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Steelwhisper

Steelwhisper

SPOILER ALERT!

Barely meh and I fell for the hype! Parody or pastiche?

The Magpie Lord  - K.J. Charles

No, I don't like it. I don't exactly hate it either, I'm between "really meh" and "bored to tears". I also do not at all and that is emphatically not at all, get the hype this book is getting.

I'll be frank, please don't bite my head off!

Firstly, it's a rip-off. It's a rather badly disguised concoction of:

1. LaMont Cranston (Lucien and Crane? Even the same initials) is "The Shadow". Which used to be a pulp novel series in the 1930s, was then put on radio (Orson Welles cut his teeth on it), and then made a movie in the mid-nineties with a still very cute Alec Baldwin as Cranston. An American ex drug-lord, ex-junkie, ex-criminal, ex-smuggler chief of mafia-don standing, stationed somewhere close to or in China, who gets abducted by a "tulku" (shaman) and turned into a good person through magic.

 

He learns to master the magic, can telepathically control people, is capable of superior physical feats, can telekinetically influence magical items, gets accosted in dreams, and fights crime in his home country America using the magical powers he was taught by the shaman (by the way, if you like Baldwin, watch the movie, it's quite lovely and dark, downright steampunkish, without being too gruesome).

 

2. Batman, the early pulp and later Christian Bale versions, right along with a Merrick instead of an Alfred (Merrick is as good as exchangeable with Alfred), and a Stephen instead of a Robin. Batman by the way was very much influenced by the "The Shadow" novels...

 

3, The Persuaders!, starring Roger Moore as Lord Brett Sinclair (toff English lord, blond, tall, very smart and self-assured) and Tony Curtis (American playboy of low origins and no sophistication, but quite capable of mayhem if needed). The series was characterised by a constant, slightly over the top banter between the two protagonists. A banter which is rather identical with that between Crane, Stephen and Merrick.

 

Add some spoonfuls of  Wooster and Jeeves, a bit of Lord Peter Wimsey, mix and stir, sprinkle some Harry Potter and Jane Austen on top, and there you have The Magpie Lord! Funnily many  think this is a Sherlock/Watson derivate, now that I can't see at all. There's absolutely nothing of that dynamic in this book (except that both belong into the same era), but lots of the above-mentioned others instead.

There is nothing really new, fresh or not regurgitated a few times in that story, plot-wise and characterise. That's not bad per se, all of us tell and re-tell the same stories just slightly differently, but to call this something "original and rare"? That's what all the 5-star reviews state. Okay, okay, maybe the state of m/m-writing is so dismal that anything halfway literate and having a plot might stand out, but truth be told, I don't grade against bad books, I grade against the better ones in a specific field. I also grade romances more or less together and there are lots of m/f romances around that I read during the past year or two which easily surpass this here.

Secondly, this is a "chick with a dick" or seme/uke romance.

Stephen is so very much the girl (or uke) in this pairing. Never mind his magical abilities, he lets loose a stream of consciousness which screams "I'm a hapless swooning maiden! Rip my bodice! Rip my bodice!" practically without interruption.

Just imagine a 5' guy, described as so tiny and thin as to look like a schoolboy (!) beside one who is brawny, broad-shouldered and has 6'3" in height! Just to put this into some relation--Michael J. Fox, who really comes over as tiny, has 5' 4". Now place him beside Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson or Kyle Secor. Ouch.

 

And he is constantly on his knees, gets his red lips moistened and "broken" open by Crane, he is breathy, nearly faints half of the time, reacts like a Harlequin lady to Crane, is snippy, in the end gets f*cked like a girl (tried several times and f*cked in the end like that as well) and it's just not a femme who is described there. It's a "male girl".

 

Plot-wise absolutely not needed. He could have been weakened by the prior fight without being reduced to looking like a child and be smaller than an average woman of the era.

 

Heh, and trying to disguise a "chick with a dick" mishap by clothing it in some completely idiotic D/s allusion is truly the opposite of endearing me to a story. Every single sub or bottom I have ever come across had more "male" in their little finger than this Stephen all put together.


Again, nothing unusual. So many m/m romances are nothing but m/f re-written into an m/m version. But people expressly maintain that this is a superior m/m novel, and that's where I scratch my head. To me an m/f story in disguise or seme/uke-dynamic sure as hell is not a shining sample of m/m.

And lastly, the writing itself is nothing I would write home about. The prose is flowery, downright  purple with such an insane amount of adverbs, adjectives and qualifiers thrown in, that I'm sure few nouns and verbs have escaped being modified. In fact, Charles is not satisfied with a single qualifier, she regularly uses two or three. The abundance of adverbs would make Stephen King have a shitfit and even I got antsy over them.

There was a load of melodrama, I can't say either that I detected any UST, or anything erotic. I'm not at all into tattoos (so they didn't move me any which way), and magic lube is, heh, tacky. The blow-job was described in a to me unerotic, turning-off manner and throwing "the little man" over desks or against trees is sort of, well, unsexy and so reminding me of bodice ripping. The final act was a rip-off of "Wallbanger" (that's the het romance I'm talking about).

So, this is not meant as a take-down of those who like this book.It IS a solidly written piece of fluff and entertainment. Like a well-made blockbuster summer movie, a lot of very hot air. But it has no real depth, no real elegance. I get it that it is something people can like and squee over, but it's nowhere close to the hype it is getting. And I bought in to the hype, so now I judge going by it. I can't help that.

If I had thought this is just some fluffy inconsequential fantasy, I might have been less disappointed. I expected much, much more after reading all these reviews.

I most identify with Crispy's review, he or she nails it:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/712877922

 

I loved the cover by the way, though both it and the blurb are extremely misleading. They make one expect some sort of Victorian steampunk or gaslight tale, but in all reality nothing in this novel even suggests historical accuracy. There's not a whiff of Victorian era in this.

 

ETA: It has been suggested (hence the title) that this is supposed to be some funny, sprightly parody or spoof of the genre. But if that is the case, then I and neither a lot of the reviewers cottoned on to that. I didn't find it funny, and I wasn't in any way amused by characters or plot or prose.