Review: Chrysanthe

Posted: July 23, 2012 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Yves Meynard, Fantasy

Christine is a princess of the magical world of Chrysanthe, but at the age of four was kidnapped and taken where she couldn’t be found. With no real memory of her former life, she’s dismayed at the appearance of Quentin, a knight of Chrysanthe come to take her home. Should she trust this man with a familiar voice? Because her “guardian” will not let her go easily…

The prose in CHRYSANTHE (Amazon) has a lyrical quality with some lovely imagery, and Yves Meynard clearly wanted to write the best he knows how. Every word, sentence, and image is carefully crafted.  He creates setting elements with imagination, taking old cliches and breathing new life into them. Meynard is very precise in the forward movement of plot and storytelling, placing foreshadowing with subtlety.

Unfortunately, he could have chosen a more interesting story to tell.

Christine is a likable enough character, with Quentin as her knight in shining armor. As the story progresses we meet her father, the court sorceress Melogian, various soldiers, sailors, dukes, servants, and the typical villains… and experience most of their PoVs. After seeing her and Quentin almost exclusively for the first quarter of the book, their story fades to allow others into the foreground. As a result of the frequent PoV switches and distant narration of all their back stories, character progression grinds to a halt and never recovers.

A lot of detail, more than was necessary, is spent on the escape of Christine and Quentin from her prison in the “made world” (this over-sharing becomes a theme throughout the book). At first the escape has some interesting action and scenery, but the plot moves forward slowly, becoming predictable and cliche. The interactions between characters is awkward with pages and pages of almost maid-and-butler dialogue. The middle half I don’t think I can easily label other than a meandering flow of character movement and the set-up for: the last quarter of the book, which is a tedious and distanced war until the last, exciting 50 pages.

A princess of Chrysanthe, Christine is finally returned to her home country years after a childhood kidnapping in CHRYSANTHE.

I was confused. Isn’t Christine the main character? Then why is she almost absent for the last half of the book? Why does she spend all her time holed up in her palace bedroom reading and taking baths? Why isn’t she more involved in the crescendoing plot? Why do we visit these other people in so much boring detail?

All the character PoV switches makes the plot lop-sided. Instead of forwarding the story, character back story is more important to establishing the details necessary to work out a tidily executed climax. In the book it’s explained to us that a wizard’s magic is created with arcane words, movements, and magical items, all in a complex ritual where every little detail must coalesce for the magic to work. That’s how the climax felt to me: Meyard spends so much time and pointless detail just to make the climax work (sure it’s cool, but that’s beside the point). Wizards are no match for a good editor.

CHRYSANTHE feels like it should be a YA book, the way Meynard writes it from teenage Christine’s PoV. Except for the sexual content. Christine has been living with her “uncle” since she was taken from her father for suspected abuse, and is forced to endure memory recovery therapy at the hands of a quack where she “remembers” sexual abuse by her father and others. Clear to the end of CHRYSANTHE it still felt like if Meynard had taken out the sex and the profanity it could easily have been marketed to a YA audience (and not necessarily in spite of the themes of abuse). And he really should have because this kind of story would feel new and fresh to young readers, whereas more widely read SF readers will see it for the re-hash that it is.

Meynard introduces us to some interesting ideas of magic and law and heroes, what’s real and what’s not, and how magic works. But ultimately CHRYSANTHE is overwrought and cumbersome, and doesn’t have a lot to separate it from other fantasy worlds out there.

  • Recommended Age: 17+
  • Language: A handful or two
  • Violence: War-related blood and gore but the narration style gives it distance
  • Sex: Frequent references to rape, some of which have detail; consensual encounters with brief detail

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