by Kathleen Scott, fantasy (2010)
Liquid Silver Books, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-762-0
Kathleen Scott's Vermillion is an intriguing story but the end result is unexpectedly flat and even boring.
Set in a fantasy world that seems to be based in Europe during the Dark Ages, we have a corrupted order of clerics who rule with an iron fist over everyone when it comes to everything. In Portamere, those who defy the clerics suffer a dire fate - the resident executioner, Kristabelle St Lucus, uses her magic to capture the soul of that unlucky sod and imprison it within a stained glass piece, which would then be added to the Portamere Cathedral.
As both window-maker and executioner, Kristabelle detests her job. She is forced into it because the clerics will burn her family should she refuse to cooperate. Kristabelle also blames herself from her predicament - like the boastful weaver Arachne, she unwisely showed off her ability to craft these beautiful stained glasses using magic... so much so that she attracted the attention of the clerics. Now she is suffering, and worse, she is playing a role in enforcing the clerics' corrupt will on the people she had known all her life.
Darius Castillo is a bodyguard who escorts Kristabelle on her daily rounds, ensuring that she is safe at the same time that he watches over her to make sure that she does not try to escape her service to the clerics. But in truth, he is an undercover agent for the magic-users of the Citadel, charged by their Magus to determine the true extent of the Portamere clerics' corruption and discover a way to stop them for good.
Now, I know that Kristabelle is a prisoner and she hates her lot in life, but it gets really tedious when I realize that all she does when she has quiet time alone is to whine about her life, repeating the same points again and again until I can't help feeling bored with her angst. Is there any reason for her to be so supremely useless?
As if to compensate greatly for Kristabelle's current predicament, Ms Scott has Kristabelle being something of a wounded kitten - she trusts Darius implicitly and easily, accepting every explanation spoonfed to her and giving him her everything, when she is not moping that she is a terrible person undeserving of Darius's love. She is the one-dimensional wounded kitten that needs protection 24/7 from Darius, who comes off as a pretty one-dimensional hero himself.
Therefore, Vermillion turns out to be a pretty standard tale of a damsel in distress being rescued and loved by her knight in shining armor despite the intriguing setting of the story. This is a pretty easy read by all means, but I can't help being disappointed that a story set in this interesting setting ends up being so ordinary.
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