Last year at about this time, the Youngstown Vindicator ceased publication after 140 years, was saved at the eleventh hour by being picked up by the Warren Tribune-Chronicle—and within six months ceased home deliveries to Western Pennsylvania. Although it was a morning paper by the end, I was rarely able to read it before I left for my day job—yet still, it was a routine to start the day: get the news, center, focus, connect.
Came the pandemic. I had already chosen to stop running out to a grocery store to get the Sunday edition—even though they had recently interviewed me—too much trouble for too little content. I signed up for Facebook. That gave me a way to connect. Some authors promote their books on Facebook. I’ve put a couple on my Kindle, and having used my stimulus money to upgrade my home tech, I’m more inclined to blog, so here goes!
Celtic Blood Series by Melanie Karsac
If you read my books—and you might, if you’re reading my blog—you probably know that I like character-driven stories. And Gruoch, aka Lady Macbeth, ought to fill that bill. A strong woman anchored in a vivid if violent time. I really enjoyed the way the author brought in elements of the Shakespeare play into dialogue in Highland Raven.
Only…some of those elements imply that these magical, Old Religion beings have serious power. And they do. Until they don’t, because as the author explains in her note at the end of Highland Queen, she did a complete overhaul of her first draft to give her characters “the endings they deserved”.
I’m sorry. All characters would like “to go on to happy-enough lives”. It’s just that sometimes the story demands something more. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just read Tolkien. Yes, it’s hard on the characters you love. But a false story does not resonate the way a heart-true one does.
I bought all four books, but my enjoyment ebbed with the final two.
And a few small points: having a character repeatedly say “I’m okay,” is sloppy characterization. How does a woman in the 1300s use a word which did not exist in her time? She also cannot walk into a room and see it filled with spinning wheels, no matter what point the author wants to make about how even a queen is expected to do woman’s work rather than a warrior’s. I’m a hand-spinner. That means I spin wool on a drop spindle, and I know things: Macbeth reigned 1040-1043—the spinning wheel didn’t reach Europe, much less Scotland till at least the 1350s. It’s a careless touch. It doesn’t spoil the story, but the lack of characterization does. These people all have a sameness, which makes it hard to care for them. It should be a compelling story, but it misses.