Quick Read: Canticle ch. 3

 

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Before we get started, some scheduling notes.

My current plan is to do either one or two more books in this Quick Read cycle, depending on how busy I am over the next few weeks. On around the 16th or so a poll will go up to decide our next full Let’s Read, after which I’m taking a blogging break until the 30th. However, there will also be Something going up on the blog on Christmas day. You’ll have to wait until then to find out what it is.

Three: Danica

This chapter opens with the following line, which is both hilarious and cringe-inducing in its clunkiness:

The obese wrestler rubbed a pudgy hand over his newest bruise, trying to ignore the growing taunts of his colleagues.

Thing book is very into doing that thing where repeating a character’s name too often is Bad Writing so characters gets described as “the old druid” and “the young scholar” a lot.

Danica brushed her hair out of her almond-shaped brown eyes and tried to hide her smile

Before we comment on this let’s head on over to the official Forgotten Realms wiki real quick for some additional insight:

Danica has an unruly mop of strawberry blonde hair and soft brown almond-shaped eyes, the heritage of her oriental mother.

When I encountered that bit about her “almond eyes” it prompted the usual question of whether Salvatore was using the expression as a racist way to describe east Asian features, or if he was doing that baffling thing where authors go on about an attractive character’s “perfectly almond shaped eyes” and you have no idea what the fuck they’re even talking about. Thanks to the wiki we have our answer.

I petition to ban this phrase from all writing forever.

Danica looked like a wisp of a thing, barely five feet tall, with a floppy mop of curly strawberry-blond hair hanging just below her shoulders and a smile to steal a paladin’s heart

More tiny, girlish waif love interests, because for some reason that’s a Thing in bad fantasy. Is it because of Joss Whedon?

And it’s probably a coincidence that her name sounds like Denna, right?

Every time Danica needed information in the great Edificant Library, she found it offered only in exchange for a wrestling match.

What? Why? That’s stupid. This book is stupid.

Danica shook her head helplessly and retrieved her two daggers from a nearby bench. She took a moment to examine them, as she always did before putting them back into their respective boot sheaths.

Why is she bringing daggers to a library? I mean, apart from because this is a D&D book and keeping knives in your boots all the time is the sort of thing the player characters would do.

After she defeats the wrestler guy we get her tragic life story, which is basically what you expect it to be: parents killed by assassins, left an orphan at a young age, etc.

The raid had come in the dark of night, and when the assassins had gone, so, too, were Danica’s parents, the house she had grown up in, and the wagon shop that had been her father’s lifelong toil.

You should talk to Kvothe, he knows all about wagon-related tragedies.

After her parents were killed Danica was trained in martial arts by her teacher, who is also from The Exotic Far East and is a monk. Not an actual monk, as in the D&D character class that fights using hand to hand combat and spiritual abilities, because– and I feel the need to keep pointing this out– we’re reading a novel where the characters have literal classes. If you go into the wiki they even have the D&D morality designations, although so far there’s been no sign of that in the actual book itself.

She dismissed those dark memories, leaving them with a final image of her father’s calm smile, her mother’s almond eyes,

I am filled with unyielding hatred

A quick search reveals that Danica’s almond-shaped eyes come up seven times, and there are two more instances where we’re told about her “exotic eyes”. It’s like this is the only trait the character possesses.

Although Danica’s features and mannerisms were mostly Western and not so different from the norm in the central Realms, the shape of her eyes revealed some ancestry in the far and exotic east.

For example.

Danica stopped suddenly, pulled Cadderly’s face down to her own, and kissed him eagerly. She moved back from him just a few inches, her almond eyes, striking and exotic, boring into his.

THIS IS ON THE SAME GOD DAMN PAGE

WE FUCKING GET IT JESUS CHRIST

She rolled her eyes to emphasize the vastness of the pillared room.

She rolled her eyes to emphasize the crappiness of the writing.

Cadderly tries to grope Danica’s boobs while they’re making out so she does that nerve-disabling thing you see in martial arts movies. Then… something happens. It’s kind of confusing.

You are such a …” Danica stammered, “a … a boy!”
At first, Cadderly thought her anger just the expected reaction to his bold advance, then Danica stunned him completely.
“Can you never forget your studies?”
“She knows!” a horrified Cadderly muttered to himself as Danica stormed away.

…what?

