I suspect this book was written under some pressure to complete it by a deadline. In the acknowledgments, Batson states that writing Venom and Song was thrilling but "also enormously time consuming" (p. 402). He later thanks his children "for understanding why Dad just had to write sometimes" (p. 402). I found other mistakes. The most glaring (no pun intended) occurs in the first paragraph of chapter 44: A New Dawn.
The entire Elven army stood on the west bank as the morning sun broke through the clouds on the eastern horizon. (p. 394; emphasis mine)Compare that to the last paragraph in chapter 8: Safety Above.
Outside the flet, the sun had dipped below the eastern horizon. Night had come swiftly. (p. 89; emphasis mine)Compare to a description from chapter 15: The Scarlet Raptor.
The sun was setting red on the far eastern horizon, and a misty blue shroud was creeping up on the forest below. (p. 160; emphasis mine)It's neat that Allyra spins in the opposite direction of Earth, but I don't recall the characters remarking on it or being confused about direction because of it. That does not ring true for me. The sun is the most basic source of direction and is most likely ingrained in our thinking by a young age. The mistake at the end of the book drove me nuts and sent me paging backwards to find examples to see if I had read something wrong earlier.
Another bothersome omission occurs during the attack on Vesper Crag. Where are the Gwar women and children? The Spider King's troops are shown slaughtering non-combatants during the sack of Berinfell, but the Elves never contend with the issue of civilian casualties. The Gwar women and children are suspiciously absent. No orders are given as to how to treat them if found and no one asks if there will be any or provides an explanation as to why Gwar non-combatants are not there. Perhaps Vesper Crag is solely a military outpost, but that begs the question of why the Elves do not need to occupy or attack the Gwar's principle city. The Elves once enslaved the Gwar. They are capable of crimes. Why give the Elves a free pass here?
The authors missed a great opportunity with the Johnny-Autumn storyline. In Curse of the Spider King, we learn that Johnny and Autumn have been raised as siblings. Their adoptive parents believed the pair were biological brother and sister. Early in Venom and Song, they learn that they are not biological brother and sister. Their Elvish handlers treat the issue with a combination of gravity and cruel indifference. Grimwarden and Nelly break the news to Johnny in front of Jett, Jimmy, and Tommy then refuse to let Johnny see Autumn.
"We're very sorry to have to tell you like this," Nelly said.
"Does Autumn know?" [asked Jimmy].
"Yes, she knows."
"I really can't see her?"
"No, not now," said Nelly. "She needs time to . . . to come to terms with this in her own way. That's why we didn't allow you to see her earlier. You'll have to wait until the lordship ceremony."That exchange strikes me as indifferent if not cruel. The Elves provide no guidance to Johnny or Autumn on how to deal with the revelation. Throughout the remainder of the story, Johnny and Autumn share a close relationship. Johnny is extremely protective of Autumn in a brotherly way and we see them playing a chess-like game together. They also bicker like a brother and sister. Unfortunately, the authors do not delve into the resolution Johnny and Autumn come to regarding their relationship. We are not privy to their conversations. It's impossible to believe that they did not discuss the matter during their months at Whitehall. I think the novel would be stronger if the authors cut some of the training material and investigated the nature of siblinghood as Johnny and Autumn discuss their feelings.
The Elves put great stock in blood relationships. There are various races of Elves, some with distinct physical characteristics, and their ancestral bloodlines appear to be integral to their identities. The Elves' beliefs are not unusual, but the lords have all experienced adoptive parents. To what extent are the seven lords' virtues and flaws attributable to their biological versus their adoptive parents.Grimwarden thinks Jimmy's recklessness is a product of his adoptive parents' cruel treatment, but I do not recall converse statements attributing the lords' virtues to their adoptive parents. Why does Jett choose to heal Kiri Lee and not himself? Is this fateful decision derived from his royal bloodline or the values learned from his adoptive parents? Again, I think Venom and Song would be a stronger novel if the authors had explicitly investigated the nature versus nurture theme.
Tomorrow I'll discuss some themes from Venom and Song.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of Venom and Song from the publisher.
To learn more about the authors, visit their blogs:
Wayne Thomas Batson – http://enterthedoorwithin.blogspot.com/
Christopher Hopper – http://www.christopherhopper.com/blog/
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