Jack of Ravens - Mark Chadbourn
Suspension of disbelief is a tricky thing. As a die-hard genre geek, I'd say I'm pretty good at it, but every now and again I come across a book that I just can't believe. It's not necessarily the implausibility of the setting, or the plot-driven actions of the characters - these are certainly problems, but I can name plenty of books that contain these flaws and that can still get me hooked. It's just something intangibly... missing. Jack of Ravens lost me right from the word go; I tried very hard to hoist my disbelief up again, but it stayed resolutely grounded. The whole thing just seemed ridiculous. Maybe this is how non-fantasy readers feel all the time?
The book opens with the ludicrous contrivance that first killed my disbelief: Jack Churchill, archaeologist from our time, suddenly finds himself in the middle of a battle in Iron Age Cornwall, lacking his memories but armed with a glowing blue sword. He kills a giant (leading everyone to call him "Jack, Giantkiller", which annoyingly never lost that extraneous comma), then finds he is the leader of the Brothers and Sisters of the Dragon, who have the power of Existence, and protect humanity from the gods and other supernatural nasties. Then he's whisked off to Faerie, then back to Roman Britain, where his new team has to fight the Army of the Ten Billion Spiders... if this was all written as Conan-like cheese, it would have been a lot more fun, but it takes itself entirely too seriously, and is full of miserable people with raven-black hair pining for their lost loves, and suchlike. Yawn yawn yawn.
By the time the self-confessed deus ex machina turned up a third of the way through, I was thoroughly bored; I tried a few more times to continue, in case I'd just been in the wrong frame of mind first time round, but barely made it to the halfway point. The Large Amount of Unnecessary Capitalisation just added to the dreary pompousness of it all; the book was in danger of defenestration every time a character said something like "But who is this Fragile Creature?". I didn't care about the characters and their boring save-the-world quest; I didn't even find any of the historical stuff interesting. Chadbourn did try to make the locations sound exotic, with all kinds of fairy-tale tweaks and dark inventiveness, but the writing was so dry and bloodless that even that couldn't hold my attention. As usual, with crap January reads, this was a Christmas-money impulse-buy; maybe one day I'll learn to be a bit more discriminating in the New Year sales...