While Cadderly went through his life busy but distracted, Danica’s vision of the world remained narrowly focused, based in a rigid and philosophical religion little-known in Faerûn. That passion, too, enhanced the enchantment Danica had cast over Cadderly. He wanted to open her mind and her heart and look into both, knowing that only there would he find answers to fill the missing elements of his own life.

These characters are just fascinating.

The dangerous finger shot up and waved about, resembling some hellish viper.

Is Danica’s dangerous finger related at all to Wigg’s infamous eyebrow? Which one of them would win in a fight?

You know what I was planning to do one more chapter, but I am dooooone with this shit. I’d rather reread all of The Wise Man’s Fear. This is the most generic of generic mush, with every attempt at storytelling and characerization neutered by the fact that it has to conform to the conventions of a tabletop game.

Next time:

hobbits-lotr-cosplay-group-photo

(No, it’s not Lord of The Rings)

 

 

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27 thoughts on “Quick Read: Canticle ch. 3

  1. Signatus

    Wait. Describing asian looking eyes as “almond shaped” is racist? I’ve never used fruits to describe facial features, mostly because I thought the terms “almond shaped eyes” and “cherry red lips” and “apple rosy cheeks” sounded stupid, but I never thought this would be considered racist. I mean, forgive my naivety but I can’t see anything wrong with that. It would be as describing my people like “a fruit salad” (because we’re quiet mixed up after 2500 years of invasions and conquests and half the world’s people passing by). It would certainly sound stupid but aside from that I don’t see anything wrong.

    Reply
    1. Mr Elbows

      from how I’ve seen it used, it’s the hip new word for people who want to write “slant eyed” but know they can’t be doing that anymore. context, I guess.

      Reply
      1. Andrea Harris

        It’s not new. It’s quite old, at least a century or more if my reading is any indication. But it’s also kind of limiting (besides describing people as food can imply they are things to be consumed) an entire part of the world with people who vary just as widely in physical aspect as they do in Europe to one type of look. And I believe it’s not even very accurate–there’s a graphic somewhere showing how it’s actually Europeans who have “almond-shaped” eyes more than East Asians do.

        Reply
      2. Signatus

        Found the link. Adding it so people can check it.

        http://clairelight.typepad.com/seelight/2006/09/almond_eyes.html

        Also, I think you’re right onto something about comparing food to people = consumption items. I do have seen white people described as food, in some of those romantic things my mom likes to read. Never read any, mind you, don’t like these books (I’m into other bad books), but open them randomly and it’s a laugh. Surely, cherry lips, apple rosy cheeks, those are sweet fruits, forbidden fruits, a fruit that the male is willing to devour.

        Anyways, this author is obsessed with eyes and the vegetable world. The Drizzt saga describes his “lavender eyes” a good dozens of times per book. It’s like these people don’t have other traits but eyes. They are defined by eyes. Talking about Drizzt’s eyes, his are rather unique, because obviously he’s not a huge Gary Stu.

        Reply
  2. zephyrean

    The quality of the book isn’t a direct consequence of it having “to conform to the conventions of a tabletop RPG”, because it doesn’t. With the notable exception of the first Dragonlance book, D&D novels aren’t based on the game, they’re regular (shitty) fantasy hack jobs written to (shitty) specs. D&D games don’t have a single protagonist, they’re collaborative storytelling games. D&D love interests are minor NPCs, because you’re sitting around the table with your buddies. D&D characters don’t care if squirrels are in the mood.

    The only thing which this book got right is player characters’ tragic backstories. The game is not to blame here, though — tragic backstories are an unfortunate legacy of Serious Fiction, what you get when a player is required to write 5k words to prove their emotional engagement with the game before the game even starts but doesn’t want any of this nonsense to come up later (and rightly so — D&D is a game about quadratic transformative advancement, and it shouldn’t matter that the Lich Lord was once a halfling in a bathrobe). If parents in single-author fiction are killed by the villain, parents in D&D are killed by orcs. Because “orcs” are 1-level threats.

    Reply
  3. A. Noyd

    What a grotesquely fetishistic way to describe a character’s race. What are the odds the “rigid and philosophical religion” she follows isn’t more racist fuckery?

