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Diane Hignutt book Moonsword
  • Categories:Gender, Book
  • Magic, Action, Fantasy

Description

MoonSword by Diana Hignutt is latest novel with a TG theme that his reader has come upon. It is also a sword and sorcery novel. First, I shall discuss it as a S&S offering.

Let me say that I really do like S&S. Robert E. Howard is a favorite author. If Howard is rated as an "A" I think this one should be rated a C-. MOONSWORD is not bad as far as ordinary S&S novels go, and it admittedly reads easily and breezily. It has shortcomings, but it is a first novel by a small print-on-demand company. No doubt editing was very minimal in so small an operation, and for these reasons we ought to make allowances. If this were a piece of fan fiction on the net, it would stand head and shoulders over nearly all the rest. But we will pay it the highest compliment by comparing it to its professional competition.

MOONSWORD's got the usual S&S parts and elements, the usual characters, the usual quest, and the usual climactic battle. Everything is just a little too usual. The world has the usual parts to identify it as a S&S world � dragons, werewolves, elves, fairies, wizards, demons, medievalist kings, etc. What it lacks is anything to make it's setting distinct from the generic. The world has a slight Celtic flavor (druids for instance are prominent), but we don�t get the feel that this is a carefully-crafted realm distinct from every other.

The author's style shows some unevenness and ought to have had more or better editing. While most of the diction is appropriate for a world "far, far away and long, long ago," she mixes in words and phrases that come off jarringly as modernisms. With a lengthy search, I could find many examples, but here is a couple: "Big deal," is one expression used. And the term bra is employed, though "bra" is a contraction of brassier, and brassieres didn't exist until he 20th century. Even corsets were only an invention from the time of Catherine D'Medici, in the Renaissance. In another world, maybe brassieres would have been invented much earlier, but some less clashing term should have been used, like, say, "halter." Too often, the dialog sounds like it is a modern D&D adventure and not a medievalist period piece.

Then, too, many paragraphs are a sentence or two too long, explaining things already obvious, emphasizing things that don't need emphasis, or being merely redundant. Most of this could have been cured with the wise application of the blue pencil. Further, the author is not very apt at description. The people are hard to visual as to physical appearances except in vague terms (practically all women are beautiful, for example). When a nature scene is evoked, the flowers, birds, and trees cited will usually be cited in commonplace and overworked images. Buildings are almost never described except in such meaningless terms as "incredible" and "magnificent."

The characters are mostly too decent and upright to engage a reader. There are hardly any bristly personalities to give spice to their interaction; there is only black and white, and the only really black character is the Demon enemy. They all perform their roles, they fit into the machine, but never come to life as individuals. For example, it is hard to tell one druidess from another, except for their names. We expect fireworks or great drama when the hero/heroine first meets her best friend and, at another time, her father after her transformation. But nothing much results dramatically, except we can see that they are two nice people who don't easily get upset.

But it's the hero's characterization that really leaves this reader unsatisfied. She is apparently supposed to be the embodiment of a great hero type (hopefully, since she hardly comes off as a striking individual), but more than once we find that she is the type who would perhaps sacrifice the world just to save her beloved (the choice of selfish happiness over duty and the well-being of the many). Also, what sort of hero (and remember, we are speaking of Heroes) would attempt suicide merely in dead of getting a sex change, when a Garden of Gethsemane ("Take this cup from me.") scene might have been much more poignant and would have enhanced Talian's status as a sacrificial champion of his people? Or, if he could not accept womanhood, why did he not at least try to fight the Demon as a man, bring death and ruin to his warriors, and belatedly realizing that victory lies in no other why than becoming the Champion of prophecy? In short, Talian embodiment of the heroic ideal is never convincing.

The Demon, who instigates the need for all the action, is doing the usual Sauron shtick. But the author gives us too many scenes showing the evil and sadism of the Demon when we really want more development of the heroes, especially of the hero/heroine. Tolkien wisely kept Sauron off screen, so he gave on the impression of a vast, almost omniscient and omnipotent evil. James Bond's Blofeld also seemed much more brilliant, formidable, and evil when we saw only his hands, the cat in his lap, the back of his head. He immediately shrunk to merely human proportions when the camera first fell upon his face.

Now we address MOONSWORD as a sexual transformation novel. The S&S part of the book is the most important, and when you get right down to it, and it is hard to see that the book would be much different if there were no transformation in it at all.

The author is a transgendered woman, and so we might have expected some interesting insights or observations that a, say, Robert Heinlein or Jack Chalker would not be as apt to give. But one is left wondering what exactly the sex change given in the story means to the author. The hero doesn't like it, true, but if we really get down to brass tacks, nothing much crucial to the story or character development happens because of it.

Most interestingly, if the author is having fun with this plot, where is the fun? There were certainly great possibilities for whimsy. The story would have done best as a satire, but it comes off very straight-faced. Talian's first PMS and menstruation is handled okay, and the author gradually coaxes Talian into a sexy "Red Sonja" -style suit of armor, but otherwise the tale is amazingly free of humor or playfulness.

Worse, when Talian eventually accepts his new life, we are wondering why she does so. As far as this reader is concerned, very little that happens to Talian would serve to bring about any rethinking. She seems to not like being a woman until she does. As far as this reader can tell, nothing particularly important happens to her because she's a woman. Maybe her change of outlook is due to the effect of the spell on her, but deus ex machina is not the best way to achieve Talian's inner awakening as a woman.

Worst of all is the ultimate fate of the hero(ine). What it entails has been so long telegraphed (before the mid-point of the book I had started hoping that the author wouldn't go where she seemed to be going) that when it inevitably comes it is no surprise, though there could have been some clever twist to give us another kind of ending any time before the last scenes. I don't wish to spoil the ending resolution for readers; for many readers the author's wrongheadedness has spoiled it enough. There seems to be no way to fix this unsatisfying ending; the author seems to have hogtied plot threads so tightly that no sequel is likely.

Over all, MOONSWORD is an easy read, an okay but not great S&S novel, and a TG story that is much less interesting, much less explored, than it could have been. This reviewer would advise Ms Hignutt to try another S&S TG novel a few years from now, but not before she has garnered more style and skill as a writer and, most of all, not before she has something to say regarding what is positive and what is negative in such a fate, what is joy and what is pain, what is gain and what is loss.


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originally posted by Christopher Leeson on 2002-12-14, no edits, entryid=3974