Wednesday, August 24, 2011

REVIEW: Dark Edge of Honor by Aleksandr Voinov & Rhianon Etzweiler

Dark Edge of Honor Dark Edge of Honor by Aleksandr Voinov & Rhianon Etzweiler
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

Dark Edge of Honor is about a soldier and a spy on opposite side who, somehow against years of training and some brainwashing, quickly fall in love and give up everything to grab their HEA. There's war, rape, blackmail, torture, betrayal, vindication, and ultimately redemption—all excellent ingredients for a thriller of a story. Alas, I was confused, bored, frustrated, and bored by the story.

Bored. =/

The first chapter was written horribly. I had no idea what was happening except that there were two characters named Mike and Pat. It was not until the end of chapter four when Mike was speaking with his handler that I finally understood chapter 1 was about Mike and Pat doing a reconnaissance mission. I got that the authors were trying to avoid the "show not tell" pithole, but they did it to such an extreme that it left me wondering what was going on most of the time. And when I get confused, boredom quickly follows.

Sentences of Little Sense

Dark Edge of Honor (DEoH) suffered lumps of short sentences that caused the story to be choppy. The following piece of paragraph was starving for transitional words:
He knew better than to mention it. The brother general wasn’t stupid. He would have voiced objections to the methods, but the decisions were made by the Committee back home on Liberty. The general merely made it happen. His career depended on it. Sergei’s too.
I had no idea what "it" was. I know the first "it" was about not mentioning Cirokko being the worst planet to war against because of the preceding paragraph in the chapter. The last two "it"-s, however, I don't know what they are. That quoted piece needed clarification of its pronouns.

Beside short sentences, DEoH also suffered incomplete sentences. I do not mind incomplete sentences because their use can quickly push the plot. However when they are overused, the opposite happens—the plot drags like a limp foot. Here's an example:
But it was impossible to think “Cirokko” without remembering other powers that had tried to take a bite out of it. The Alliance, about a hundred years ago, before it joined the Intergalactic Peace League and became non-expansionist. The League of Seven just twenty years ago. Unable to cut its losses, the League had bled itself dry in a way that it couldn’t have won anyway. But the Seven had then been swept up in the Doctrine, desperate to rebuild its morale and sense of purpose.
The two quoted pieces above formed a single paragraph, the third paragraph of chapter 3 to be specific. This paragraph was overall a mishmash of incomplete thoughts, and to a larger extend represented how the story was written.

Somewhere To Somewhere Else

Due to the writing, I had a hard time transitioning from one scene to another. The authors were not specific nor straightforward about the where and when. For in example, in chapter 4, I had no idea where Mike was. Was he was on a spaceship or a building or something? And the people he was spying on, were they Sergei and his General? If so, was this taking place while Sergei was about be raped?

Another example is chapter 5 where Sergei was taking off his uniform while reflecting back his recent past. There, in a bunch of paragraphs, we learn that his General has been raping him and that it has been going on for a while. But readers are never told how long of a while. For all we know, it could have been for a couple of days, weeks, or even months. Suddenly we found ourselves seeing Sergei having a massage. What?

While re-reading to write this review, I suddenly realized the first two sentences of Sergei taking off his uniform were supposed to let the reader know that Sergei was preparing for his massage. These sentences failed to do so because I got distracted by the bunch of paragraphs telling me Sergei has been raped for an unknown period of time in the recent past. For chapter 5, I never learn where the couple was, just that the place has massage and sauna facilities. I do not know if they were at a high-classed gym, a hot spa, or a spaceship.

The first couple of chapters were prety much like this. The characters would be doing something somewhere but we forget what they were doing because the authors went off a tangent. It's not that those tangent of paragraphs were irrevelant, but they were so horribly placed in the story that they interrupted the flow of the story. And the authors not being specific about the character's location, coupled with horrible sentence structures, made me confused and impatient.

Barely Any World-Building and Backstory

Since the authors rarely and vaguely tell the me the where and when, I had a hard time imagining DEoH's world. For the first couple of chapters, I did not know where Sergei and Mike were. I know they were on a primitive planet called Cirokko, but I do not know whether they were in a city, a docked spaceship, a spaceport, a shanty-town, or the jungle. What happened to imagery?

The story was so poorly set up that for a while, I thought that the CovOps and the Doctrine were different forces of the Alliance, parts of the greater whole like the U.N. I didn't realize till late in the story that CovOps were part of the Alliance but the Doctrine wasn't, that the Alliance and Doctrine were two different galactic powers.

I still don't know what the frell is Doctrine. Are they a galactic government, a military group of a galactic government, or some sort of philosophy/religion/training? The way the author used the term, I think it was a combination of them all.

Why was the Alliance's CovOps spying on the Doctrine? Were the two galactic powers at war against each other? Or was it like the Cold War between the democratic West and communist East from real-life history?

I really wished the authors straight-out told me the races that inhabit Cirokko. I'm still unsure if humans were the native inhabitants or if it was different species altogether, like the flying lizards. Were the flying lizards really just smart animals or were they a sentient race of people?

Characters I Cared Little For

Sergei as a character was wholesomely unrealistic. I find it mind-boggling that a rape victim, with barely any issues, could be so easily seduced to bed by a stranger on a hostile world. In chapter 5, readers learn how Sergei's superior has been using him as a sextoy against his will. Suddenly in chapter 6, Sergei was doing it with Mike. WTF? And it was not like Sergei's superior was gone and Sergei was not being raped anymore. No, just the opposite; Sergei's superior was still there, still raping Sergei.

Thus, I had a hard time believing that Sergei could develop love for Mike while he was still being raped. Where's the trust issue? Intimacy issue? Hello! You're being raped, where's the mental trauma?

I felt strange reading Mike and Sergei shagging in one chapter, Sergei being raped in the next chapter, and back to the couple shagging each other again in the chapter after the next. Wow. O.o

Mike sucks as a CovOps agent.
He never publicized his sexual preferences. That aspect had never influenced the execution of his duties, his professional ethics or his employment. He refused to give that part of himself enough power to influence anything. It had no bearing on any of it, and anyone who thought otherwise would be proven wrong.
Right. *rolls eyes* Let's see, he created a plan to seduce a rape victim for intel. He ended up falling with the rape-victim/enemy Sergei. He risked his cover to protect Sergei. Upon rescuing Sergei, he got captured by the enemy. Afterwards, he was tortured and imprisoned until Sergei rescued him. Yeah, right, Mike was soooo believable as a competent spy. /sarcasm

Pat, the spy partnered to Mike, was also unbelievable as a character. How could Pat plead with Sergei to find Mike when Pat recently tortured Sergei? Someone who has the capability to freely torture another person would not plead their victim to find their missing friend. I expected some manipulation, bargaining, threats, or some combination thereof from Pat. It was hard watching Sergei and Pat suddenly got all buddy-like as if one had never tortured the other and weren't on the opposite side of a war.

Wasn't All Bad

All the beginning chapters until chapter 16 were slow. Sure, there some spying, raping, and fighting but the writing made the story dreary to read. Come chapter 16 when Sergei was being tortured by Pat, the writing got slightly better and was more cohesive. After Sergei got rescued, I was back to being bored until chapter 23 when Sergei sat with Nikishin and everything was revealed. Sergei confronting his rapist was a WOOT moment. A point for the authors writing an excellent confrontation scene.

After Sergei rescued Mike, I got bored again. Then I got frustrated at Sergei for making some stupid decisions and then had to be rescued by Mike...again. Finally, at the end they quit their jobs and got their HEA.

I rate DEoH 1-star for didn't-like-it.

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