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7:47am on Tuesday, 13th September, 2005:



I bought my wife a bunch of Fantasy books for her birthday, the Banned and the Banished pentology by James Clemens. I finally got around to starting it myself yesterday, beginning with Wit'ch Fire.


Take a look at this extract from pages 56 and 57, see what you think:

Kneeling beside the carcass, he grabbed handfuls of dirt and hurriedly stuffed them in Rockingham's wound. After adding thirteen handfuls, Dismarum used his good hand and the stump of his one arm to pull the edges of Rockingham's wound together.

Holding the clammy edges, he whispered the words taught him by his dread master. An ache developed in his own belly as he recited the words. The last words were spoken in a gush of agony, as if he were giving birth. He squinted at the almost unbearable pain as the last syllable stumbled from his tongue. His old heart hammered in his breast. Mercifully, though, the agony subsided with the last word.

This really jars terribly with me: the form hurts the content. There's just so much unnecessary repetition. Repetition as a tool to make a point is fine, but it's not like that here: it's as if the author has been restricted to using a fixed vocabulary. Why two uses of handfuls? Why two of Rockingham's wound? Why two of edges? By putting the same words in adjacent sentences, are we supposed to get the impression that they're being sewn together, like the wounds? In that case, why continue with three words and a word? And two of agony?

It's not just here, either; it happens all over in the book. Maybe I'm just being over-critical, but every time I read something in which high-profile words are repeated, it just derails me. I'm OK with everyday words (it, and, I, ...), but anything beyond that catches my attention enough to pull me from the narrative.

The ideas in the Banned and the Banished are fine, but the execution is tripping me up.

Only another 2,400 pages to go and I've finished...

Referenced by Wit'ch Fired.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).