by Marisa Chenery, paranormal (2008)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.25, ISBN 978-1-59578-440-7
Marisa Chenery returns to her paranormal setting that she last featured in The Blue Lotus, one which is rich with Egyptian mythology. Some naughty fellow has gotten his or her hands on the Book of Thoth, which is a no-no according to the goddess Ma'at since that book contains spells that are meant only for gods. I wonder why someone went through all that trouble recording those spells down if they were meant only for deities, hmm. Anyway, our hero Mahes is sent down to Earth to take back the book and kill anyone who has read it.
When Mahes makes his entrance with style, he's almost run down by our heroine Dana James.
Slipping the car into drive, Dana concentrated on the road as she drove the short distance to her place. She could feel his eyes watching her. To distract herself she asked, "What's your name? I'm Dana, by the way."
"My name is Mahes."
Dana turned to take a quick look at him. She now recognized Mahes' accent.
"That is correct."
"How do you feel about your parents naming you after an ancient Egyptian god?"
"What do you mean?"
"Mahes was an Egyptian god. He was the son of Ptah and Sekhmet, who were part of
the Memphis triad of gods, along with their other son, Nefertem."
"You seem to know a lot about the ancient gods of Egypt."
"I should, I majored in Egyptian art and archaeology at the University of Memphis. I
did my dissertation paper on Mahes. He's not as well known as the other gods, but he
was no simple god. He was known as The Lord of the Massacre. He was a feline deity, so
the priests bred lions at his temple in Leontopolis."
Dana let her words trail off and mentally kicked herself. She had done it again. She
had a bad habit of talking too much whenever the subject of ancient Egypt, and most
especially anything to do with Mahes, was brought up. She got so wrapped up in the
subject, it sounded like she was conducting a lecture. Usually when this happened around
men who weren't in the same line of work as herself, their eyes glazed over in boredom.
She lost count of the number of first dates who’d never called her for a second because of that very reason.
Uh... ha, ha, ha?
That's my problem with this story - three stories later, Marisa Chenery is still writing like an amateur. The above conversation is a clear example. Maybe Ms Chenery is trying to get me to laugh at the heroine's oh-so-cute rambling, but what she seems to mistake for the kind of cuteness displayed by romantic comedic roles usually reserved to the likes of Meg Ryan or Renée Zellweger actually comes off like really bad timing in motion. After all, it's not cute but really bizarre for a heroine to be rambling like that to someone that she nearly run down with her car. There's a time and place for everything, even for the most absurd kind of comedy, and Ms Chenery still hasn't mastered the timing yet to pull off such a stunt in her story.
Likewise, this is Ms Chenery's explanation as to why Dana is taking Mahes back to her place:
Dana silently watched as he seemed to consider her offer. She knew she would be taking her chances by inviting a total stranger over to her house, but her gut was telling her to not let him go, and not because she found him extremely attractive. It was something much deeper than that. Something inside was telling her that she had been meant to meet up with this man. It was her 'gift', as her mother had liked to call it. Dana had always been able to sense things others around her couldn't. She didn't know if it was just good instincts or if it really was a 'gift' as her mother had said.
What "gift"? This is the first time the author mentions Dana's "gift" in the story, so using that "gift" as a justification for the foolhardy act of bringing a stranger back to one's place really does come off as if Ms Chenery is pulling things out of her behind here.
It also drives home another glaring aspect of Ms Chenery's inexperience as a storyteller. Instead of just telling me in two sentences what this "gift" is, she could have provided some kind of scene earlier that shows this "gift" in action, for example. Ms Chenery's duty as a storyteller is to sell me her story and make me believe what I am reading. Just going, "Blah, blah, blah, oh, and the heroine can make magic whoopee!" doesn't even come close to cutting it.
The rest of the story deals with our lovebirds trying to keep the Book from falling into the wrong hands. But does the story matter when the author's technique isn't working for me? If I may be so presumptuous, I'd suggest that Ms Chenery try showing more through her characters' actions or thoughts instead of just telling me upfront everything and anything. She can also try varying her sentence structure to cut down on the sense of monotony her prose can give off. There are other aspects that she needs to work on, like pacing, build-up, comedic timing, and conversations that don't come off so stilted or contrived.
But hey, if the author's style works on other people, good for her. I just know that this one comes off way too much like the first draft of an inexperienced writer. I won't say that this novella is beyond redemption. The idea is there, but alas, it's just that the author doesn't seem to have enough polish in her skill at this point to do her story ample justice. Maybe next time?
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