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The Maquisarde
Louise Marley
Ace Books, 386 pages

The Maquisarde
Louise Marley
Louise Marley has been a classical concert and opera singer for 15 years. She sings with the Seattle Symphony, has concertized in Russia and Italy, and is alto soloist at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. She holds a Master's Degree in Voice. Her novels include the trilogy The Singers of Nevya and most recently, The Terrorists of Irustan.

Louise Marley Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Glass Harmonica
SF Site Review: The Glass Harmonica
SF Site Review: The Terrorists of Irustan
Glass Music

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

We keep getting told that strong female characters are rarer than hens' teeth in today's literature, especially the fantasy/science fiction genre. And yet they keep popping up, like dandelions. You can't keep a good strong heroine down, it seems -- a character who sits up and shoulders the burden of a book and carries it to the end. Louise Marley's latest is another such book, another such heroine. The Maquisarde has a young woman with the world at her feet who faces tragedy and disaster and learns how to cope with it -- and even finds romance on the way to salvation. It has, in fact, all the elements. And yet... and yet.

Some of the nits I picked are small ones, and are really more the fault of Marley's copy editor whose job should have been to catch the small continuity errors that most writers routinely make. There are a few of those, one of the most egregious ones being the situation where our heroine, Ebriel, crashes her copter and, on page 180, "...Everything containing scannable metal, the cutter, the aidkit... she threw as far as she could into the trees, each in a different direction.". Upon her return to the crashed copter, less than fifty pages later, she and her companion "...climbed through the jammed-open door and into the interior of the copter. Ebriel, half-crawling, worked her way up the tilting floor to the back. The aidkit lay where she had dropped it." It's small, but it annoyed me -- because things like this are so avoidable.

But there are other concerns that I have, and these are bigger, and are an integral part of the story line itself. Louise Marley's world-building is masterful -- she has her politics and her machiavellian back-door dealings worked out in exactly the kind of throw-away detail which the reader is familiar with in the context of our own universe -- there is just enough said, and unsaid, to make the milieu of the story perfectly believable, as believable as if it were our own world. When building another reality it is utterly important to treat it is something familiar and everyday, without going into persnickety detailed descriptions which will shout to the reader that this is something invented, and that the author doesn't have enough faith in that invention to allow the reader's mind to fill in the detail after a few of the most important broad strokes have been applied. But within the context of that world, I found many of Marley's characters' motivations curiously flat. She makes much of Commander General Glass as the villain of the piece -- but all of it is based on hearsay, and it makes him look and behave like a cardboard baddie created merely to wear the black hat in the book. Ebriel's grief at the loss of her family is real and very understandable -- but it drives her to do weird things (as in, what exactly was the stunt with her husband's and her daughter's ashes in front of George Glass's glass palace in Geneva really supposed to indicate? We aren't given enough insight; it feels like grief gone mad, not like she was trying to make a point. And ultimately, when she is faced with Glass at last, she fails to do what the book has been working towards all along -- and it is a disappointment. Marley may have intended to show how honest and honorable her heroine is, but succeeded merely in showing weakness and failure at this juncture.) And the romance with the career soldier from the "opposite side" could have been made more of.

One final thing -- was it essential that Ebriel be French? Perhaps I am wrong, but. from the evidence of this book. Louise Marley does not speak French herself. Ebriel's dialogue is peppered with phrases which look like the author raided a phrase book. Sometimes the French is inserted arbitrarily -- just to remind us that Ebriel is French, I suppose -- and it weakens things considerably. On page 360, for instance, where Ebriel goes to the dying Ethan Fleck and plays her flute for him, a very powerful scene is undercut with that murmured "je suis desolée" followed by "I am very sorry". If she had just said the French phrase, well and good -- this was a visceral reaction to a tragedy that she was witnessing, and it would have been understandable that she should lapse into her native tongue. But that she should then translate her words so that the reader is beaten about the head with the phrase used as a verbal two-by-four, that was overkill. If the author was unfamiliar enough with the language not to make it sound believable, she should have done one of three things: dropped the French phrases completely (and just mentioned that Ebriel was speaking in French occasionally), run the entire piece by a native French-speaker to iron out the infelicities, or simply made Ebriel an Englishwoman. The book would have lost nothing by that.

The Maquisarde, following on the heels of The Glass Harmonica, has the feel of a little bit of an experiment -- with the author trying new and different territory. I would call it a fair but somewhat flawed effort, but I can see the potential for further development here.

And we can always use more strong heroines in our literature.

Copyright © 2003 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Following her successful two-volume fantasy series, Changer of Days, her latest novel, Jin-shei, is due out from Harper San Francisco in the spring of 2004.

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