Saturday, 22 December 2012

Review: Pilgrim of the Sky

Pilgrim of the Sky
Pilgrim of the Sky by Natania Barron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a book by a woman, about a woman, and apparently for women.

Now, as a man, I read a lot of books by women. If you check my reviews, you'll see approximately half are for books by women. That's not because I consciously choose to read equal numbers by men and women, but just a thing that happens naturally. I'm happy to read books that are usually considered "for women", too. And I love a good, strong, active, feisty, intelligent female protagonist.

So I ascribe the fact that this book didn't do much for me to the fact that, at least as far as I read, which was about the first 30%, the main character of this book is not like that. She's passive, a little whiny, to her credit not outstandingly stupid, but not especially intelligent either, and didn't have a single positive trait that I found likable.

She also has one - though only one - mark of being a Mary Sue: everyone wants to sleep with her. And a mark of a Mary Sue with issues: she lets them. Out of eight other named characters (depending how you count) at the 30% mark, four had had a sexual relationship with her, and it was looking inevitable that a fifth was going to.

I say "depending how you count", because the element of the fantastic in the book is that there are alternate worlds, in which some people have "twains", versions of themselves. I thought at first that these were the same person in an alternate timeline, but the worlds are more different than that, and so are the people. They sometimes, but not always, have the same or a similar name, and they usually look alike and are about the same age, but at the point where I stopped the main character had just met a twain of herself who was a different ethnicity, a different age, and shared only the initial letter of her name. It was starting to sound like reincarnation, only across alternate worlds instead of time.

Which would be a good premise, if it was explored with a character I liked.

There was also some goddess-mysticism being signalled. Again, I don't mind the odd bit of goddess-mysticism, but it needs to be reasonably convincing, and I wasn't convinced by the Marian Church. Perhaps it's addressed later in the book, but I didn't buy that the worship of Mary would have somehow displaced the worship of Christ when Mary's claim to prominence was exactly because she was the mother of Christ.

I just used the word "somehow". One thing I noticed in the writing was that it's occasionally vague, using phrases like "she didn't know if it was because of A or B or for some other reason". It gives the impression of a main character lacking in self-insight. If she achieves self-insight later in the book, it's too late for me; my interest was already lost.

The book is edited well, but not perfectly. Like so many writers, the author has a slightly smaller vocabulary than she thinks she does, and makes mistakes like writing "maligned" when she means "harmed" or "temerity" when she means "timorousness" (those two words are opposites, by the way), or using the nonexistent word "allayment" when she means "alleviation". There's the odd awkward phrase, too, like "a few too many times than would be considered acceptable". In general, though, it read smoothly and well.

Rather than slog through a not-especially-exciting book with a character I disliked more and more, though, I stopped reading. It may improve later on. But I wasn't going to continue just on the off-chance.

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