Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Elfhome by Wen Spencer

Elfhome by Wen Spencer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oi. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this one yet. While the official release isn't until July, Baen had the brilliant idea to sell the unproofed (and hopefully unedited as well) manuscript as an e-ARC at $15 a pop. I don't know if I'd precisely say it's worth it, but if you divide the 15 by the 6 months you would otherwise have to wait, it works about to $2.50 a month. A very reasonable expense for your rabid Wen Spencer fanperson. A note of caution, though, it's definitely a rough draft. The typos aren't too bad (although Spencer consistently mis-spells 'performed' as 'preformed'), but there are some difficulties with the characterization, continuity, and uneveness with the plot. If I was Spencer's beta reader, I would have kicked this back with a mess of notes, but judging by the length of time between books, I'm guessing she was late turning in the manuscript and just sent in what she had. Just be aware of what you're going to get with the e-ARC and spare a kind thought for Spencer's editor.

As far as the book itself is concerned, you absolutely must read Tinker and Wolf Who Rules prior to Elfhome. You will be absolutely lost otherwise. I was kind of convinced Spencer retconned a character as I had absolutely no recollection of him in any of the previous two books, but Google informs me that he was the subject of a free short story, "For Blue Sky," released waaaaay back in 2006. So read that too. Spencer's main gift is her incredible world-building skills, but she rarely retreads the same ground and seems to have the expectation you know what she is talking about. In addition, while it's been five or six years for the reader since Wolf Who Rules was published, the actions off Elfhome occur almost immediately after that book.

Elfhome also jumps between three different points of view: Tinker, Oilcan, and Tommy. I didn't count pages or anything, but I felt like Tinker had the least amount of chapters, with Oilcan being the predominant narrator. Windwolf is barely in it, Pony and Stormsong act as Tinker's Greek Chorus, and Tooloo makes one appearance in an Oilcan chapter. Rikii, Lain, and Esme all return to close up their plot arcs. I actually really enjoyed Oilcan and his story arc the most, and, while Tinker & Tommy were entertaining with their distinctive voices & personalities, I was always eager to get back to Oilcan & his 'enclave.' While I would like to read more about Oilcan and company, I do feel Elfhome was sort of a satisfactory end to the series. There are still unanswered questions that Spencer could base another book on, but personally speaking, I felt like, 'Okay. I'm good now.'

I do want to include some content warnings here. There is sex in the book and Tommy has a very male frame of mind with regards to it. There is also murder, attempted rape, allusions to torture, and some very uncomfortable scenes involving children, alive and dead. However, the bulk of the squick factors take place off screen and the reader is mainly watching the characters deal with the fallout.

Edited to add: The cover is very misleading. While Impatience the dragon does play a sort of pivotal role in the plot, his actual appearances are brief and no other dragon can be considered a major character. Also, yes, Tinker is vital to the plot and remains the character we all know & love, but as I stated before, I feel that Oilcan is actually the predominant narrator. And he's awesome!

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