I am going to preface my review with a statement. I think it is incredibly brave to write a book and put it out there for the world to read. I think it take tremendous time and effort to write, and even more to self publish. That said, self publishing is becoming more of a trend as it is easier than it used to be, especially with everything being digital. You can publish e-only books and with just a few bucks, you can buy the software of pay someone to “publish” what you have written. One of the biggest issues, I have with this as a reader, is that so many self published works severely suffer because they are not subjected to the same rigorous editing process that the big publishers put books/authors through. Frankly, even a discerning reader could take a red pen to this and make it so much better (don’t get me wrong, this has brought some wonderful books to the masses too, some that I might not have been able to read otherwise). Unfortunately, with Cursed by Casey Odell this is evident . This book is a textbook example of one that needed better editing. Maybe it would have been much better. It’s not god-awful, but it certainly is lacking in a lot of areas.
In Cursed, our main character Claire escapes an attack on her town to be rescued by some forest elves. But they see a magic mark on her and won’t let her go. Although they sort of do because they send her on some mission and she agree to go (like she had a choice?) if the two elves, Farron and Aeron, taking her help her try to find her mother while on the way. A love triangle (or sorts) seems to develop. All the while, who knows what Clarie is, why she is important, why the elves want her, or anything really.
Some of the more pressing questions, that would help when reading, it to know what age exactly Claire is. There are moments when I am convinced she is 10 and moments where I think she’s 17. I know she is older than 9 because she at one point mentions that he mother took her out of school when she was 9. But we could be 3 years later or 9 years later. The assumption is that we are set in some sort of medieval time, as they are talking about taverns, they walk every where and they use candles and oil lamps. But we have a tavern with a “bathroom” down the hall for anyone to casually take a bath when ever they want? Farron’s hair color goes from silver to platinum blond (two very different colors in my opinion, and at one point its black). “The days passed” yet later, it seems that she was with the elves just a week. And when did one of the characters become Yoda (“And engorge myself I will.”)? And what exactly is Claire? Or how about even what is Claire, sort of? We are never told anything about what she is, why she is important, or anything…. I am all for some mystery, and I am not asking to learn everything right away, but a few crumbs so I don’t starve are necessary to keep a reader interested and engaged.
And what to say about Claire as a character? **sigh**. She is just an idiot. She makes Jake from Two and a Half Men look like Albert Einstein. I was expecting her to be really young, which would explain the ignorance and credulity. But seeing as I don’t think she is, then she is not exactly the brightest lightbulb. And as the daughter of a single mother, who was raised in a Tavern and worked there as a barmaid, I would expect her to be smarter (at least in “street smarts”) and tougher. I would expect her to be more worldly and much less sheltered. She was a whiney, scarred little thing who would jump at her own shadow. And she would be easily duped into thinking her shadow was some sort of dark monster.
The author thinks Claire is a strong female character (she is living in a fantasy world apparently). Here’s the author’s quote:
“Just wanted to share this article I had found recently. I feel it captures what I tried to do with Claire PERFECTLY and my whole thoughts on the whole ‘boy with boobs’ female characters. Love her or hate her, I believe Claire is a strong female character, though many will disagree with me I’m sure.” (Source: http://caseyo139.blogspot.com/2013/10/random-blog-post.html)
This quote then points to an article that purports to theorize that strong female characters are actually required to be stronger than male characters or they are seen as weak. The article discusses that Sherlock Holmes isn’t really strong so why do all female characters need to be seen as stronger than a man needs to be to even be thought of as on the same level as a male character. (Article can be found here: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2013/08/i-hate-strong-female-characters)
Well, here’s the thing. If you are going to give me an action story and have the female be in distress and have other characters think she’s strong and tell her that she has spirit, you can’t have her be a crybaby and push over who is afraid of her own shadow. It doesn’t make for interesting reading. She doesn’t need to know kung fu, like the article says all female characters do now. I beg to differ by the way, that knowing how to fight is the only way to have a strong female character, as there are plenty of strong female characters who aren’t superheroes or karate masters, instead their personalities are brave, courageous and determined. One might argue that Claire’s asking to be taught how to fight makes her strong, but when the time comes she cowers in fear and requires that one of the male characters come to her rescue. Why does she need Bren to escape? She doesn’t take control of her own destiny when faced with the competition in the tournament. She falters and surrenders to her cowardice. Over and over again. Add to that, her complete idiocy and we have someone who I don’t really care about. Sherlock Holmes may be physically weaker but he is brilliant and certainly not a coward (even if that stems from his over confidence because he thinks he is smarter than everyone).
There are some great big gaping holes too. Plot holes, in many respects, I can overlook. But there are sections here where it’s not just plot holes but jumps in conversation that make no sense. Claire goes from being totally in the dark one moment to being half of a conversation where it seems that she knows what is going on – or commons sense would require her to say she doesn’t know – and as a result, I am completely lost. She also just isn’t written very well. If she has so much spunk and spirit, it would be much more natural for her to not stumble on her words out of fear, for her not to be such a wimp when it comes to heights or other things – she would put on a brave face instead. But she doesn’t really. Even when she enters the tournament, it is because she’s too afraid to speak up to the General. She doesn’t really have spirit, she weak, skittish, gullible and not really all that likable.
And the grammar and the writing… ack! I will note that some of the grammar can be reduced to typos and poor editing. But, when all of a sudden, pronouns are used to refer to people who were never part of the conversation before come flying out of nowhere so I have to try to figure out who is being discussed it’s just poor writing. Important details are totally ignored (like Claire not asking Farron about her bracelet after Fran reacts the way she does? What character wouldn’t ask right away? Even someone as stupid as Claire shouldn’t have missed that…!); Farron’s statement that “it’s my word against a king’s” – what the heck is that all about – its a reference to who knows what coming out of left field; its’s too much. Or rather, maybe the right way to put it is that it’s not enough. And then Claire is totally suddenly kissing with Bren? Sheesh. It felt like the author was trying to cram in the love-triangle. And since when is having a fiancé and being married the same thing? The author throws this around like they are synonyms. And I don’t mean that figuratively someone who is engaged is faithful and therefore for all intents and purposes is married. No, I mean the characters literally refer to Claire (in her fake persona) sometimes as married and sometimes they reference her fiancé.
Then we have the title to both the series and this book. I guess I am to assume that Claire is cursed. But, we get no hints as to what is actually going on. Not real hints anyway. And we get no real clues as to what Claire is – for all the references to her being a “what” we don’t really get any information to help us even gander a guess. Then, once in a blue moon, we are thrown a fact from Claire but we never saw her learn the fact. Maybe I am spoiled since Harry Potter is my favorite series and it is so well written that despite a few red herrings, there are clues if you know where to look (OOP’s reference to the locket which become critical in books 6 and 7 for example or all of book 2 and the significance of the diary). But here, if there are clues they are indecipherable. Note I said not hidden or well planned and laid out so as to be camouflaged, but indecipherable. There is a big difference. Here, I felt like the story had more holes than a spaghetti strainer.
I am ging to attempt to read the next installment and I hope it gets better. Please, let it get better. Or I will be convinced that I am cursed for reading these.