Top critical review
12 people found this helpful
I will never finish this
on April 17, 2008
and you have no idea how much it irks me not to finish a book.
I disagree with the reviewer who thought that "Ash" compared favorably with the "Deed of Paksenarrion" --- the Paks books are straight fantasy with a surprisingly authentic military component, while "Ash" falls closer to alternate military history. Elizabeth Moon, though, never sacrificed the story, or the reader's patience, for the sake of displaying her arcane military knowledge. Frankly, I don't think even hard-core SCA armor nuts could read all 1000+ pages with any pleasure. I do not exaggerate: entire chapters are devoted to single days in the life of the main character, and as interesting as I thought she was for the first 300 pages, she pretty much says, and does, and thinks the same things every day. There are a fair number of secondary characters, none of whom is developed enough to balance Gentle's obsession with the minutia of Ash. There is a larger story, about the feuding kingdoms of 15th century Europe, and an alternate-history twist, about mystical computing machines that may or may not be what they appear, and an even broader contextual story, about a 21st century historian pursuing the Ash legends and discovering that the fabric of history seems to be shifting. These are all amazing concepts, and I really wanted to like this book. But I am so bogged down in the fifth consideration of whether Ash's armor is giving her a rash that I finally have to acknowledge that I'm avoiding picking this book up again. I will never finish it.
"Ash: A Secret History" was originally issued in four separate volumes. Maybe, if I had read it broken into smaller parts, interspersed with reading other things, the repetition of detail and the glacial pace of the plot wouldn't have kept me from finishing the series. But I don't think I would have enjoyed it any more. I see that Gentle has written another multi-volume series set in the same alternate-history milieu, although with a hermaphrodite main character instead of a female mercenary commander main character. I'm pretty sure I won't be reading that one, either.