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Boring ramble from a talented author
on September 19, 2001
Many other reviews here seem to be highly praising, but I found this fourth installment of Card's clever, original series a big disappointment. Nothing really happens except a lot of chatting and repitition. How many times do we have to hear the plot of "Red Prophet" and "Prentice Alvin" restated? The former was a bit preachy, the latter more exciting; I enjoyed both but didn't need to hear their stories repeated in almost every chapter, it seemed.
Moreover, I kept waiting for the stupid trial to end so everyone could get on with the story and actually DO something but when the trial ended so did the book!
The book wasn't terrible, however--Card always writes with skill and a unique voice (though he rambles in ways a beginning author could never get away with.) For some good points, Calvin in Europe was fun, and I liked the British attorney, and I loved learning what Taleswapper's true knack is.
Yet Alvin and Peggy both seemed too old for their roles. The innocent spunk that made them such fun when they were younger is boring and stale a little strange in people in their late twenties. They finally get together, but it seemed anti-climactic. And Peggy's pregnant already? How divine.
Most of all, though, is that I feel Card is badly misusing his alternate history. It's fun to see the twisted-around versions of real historical figures, but Card disappointed me with almost all of them. For example, William Henry Harrison was delightful as a cruel military man in "Red Prophet," but in this book he does just what he did in real history: become president and die after getting sick at his inaugural address. I guess Card was having fun with making events seem inevitable, but that seems a waste of a good alternate history.
Similarly, it was hinted that the land is headed for war, with the slaveholders and royal colonies against the "United States,"
Appalachee, etc. That's just the American Revolution and the Civil War at the same time--as if those things were bound to happen in any version of history. And while Napoleon's empire is fun to hear about, I thought he was more interesting as a general exiled to Canada. Again, seems like Card isn't being as creative as he could be.
And after four books, I wish I knew more about the places on that wonderful alternate map besides Hatrack River and Dekane. I wanted to see the Crown Colonies and New England. And I'd like some hints about what's happening in the rest of the alternate world, apart from Europe.
The Unmaker was hardly in it at all! The magic that was so fresh and clever in "Seventh Son" has gotten pretty boring. Also I though it was pretty goofy that Mike Fink showed up eager for redemption as a devoted follower of Alvin. And there are very few interesting female characters. . .Why none of the historical women at that time? There were some! I'd like to see an alternate America where women could vote in the 1800's!
All in all, very discouraging. I felt the same way about the Ender Series: Ender's Game blew away, it's one of the best books ever, but the rest of the series is boring and preachy. Card makes great, super-smart children but they grow up dull.
Maybe Heartfire will be better.