Ron Miller,
Bradamant: The Iron Tempest
(Timberwolf, 2000)

Ron Miller's fantasy novel Bradamant: The Iron Tempest presents me with something of a dilemma. Based on the Italian poem "Orlando Furioso," written by Ludovico Ariosto and first published in 1516, the novel centers around the adventures of Bradamant, renowned maiden knight of the court of Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor of Frankland. Although completely devoted to her king, she once saved the life of an infidel Saracen knight during a battle and fell instantly and completely in love with him, though they never actually met. And, as in any great romance, he fell in love with her.

Bradamant's search for her Saracen love, Roggero, takes her all over Frankland, as well as other kingdoms. She battles evil knights, infidels and sorcerers, defeating all comers, whether they come alone or with armies. She is befriended by a sorceress named Melissa, who does not appear to be entirely of Bradamant's world.

Roggero, in his turn, must deal with knights, monsters and sorceresses, as well as his own wandering eye while trying to find Bradamant. Unlike Bradamant, he is not overly concerned with uptight chastity.

Although I have not read the poem upon which it is based, I suspect that Miller's novel follows it fairly closely. The plot twists and turns and writhes like a snake stuck with a spear. The novel's ending is much too abrupt -- and it does match the poem. In this case, some small deviation from the poem would have been nice, to neatly wrap things up.

Miller's prose is overwritten to the point of absurdity. Convoluted, paragraph-long sentences are not uncommon and a great deal of dry humor is injected into the writing, especially in the exposition. Since he is an experienced writer and this is not his first novel, I must conclude that this style is intentional -- but it gets old really quickly. One flaw that immediately presents itself in the writing is Miller's tendency to describe things in anachronistic terms that throw the reader out of the story.

Bradamant is surely great adventure, with plenty of action and even humor, but it still manages to drag unmercifully long, which may have to do with its source material. Had I not been reading the book specifically for this review, I would have abandoned it about a third of the way through. As it is, it literally put me to sleep in a couple of spots.

Which brings me to the dilemma I mentioned in the beginning. I have read other reviews of Bradamant and they have been unfailingly positive. I don't seem to be seeing what those other readers do and I can't decide whether Bradamant is a work of utter genius or complete tripe.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]
Rambles: 21 December 2001

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