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02/17/2004 Entry: "THE CHARMED SPHERE by Catherine Asaro--Lynn's review"

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I recommend THE CHARMED SPHERE, by Catherine Asaro, but it ended up being less than the sum of its parts for me. There were a lot of loose ends, inconsistencies, and characters behaving stupidly in order to advance the plot. The story ended up feeling both generic and cobbled together.

Our first heroine is Chime, who is your typical fantasy mage, i.e., she is the most powerful ever seen, yada, yada. This means that she must marry the heir apparent to the kingdom, Muller. Muller has been masquerading as a fop because of feelings of guilt and unworth, but he is really a master swordsman. Their progression is fairly nicely done.

Then the second heroine appears. Iris is "blocked" but turns out to really be the most powerful mage once her power is freed, displacing Chime. Oops, this means Iris will have to marry Muller, except...a prince who was thought to be dead is really alive. Jarid has been blind, deaf, and mute since he was six years old, when his dying mother saved his life from an ambush at great cost. Iris cures him, and now maybe he's the most powerful mage. Since Jarid is more directly in the line of succession, he displaces Muller.

After all this, we have pairings of Chime-Muller and Iris-Jarid, so all should be happy, happy. But, no, we have outside dangers...and an evil villain. And guess what, Muller is a powerful mage, too, but totally out of control and can only work with damaged/flawed shapes. He doesn't want anyone to know.

Damaged guys, rescuing women. Bah.

[...] THE CHARMED SPHERE needed another complete revision pass and a strong editorial intervention to say "fix this and this and this" (or else it had one but needed another.) Also, I had no sense of depth. That is, the history had no more depth than the parts needed for the story. It didn't feel real in its own context.

All that said, if I never had to read a book worse than this one, I'd be very very happy. If read as a series of short stories, there is some great writing in some of the parts. But don't expect consistency from the characters. For example, I almost felt that some of the parts that were Iris's had originally been written for Chime.

In summary, the characters and setting were sometimes cardboard, but the artwork on that cardboard is of high quality; overall, the book is well worth reading.--Lynn

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