|Patricia Ryan: The Sun and the Moon|
(Paperback), ISBN 0-451-20032-2
The "Sun" is King Henry's soldier-cum-spy, Hugh of Wexford, scarred by a brutal upbringing compounded by 15 years as a warrior into eschewing all ties, especially those of love. Petite, scholarly yet innocent Phillipa de Paris shines as the "Moon," recruited by Hugh under the king's orders to uncover evidence of Queen Eleanor's rumored rebellion by becoming the paramour of a corrupt cleric, Aldous Ewing. More than half the book centers on Phillipa's attempts to siphon information from Aldous without succumbing to his lust, because she wants to keep herself untainted for Hugh as they reluctantly fall in love with each other.
These machinations grind on against the backdrop of "courtly love" as purportedly invented by Eleanor of Acquitaine and further twisted by Ryan into practices that seem more apropos to a 20th century mindset than a 12th century one. Adultery and other sexual behavior typically ascribed to the practice of "courtly love" is a myth perpetuated by literary scholars mistaking jest for fact.
Alas, the characters' actions do not constitute the only anachronisms in this novel. Twentieth-century words, phrases and concepts run rampant through the dialogue and internal monologue. And when the word choices didn't catapult me out of the story, the plot's predictability did. The plot did take a somewhat unexpected turn near the end, but the development brought to mind Marion Zimmer Bradley's quip to aspiring writers, "Suspension of disbelief does not mean hanging by the neck until dead."
Not to mention the prevalent sin of telling the reader information rather than revealing it through the characters' actions, as in the following sample:
Hello, Ms. Ryan! Your audience is smart enough to figure out that sort of thing on our own without being bludgeoned!
Save yourself from a mental beating, gentle reader, and avoid this novel at any cost.
Kim D. Headlee
Kim D. Headlee is the author of Blue Boa Award winner Dawnflight, a novel about the legend of Guinevere garnering rave reviews and other award nominations from romance and fantasy venues alike.
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