smart and dedicated to her magic Laurel is, but when the chips are down all we get to see is a fragile little girl who doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be doing or how to go about it. The reader is told how horrible the merchant class kids are to Laurel, but we only see one scene of them being snarky and a bit stupid before they are set aside for the rest of the book.
The plot doesn’t start until the book is more than half over, and then it’s padded so heavily with the aunt trying to get her daughters married off that it gets lost. Then Laurel suffers the kind of character derailment that makes me just want to stop reading, throws everything we’ve been told about her out the window with what might have been a clumsy attempt at symbolism and proceeds to ignore any previous characterization. I feel that I should also note that Laurel is a bit of a flat earth atheist, this may not bother anyone, but it was one of the tell instead of show things that seemed to come up way more than was necessary.
The reader also gets treated to fanciful changes of spelling for names and places and changes of name for various holidays. This doesn’t lend to the world building but instead adds to the confusion regarding time passage and who’s who and from where. An alternate history does not necessarily lead to changes that radical in language, nor should it if only for the reader’s sake. I could let this slide if the world wasn’t supposed to be earth with a different history but it just reads wrong as is.
This leads me to the final part of this review. With all the problems I had with the writing and the story itself, I wouldn’t read anything else by Ramage. Maiden in Light had potential, but it squandered that with blocks of purple tinted prose, tons of characters who came to nothing, and too much tell but no show. I give Maiden in Light a one out of five.