Review - Trails of Love I Crawl Part 1
My rating: starstar_borderstar_borderstar_borderstar_border
Lucien and Amédée are two young men, aged 19 and 20 respectively, in a well-to-do household of a busy port town. Amédée is the stepson of the master of the house, while Lucien is the master's nephew, and Amédée's squire. The two young men have a close bond, but just as they're about to take their relationship beyond brotherly love, they're discovered by the head of the house. The old-fashioned man sends the boys off to a “reformatory” run by the enterprising Viktor, who subjects the two men to extremely cruel torture.
Fortunately for Amédée and Lucien, a demon - Belial - takes pity on them (or rather, sets his sights on them for his own plans) and puts things in motion to get them released from their torture. However, Belial decides to separate the two and send them each on their own path to discovering their inner desires. Amédée is taken by Viktor while Lucien becomes the treasured pet of the son of the commander of the attacking army.
Okay, I'm going to go into a lot more detail than I usually do about the flaws in this book - and they are so many I could go on for days about them - but the short summary is that this is the worst writing I've ever inflicted on my eyes. Ordinarily, I simply wouldn't post a review of anything this bad. However, beyond just being poorly written in broken English, there are some rather dubious aspects of this work that I think people should know about before they decide whether or not to read it. So, I'm going to go into quite some detail about the many issues I have with this story, in the hopes that you won't read it.
Let's start with the purely subjective technical issues of language. I would be very surprised to find out that the author was a native English speaker. Virtually every page of the text had two or three misused words. The most common mistake was using what in place of the connective that, as in “This is the book what I wrote.” It's almost like the author's knowledge of the English language was derived from a careful study of Little Britain. This isn't just a little quirk in the dialog, which would be quite acceptable, it's in the narrative, no matter which of the characters we're currently getting the point of view from.
Occasionally the author will slip in a fancy word, as non-native speakers will sometimes do. The words appear as out of place in the text as a stadium hot dog served on a silver platter. What's worse, about half the time the word doesn't mean what the writer probably intended the word to convey. Quite often, it was the opposite.
Adding to the language problems are numerous anachronisms. The setting for the story is a medieval fantasy world, although this too is inconsistent and difficult to get a clear picture of. In any case, it's definitely pre-industrial, yet we have references to Vaseline (as a lubricant), men being “a gay” and characters describing things as “gross”, all of which are modern products and slang that would have had no place in the world in which the story is set. We also have physicians who know about bacteria, yet prescribe onion juice to treat it. As with the misused English, there's an anachronism on almost every page.
These issues may sound minor, and the truth is a number of books have a few such errors, but when there are so many errors, repeated over and over again, it becomes very annoying. If the author cares so little about the quality of their work, why should I bother reading it? I almost gave up reading the book about a third of the way through, because the language was so painfully bad.
Moving on to the more subjective issues, there are a lot of problems with the plot as well. There is a rather large cast of key characters, including angels, demons and vampires, and we get the story from various points of view. Sometimes it's hard to tell when the point of view shifts. The angels and demons, particularly the demon Belial, are terribly convenient characters. They are much more active than the roles gods usually play in fiction. They don't just plant an idea in someone's subconscious or make little changes to shift the course of battle, Belial whispers in people's ears, touches them, and if they're in danger he even carries them away. It's all too convenient and removes a lot of potential drama from the story line.
There are also quite a few loose ends in the story. For example, the man who sends the two young men to the reformatory completely disappears when the city is besieged. He leaves his house empty and full of food, makes no attempt to retrieve Lucien and Amédée from the reformatory, and simply vanishes from the story. Although Lucien certainly has reason to resent the man, when he ends up back in the house for a short time, he never wonders what happened to his uncle.
The reformatory is another big mystery. It's actual purpose and function is never quite clear, although there's no doubt that it's a scam. There's a suggestion that, in addition to the large sums of money people like Amédée's step-father pay to have their charges reformed, the place also earns income by putting its charges on show. Although the two young men are there for two weeks and are supposed to be there for eight, there's no further mention of these shows. Rather, what is described are several sessions in which the men are figged, plugged, fitted with chastity cages, given numerous enemas and beaten. These sessions are repeated several times, and each session is described in great detail, taking up about a third of the book.
It's not clear what the purpose of these tortures is, or why these specific, extremely painful forms of discipline are used, and why they are repeated. The kinkiness wears off when the same acts, especially enemas, are repeated so much they become boringly repetitive. Certainly, for the overall story to work, Amédée and Lucien have to undergo extreme trauma, so that they're ready to submit themselves to their rescuers and become submissive playthings. But I kept wondering why these particular tortures, especially figging, which by all accounts is one of the most painful things you can experience without blood being spilled. Viktor doesn't seem to derive any pleasure from them, and he freely admits (to himself at least) that there's not going to be any actual reformation happening. Later in the book, he proves that he knows how to train a submissive so that he not only endures discipline, but openly desires it. So, what's he actually trying to achieve with the torture?
This question became especially relevant as the two main characters developed more. The author is at pains to point out that Lucien is 19 while Amédée is 20 - young men - yet the physical and emotional descriptions of both paint a picture of people much younger. Both men are picked up and carried quite easily at various points in the story. In addition, Lucien in particular seems to have an emotional development more in line with a pre-pubescent boy rather than a man of 19.
Such exaggerated boyishness is not uncommon in m/m stories, but in light of the tortures the young men undergo, it's more than a little uncomfortable. In this case, it's difficult to tell if this is simply part of the overall sloppiness of the writing, or if there isn't something more sinister at work. It's almost as if the author is saying, “Yeah, he's 19. wink, wink, nudge, nudge”. This, for me, is where the book crosses the line from simply being bad, to being of questionable value. I don't believe in banning books, but I do believe that some books simply shouldn't be read. They don't deserve an audience. This is one of those books.
Posted in Book Reviews on December 18, 2012