Dear Guy Gavriel Kay,
I’m about a third of the way into Children of Earth and Sky, your new novel, and…oh, by the beard of the beardless Jad, I so wanted to love this book. It’s set in the same general universe as the Sarantine Mosaic, which I consider one of your more underrated works, but later in time; the real-world analogue would be Renaissance Europe. It’s full of interesting and colorful characters, and although we haven’t quite gotten around to an actual plot yet (a bunch of people are being sent off to spy on various sovereign states, but little spycraft has been shown to date) the plot is one place where Kay rarely lets me down. What’s not to love?
Plenty, as it turns out. Guy, my friend, I know you can be an utterly peerless writer when you want to be. The last couple of pages of Under Heaven, a book that failed to impress me on just about any other level, can still move me to tears with its sheer power, and the race sequences in Lord of Emperors are full of thrilling heart-pounding incident. Even The Last Light of the Sun, which I thought was terrible, was terrible in an interesting way.
But this book? SLOPPY.
Guy. Sweetie. You HAVE to stop describing women as “scented.” First of all, it tells me nothing (what scent are we talking about here? Strawberries? Sweat? Whiskey?). Also, it’s just plain stupid.
Also, dearest Guy, stop telling me how “subtle” and “amusing” things are, especially when nothing particularly subtle or amusing is actually happening on the page.
Sweet Guy, your teacher in Writing 101 undoubtedly told you not to begin a sentence with “There is” or “There are,” and yet here I see you doing exactly that six times in a ten-sentence paragraph. (N.B. This really happens. He’s not doing it for effect. He’s just doing it.)
And finally, your curious habit of switching tenses in the same chapter, the same passage, the same paragraph, SOMETIMES THE SAME SENTENCE — well, did you happen write this book between shifts as chief sommelier at a trendy wine bar?
Ye gods, Guy. If I had one piece of advice – and yes, I, a mere blogger, am daring to give this great and award-winning author advice – it would be to fire your editor. And think seriously about firing your publisher, while you’re at it. You wrote this thing, but a lot of other people enabled it, and in particular whoever it was who encouraged you to write the character of Marin exclusively in the present tense needs to be marched through the city surrounded by clerics ringing cowbells and intoning “SHAME.”
Guy, a writer of your caliber should settle for nothing less than greatness, and in your case greatness does not lie in wordy, florid passages about how there are scented women subtly amusing the men in their lives (or vice versa). I continue to hold out hope – the Amazon.com reviewers, to a one, praise your ending, and I know that if there’s one thing you know how to do right it’s endings. (I will charitably pretend that the last couple of pages of Lord of Emperors didn’t actually happen, because everything leading up to the part where the subtly scented woman walks into the chapel is golden.) So I will press on, rolling my eyes and cursing your editor with every breath.
You can do better.
Kate, a Well-Wisher