review of Merlin Conspiracy

minnow at minnow at
Mon Dec 8 16:08:02 EST 2003

Robyn wrote:

>There was a reasonably favourable, quite long review of MC in the Globe and
>Mail this weekend.
>Full text:

I can't get this, alas.  What with not being webbed and all.

>I thought it was quite a good review, both in terms of it was reasonably
>favourable, and in that it said decently interesting things about the book.
>Then I got to the paragraph that started with this sentence:
>"What the novel lacks in nuanced character development, it almost makes up
>for in boisterous invention."
>I thought this was a very odd (and harsh) criticism of DWJ, since her
>character development almost always seems to me to be interesting and nuanced.

I agree that it seems odd.  Though maybe there is less subtle nuance than
is often there in DWJ books (and I'm not even sure I agree about that),
there's still a frod of a lot more than many authors seem to manage, to my

>It goes on:
>"Roddy and Nick are put through the paces of magical transformation so
>quickly they become paper thin. Roddy is overbearing and brave - Nick is

Is he?  It's not exactly the first thing we know about him, is it?  I'm not
sure "overbearing" is fair either, thinking about it, but there is more to
Nick than a pretty face, surely to goodness.

And in what way is either of them magically transformed?  (And what in the
name of the deity of anyone's choice are "the paces of magical
transformation"?  Is magical transformation a horse or something?)  Or what
else is magically transformed?  They each learn some magic, is that what
being magically transformed means?  It seems an ill-chosen phrase, somehow.

>We know they are attracted to each other because Wynne Jones
>tells us so.

She does?  Nick is, he thinks Roddy's his ideal girl at sight before she's
even spoken, I seem to remember, but surely Roddy isn't?  Sudden thought:
has someone been giving out some sort of crib-sheet for reviewers that says
firmly "these two are the love-interest"?  It just doesn't seem to me to be
there in the text, and it has turned up at least twice in reviews mentioned
here.  So perhaps it was on the advance review-copies, or in the letter
that went with them, or something.

>Like all good conspiracy, subtlety is fast sacrificed for the
>intricacies of plot."

Or maybe the subtlety of the plot?

(Pause for reparsing of that sentence: conspiracy is sacrificed along with
subtlety, is it indeed, for the sake of intricacies of plot. NB not the
plot, just plot.  Hah.  For "Like" read "as in", and add something to be
qualified by "conspiracy", like maybe "yarns", and live with the
adjectiving of a noun?  I know, I know, space may have forbidden, I know
all the arguments, but *is* that really a sentence one should admire?  Does
it say what it means?  Or if it does, what *does* it mean?)

>Now is it just me, or is this a misreading of the so-called attraction? I
>thought Nick was clearly attracted to Roddy, but not because I was told so.

Apart from the paragraph after he first sees her, when he goes on at length
about how everyone has an ideal type of girl, and she is his, the sort of
girl who just seems to have grown, like a hollyhock or something?  He's got
a serious crush there, that boy has.  He even says he still fancies girls
like that if they are (gasp, shock) *older* than him.  Oh he has got it
bad!  :-)

>Plus, I thought Roddy was not equally attracted to Nick.

I think her comment on that occasion was, um, "Powers preserve me from
arrogant, thick-headed, self-centred, teenage wizards!" or words pretty
much along those lines.  She doesn't seem to have been very *taken* with
him, anyhow.  She thinks it was a complete waste of time and effort finding
all the plants and then getting *him* instead of someone useful.

(But maybe the "these two are made for each other" review-line is because
in any Mills&Boonalike, if a female feels that way about a male when they
meet they are bound to end up in bed?)

>I wonder about
>Nick's standout characteristic being "handsome"; I thought if one were to
>be reductive, one would go with "selfish".

"A bit thick sometimes but tries hard and means well on the whole"?


Aaaaaaargh....  :-)


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