    Also, why is the supposed hero of this story sexually assaulting his 〜★exxhaawwtick★〜 girlfriend? He knows grabbing at her tits is gong to make her angry, then he does it anyway? That’s abusive bullshit, not a “bold advance.”

    Reply
  4. Ida

    Here’s what I wonder: if your book takes place in Ye Generic Fantasy World and NOT actually our world, then why must people with Asian features come from “the far east”? Is the geography so exactly alike our own that it’s impossible to have Fantasy Asia anywhere else? I mean, if you create a world whose culture is a lot like Japan, for example, do the people in it have to look Japanese too? And why must the Fantasy Asia/Africa/Middle East always be “exotic” and far away? You’re writing the book, right – the book could take place in Fantasy Africa and still have a “western” culture if that’s what you want, and the people in the “far east” (or “the far north” or whatever) could be white and riding on polar bears and have a Japanese culture, or you could have Vikings from India, or you could create a completely different culture inspired by a lot of different ones or by no existing culture in particular, or the “European” part of the world could have been colonized by people from Fantasy Africa and adapted to their culture, or you could have a world where nobody frickin’ cares about what colour your skin is and everyone is mixed, or you could have a world where everyone is purple-skinned and have orange circular eyes.

    For example, in Avatar. The Last Airbender, the entire world is Asian-inspired. There isn’t a single “European” person in sight. And it works! Your fantasy world doesn’t have to correspond to the real world. That’s what makes fantasy so great, and that’s what makes writers’ inability to look beyond their tiny western-hemisphere viewpoint so frustrating.

    Reply
    1. q____q

      Because someone needs to cash in on the Game of Thrones success with cheap knock offs and going by the trailer they’re trying exactly that (it looks really atrocious).

      Reply
      1. reveen

        From the trailer it looks like they’re trying to catch the Hunger Games lightning just as much as GoT.

        Why specifically Shannara though? Did the execs just have their interns print out a bunch of fantasy book titles and put them up on a wall for the boardroom to throw darts at?

        Reply
  5. Mr Elbows

    “her beautiful almond shaped eyes glistened with sugary sweetness… the gingerbread girl seemed to be on the edge of crying almond-flavored tears. because her eyes were literal almonds.”

    Reply
      1. anomie

        This is pretty much what I picture too.

        Also when someone is described as having “caramel skin” what I imagine is basically a human-shaped block of caramel. Same with “chocolate skin” or, really, anything else that describes racial minorities as food items. (This is never done with white people—obviously because of racism, but also kinda because the descriptions would suck. “Danica’s spaghetti hair cascaded over her exotic peach kernel-shaped eyes set in a salmon-coloured face” etc)

        (Side note: I know “strawberry blonde” is a real hair colour, but part of my brain always ignores the “blonde” part and just imagines hair made out of literal strawberries.)

        Reply
      1. Lissa

        I once saw a book where a character had “skin-colored skin” and hair the color of white chocolate. One of the worst descriptions ever, IMO.

        Reply
      2. Lissa

        “I recommend “cheese”, “butter”, or “preserved pork fat” personally”

        😀
        Cream cheese skin. Mayonnaise. Raw chicken, cooked chicken, boiled lobster (for a sunburn). Pie crust. Bread dough. Sugar cookie. Toast. Parsnip. Chickpea. Rice. French fry.

        Reply
  6. reveen

    I’m thinking… LOTR ripoff, but I don’t how you can get more LOTR ripoff than Wheel of Time. I dunno, Eragon? But that’s somewhat more of a Star Wars ripoff.

    More tiny, girlish waif love interests, because for some reason that’s a Thing in bad fantasy. Is it because of Joss Whedon?

    This book predates Buffy by 6 years or so, so if we want to find the genealogical origin if the sexily childlike waif who beats people up we’ll have to go back further. Though Whedon did popularize the sexily childlike waif who beats people up while being psychologically traumatized. So fucking thanks for that Joss.

    Reply
  7. q____q

    Honest question: Is it genetically possible in the real world™ to be strawberry blonde and have „exotic & far east“ eyes? Or are these fantasy genetics making it possible to be stock white with a bit of racist exoticism mixed in for extra hotness points?

    Reply
    1. reveen

      I think it’s even possible for a black person to turn out a redhead just because one of his or her parents carried the gene for it from somewhere in their family.

      Genetics can mix and match lie that in real life. But it’s hardly universal or predictable.

      Reply

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