Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book Review: Sacred Promises

This is a fairly interesting young adult fantasy romance that has some moderate issues connected to it.  Granted, some of what I might have to say may be a result of this story being outside the normal realm of my preferred genre, but as much as the setting and circumstances are interesting, I can't say I much enjoyed the story.  I'm sure many people would, but there was a lot of the storyline that made me feel uncomfortable.

The mythology of the setting is wonderful, with the four varieties of magical people: elementals, changelings, warriors and mystics; all gifted by Gaia.  The assumption seems to be that any one person could only have one of the gifts, but this is proven off fairly frequently.  The one accepted exception is the Queen, who is the personification of Gaia and thus has a lot of gifts in all the different categories, but the story presents at least one other character whose gifts cross the boundaries.

The concept of a Queen who is the personification of Gaia and yet is a separate individual is also very interesting.  It has similarities in nature with the way the Avatar was depicted as being one soul with many lives and personalities, which were able to converse with one another in the Last Airbender, and, of course, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Christian understanding of the relationship between Christ and the Father.  The rules and nature of the Queen is rather interesting as well.  The fact that she inherently knows all there is to know about Gaia (including stuff that nobody has ever written down), the fact that she can call up the memories of all the past queens and other such things.  There is also the matter of promises and her mate, but I'll deal with that later as it falls under things that I found distasteful.

Ostensibly, the story is set on Earth in an academy hidden away somewhere in Missouri.  However, there isn't much need for the setting to be Earth at all.  I suppose someone might have an issue with a fantasy world having malls or such, but given that there is never the slightest mention of real world politics and social issues and everything relates to the hidden politics of the magical world complete with ruling families and mythical places, the story could have benefited much by just inventing a new setting and forgetting the idea of it being on Earth at all.

There is a pervasive level of mind control involved in everything to do with the Queen and those around her.  She is both the victim of it and the source of it at the same time.  This would not be so bad except for the fact that it is stated at least once that Gaia tries to protect Free Will.  This fact goes completely counter to the fact that any Warrior will obey the Queen when she gives a direct order.  They don't have to know she's the Queen, they don't even have to realize they just obeyed her, but they will.   Gaia's purported love of Free Will is also lacking in the fact that the Queen does not get to choose her own spouse.  The people choose her mate for her and said mate has supernatural benefits that make him all but irresistible to the Queen.  Even this wouldn't be so bad except for certain assertions.  The mate in the book is confirmed by someone who can see souls to actually love the main character outside of her role as Queen...he himself states he's trying to do everything he can to give her what she wants and make her the same time that he admits to enjoying putting her in situations where she feels guilty.  On her side, she is immediately up front and honest with him about loving someone else and planning to take a loophole that allows her to be with the man she chooses.  On his side, he's consistently twisting the knife and reminding her how horrible her feelings toward the man she loves makes him feel and how much he likes it when he's made her feel guilty about something because it shows she has feelings for him too.  I'm sorry, that's not love.  That's emotional abuse.  It is no different than what the more blatant antagonist of the story is doing to the main character.  If he really loved her, he would be avoiding calling her attention to such things and letting her be happy with the man she wants.  No, what the mate character is showing is so far from love that it makes me more than a little uncomfortable.

Largely, I think the whole emotional bond/chosen mate and promise issue mostly only exists to give justification for love at first sight and to allow a love triangle to spring up in a way that they can absolve the main character of any sort of wrong doing despite the fact that she seems to be leading on most of the male cast at different times in the book.  Her behavior, while often inappropriate, is largely that of an uncertain young adult trying to find what she wants in the world.  Dalliances with three, maybe four different guys wouldn't seem that out of character for her age, however, that's probably the problem.  The authors seem to want to make everyone of her dalliances to be of deep emotional importance, so they push things to the point where she seems very much a tease that just barely stops at the point of sexual consummation (something she has to avoid because of mystical reasons).  I don't think her behavior is nearly as bad as that of the story's antagonist or her "mate's" rather perverse emotional abuse, but the fact is that she is out of line a lot of the time.

There are other issues as well, including the odd typo where editing failed to recognize that the wrong word had been placed in the situation.  All in all, the story was well written, but the hypocrisy of the Mind Control twinned with a supposed love for Free Will makes me more than a little upset.  There is potential, but it could be much better.

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