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Posted April 18, 2009
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Sperring's Debut Novel
I wasn't overly impressed with Sperring's novel, I confess. Rather, I should say that my initial reaction wasn't overly warm. I've since decided that the novel only suffers too many of the symptoms of "First Novel Syndrome". With so many irritating factors hiding the potential of this work and author, I nearly dismissed both when I think that Sperring could easily correct these things for her following novel. Therefore, I'm hoping to see that improvement in Sperring's next, because there is definitely a gleam of frustrating potential in Living With Ghosts.
Sperring's Living With Ghosts follows three major characters in their journeys. Gracielis, the "most main character", around whom the rest of the novel revolves is a failed priest-of-death/assassin turned pawn, spy, and gigolo. Only reluctantly does Gracielis make ties with the secondary characters. After Gracielis, the other main characters are Thiercelin and Joyain. Thiercelin, a noble, who appeals to Gracielis to help him, because Thiercelin is seeing the ghost of his long-dead best friend, Valdarrien... Joyain is a humble military officer who winds up tangled up in the mess that comes from the oddities happening in their nation, Merafi.
The plot of Living With Ghosts is both the novel's grace and impediment. Sperring has a richly detailed world she wants to share; however, in telling the story Sperring often seems to forget the reader. For much of the plot development the reader must hold on and trust the author that the seemingly irrelevant characters and scenes are actually relevant... Sadly, this results in the beginning and the ending of the book being much stronger than the in-between, which can drag on horribly.
The characters of Living With Ghosts contribute to much of the weakness in the story. If the characters had perhaps been given more quality than quantity, the plot may have moved more smoothly--and character development might have seemed less haphazard.
The protagonist standing almost equally amidst a cast of characters given the same importance is a technique that can work, but for Living With Ghosts it only slows what character development there was.
As it is, one finds it very difficult to sympathize with most characters--nevermind the protagonist, Gracielis. Gracielis suffers from the barely explained painful indecision and self-loathing of a "Mary Sue"-esque character. Gracielis is an exile from his home nation, a place that worships death, where he was supposed to become an assassin-priest. Instead, Gracielis fails and retains only his "lesser" magics of seduction and ghost-vision. With these skills he can then serve as a spy and gigolo to his mentor-mistress, who he (of course) both loves and hates. Without pausing to work on development, Sperring throws the unlikable Gracielis into political intrigue with the weak ties of his new "friends" and strong mistress to bind him to the plot.
By far, the more sympathetic characters in the novel are the secondary "main" characters. Thiercelin, called Thierry, ties most of the novel's plot together. Not only does Thiercelin hold more plot strings more tightly together than Gracielis, but Thierry is by far the more human and believable character.
The major blow to Sperring's writing is the lack of cohesive foreshadowing. The little foreshadowing we get is thrown in nearly as a second--thought; many very important details are overlooked un
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Posted April 21, 2009
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Posted April 17, 2009
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