Monday, July 9, 2012

REVIEW: The Bandit King by Lilith Saintcrow

The Bandit King (Romances of Arquitaine, #2) The Bandit King by Lilith Saintcrow
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers

The second and final book in the Romances of the Arquitaine series, The Bandit King (TBK) immediately picked up where book 1 ended. However, this time the story was told from Tristan's 1st PoV instead Vianne's.

The Characters

+++ Tristan

In book 1, Tristan was a take-charge, do-whatever-it-take character. He was dangerous, he was deranged, he was completely obsessed with Vianne. In book 2, he was an emo.

In book 1, the instant love of a romance was messed up but compelling. In book 2, the instant love was pitiful and eyerolling.

I did not care for Tristan's PoV. I couldn't connect with him in book 2 as I did in book 1. I thought TBK would be more action-packed since its PoV was from a character whose thing was to scheme and kill. But to my great disappointment, TBK was actually boring. Instead of chasing Vianne and doing everything in his power to be with her like the nutbag that he was, he got played like a fool by her, which was ironic because in book 1 she was the fool and he the person who fooled her.

TBK was pretty much about Tristan running around (sometime literally) trying to find Vianne, finding out what she's up to because she never tells him anything, and hoping she'll just stay with him because she knows he's a nutbag.

+++ Vianne

I didn't understand the fuck that was going on with Vianne. I sympathized her when she finally learned about Tristan's secret, but I didn't understand her erratic treatment of Tristan. One moment she was cuddling with him, the next she threw him in jail.

Why the fuck did she married him in book 1 and stay married in book 2 if she suspected him of foul play? Tristan was no saint and hardly rational, but if she truly felt he was wrong or even dangerous for her, she could have easily divorce him or have him executed. It was not as if there was a lack of opportunities for Vianne to do away with Tristan. As far I saw, I believe she never sincerely loved him in return. Care for him, yes. Love him? Doubtful.

Vianne changed a lot in book 2 and not for the better.

The Writing

The writing was convoluted.

First example was the pseudo-French. I didn't mind the pseudo-French phrases in book 1 but in book 2 they were used a tad too much. Not only did they roughen the pace of the story, they made the story a tad pretentious.

Second example was the countries. It took me late in the story to realize they were countries not actual characters. I wish the book would have put the countries in better context, i.e. "kingdom blah-blah" instead of just "blah-blah." It's one of the books where if readers want a good sense of the geography of the story's world, they better memorize the map illustration provided at the beginning of the book.

It didn't help that the plot was worse.

The Plot

I want to say not much happened because I got bored and skimmed a couple of pages in the last half of the book, but that would be not entirely accurate. Things did happen. There was a civil war and political play going on, but I honestly didn't care.

The plot lacked direction. I got the gist of each scene, but I didn't understand how these scenes contribute to the bigger picture. I got the impression that the series couldn't decide whether it was a fantasy or a romance — the two elements often clashed and the plot stumbled because of it.

The Ending

The ending was meh. Once the war was won, Vianne abdicated the crown to her cousin who was the rightful heir and forsook her court life by running away. Tristan went after her and promised her that they would have no more to do with war, royalty, and the like — that they would live as common wanderers among the R'mini (the faux Gypsy). It was a HEA, but it was in the sense of wrapping things up rather than giving the couple true happiness.

It is my belief that Vianne still couldn't decide whether she loved Tristan or not. Tristan never grew out of his irrational love for Vianne and continued to perceive her as a demure damsel in distress.

In Conclusion

I rate TBK 2-stars for it was okay. The series was supposed to be half fantasy and half romance but it was not good at either genre. I was indifferent to both protagonists, and I could care less about the fate of their kingdom, Arquitaine the faux France.

If readers want a good fantasy-romance hybrid, I recommend the Spiritwalker Trilogy (book 1, Cold Magic). Even though I rated those books 2-stars as well, they were still hella better than this series.

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