Saturday, December 22, 2012

REVIEW: Vanity Fierce by Graeme Aitken

Vanity Fierce Vanity Fierce by Graeme Aitken
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

If you have read 3-5 romances, then you have read at least one where one of the obstacles, if not the obstacle, is a “friend” of the couple who has an unrequited love for one of the couple. That “friend” is often meddlesome, selfish, and rude, serving as a contrived proof that the couple belongs together. Stephen Spear is that “friend,” and he’s worse.

This isn't really a mm-romance; the tag is for my benefit. I only tagged it as such because the book focused entirely on Stephen and his romantic troubles of his own making. Gay relationship fiction is the best I can describe this book.

The Protagonist

It only took a few seconds reading the book to understand why it is titled Vanity Fierce; Stephen was fiercely vain. No, he was not an anti-hero; anti-heroes deep down beneath their prickly exterior care about people despite their effort not to. Stephen was a villain through and through, a classic example of narcissism.

Since Stephen is the MC, the book is about him and his “romance” (and I use the term very loosely) as he tries to get the man he wants. I initially empathized with Stephen because of his overbearing, high-maintenance mother who is the giant reason for why Stephen the way he is. However, I quickly stopped when he met his romantic interest, Ant, and used subterfuge after subterfuge to attain Ant’s heart. The biggest reason why Stephen was hell-bent on Ant was because no one ever refused Stephen; he was the self-proclaimed golden boy.

Stephen is aware of why he pursued Ant, but he didn’t care. He is also aware, on occasion, that what he does to get his way is not ethical, but he quickly dismissed the thought because he believed such things didn’t apply to him, not the golden boy. He lies, he schemes, he meddles, he trespass, he snoops through other people’s stuff and steal things, e.g. a diary, that he would later use against them. The only nice thing I can say about him is that he didn’t cheat. Stealing other people’s boyfriend — yes, but cheating — no.

Never once he did show character growth. I think I saw a flicker of it at the ending, but who really knows except Stephen himself. Throughout the book, there were a few points when I thought he was going to change but that hope was always immediately dashed. It never occurred to him to use honesty as a way to get what he wanted, not until the very end when he didn’t have anything else left in his bag of tricks.

I did not like Stephen. His narcissism repulsed me, and his unrequited love irritated me. The book doesn’t portray Stephen as the villain per se, but it didn’t need to. His actions spoke for themselves.

The Other Characters

The rest of the cast were not that likable either, not even the tragic and gentle Ant who have horrible taste in boyfriends. They all annoyed me in one way or another.

The Writing

The story was told in Stephen’s 1st person PoV, and it was all “telling” and not “showing.” The writing was a step short of bad because of the “telling” and a couple steps short of the abomination that is stream of consciousness.

The story was split into three parts with the second part told in another person’s PoV, the only exception to occur in the book. It was Stephen reading a work-in-progress autobiography/diary he stole from his ex-boyfriend/Ant’s current boyfriend. I heavily skimmed that part, and I was relieved by how relatively short it was compared to the other parts.

I didn’t understand why it was included since it could have been easily reduced to a couple paragraphs of exposition since that was the main way the story was told anyway. Or it could have been removed completely since it didn’t add anything to the story except bogged it down and distracted the reader from Stephen. Maybe it was intended to be break from the exasperating Stephen, but if so, then it was bad break considering it was about another exasperating character.

What was worse was that the second part was entirely in italics, and I did not want to risk blindness. Whoever formatted the book should have known better because it was an incredibly amateurish mistake to make coming from one of the world’s biggest publishers.

In Conclusion

I rate Vanity Fierce 2-stars for it was okay — barely. I bumped it from 1.5 star because the writing was competent enough (if we ignore complete telling and the meaningless second part), and I didn’t skim as much as I should have. I don’t know why I didn’t skim more. I can only guess that the Stephen’s narcissism, the novelty of reading a villain’s PoV, was interesting enough to give a shit.

The ending was a very bittersweet HFN which I would hate if I cared about the couple, but I didn’t so I was indifferent. Also worth mentioning is that Vanity Fierce is the prequel novel to the Indignities trilogy that continues Stephen’s adventures.

Silver lining side, Vanity Fierce rekindled my hunger for sugary romance.

Goodreads | Amazon

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