Saskia Walker,
The Strangeling
(Juno, 2007)

Reading The Strangeling rapidly begins to feel like watching a train wreck: you know it's not going to work out well, but it's so bizarre you want to find out exactly how bad it ends up being. With a few harsh critics and several rewrites, Saskia Walker could have written either the interestingly offbeat fantasy novel she evidently wanted, or a decent piece of erotica within an excusably flimsy plot. Instead, she tried cramming the two inside the same short novel and wound up accomplishing neither.

The young heroine Maerose lives a simple, domestic life in her small town of Riversbend until a century-old prophecy and two men with very different plans for her fulfillment of it arrive to change her world. Unfortunately, these leads don't so much fulfill their destinies as they are dictated by it in every thought and action. Not an exchange occurs where its impact on the plot, and thus the characters' destinies, is not continually rehashed. Even Walker's erotic scenes fall prey to this incessant redirecting towards the plot and away from the protagonists.

And what is this destiny-driven plot? In order to save her land from a vicious army of the undead, Maerose must mate with "a man of faith" at the gates of Hell on Samhain night. It sounds exciting on the cover, but the story's great undead threat appears for a singularly uninspiring hour before its expected defeat, the more prominent villain Veldor remains almost laughably unthreatening and the climactic sexual interlude lacks both creativity and verve.

The characters were pawns with functions in place of personalities, the plot barely stretched over 175 pages, cliches littered every erotic encounter and all information appears either repeatedly or hopelessly unclear. In short, while The Strangeling features a great deal of frustratingly crushed potential and a lively imagination, this book should have been an early rough draft.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Whitney Mallenby

9 February 2008

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