Sunday, July 17, 2016

Review of “The Drowning Eyes” by Emily Foster

What is it these days with stories that are obviously YA (i.e. juvenile content) marketed as adult fiction?

“The Drowning Eyes” by Emily Foster (2016) is the story of Shina. Lone survivor of a pirate attack that killed her fellow weather-workers (called Windspeakers), she sets out on a quest to recover a magical item stolen from their school. Catching a ride on a north-bound ship, the journey proves as fun as it is dangerous with the raucous crew. Sea waters tempestuous and pirates bloodthirsty, Shina goes through hell and back again developing her nascent weather controlling powers to save the Windpseakers from oblivion.

While SJWs are sure to rave for the surface elements, if it isn’t obvious from the plot introduction, “The Drowning Eyes” remains a trite piece of contemporary, substance-less fantasy. Foster checks most boxes for political correctness (Feminist elements? Matriarchal society: check. Racial diversity? People with non-white skin: check. LGBT___ elements? Lesbian captain: check.). But unfortunately, it also checks a lot of the boxes laid out in the guidebook for writing low-grade mainstream fiction. High school level dialogue? Check. Formulaic plot? Check. Likeable (i.e. non-realistic) characters? Check. Serviceable (at best) prose? Check. Faceless evil? Check… This is a round about way of saying, no matter how progressive several of the story elements are, the whole cannot be said to be an examination, or even commentary on, contemporary socio-political issues. The name of Shina’s ship the Giggling Goat, the novella is light entertainment—at best.

“The Drowning Eyes” thus reminds me of a Walmart advertisement for children’s clothing: three white kids, one black, one Asian—a mix of boys and girls smiling joyously. Staged like a horse and pony show, the imagery is lip service to contemporary demand for cultural/racial diversity in the hope of more sales. The same applies to Foster’s novella. Behind the seemingly progressive façade is an automaton of commercial substance—advertising at the expense of artistic integrity.

If you enjoy simple stories adhering to tried and true plot lines (“young person comes into special powers in pursuit of numinous object” being this story’s formula), then the novella may be for you. Otherwise, the reader would be better off seeking out Ian Macleod’s “The Master Miller’s Tale” for coming-of-age weather-working with substance, mood, and—a big “and”—relevance.

No comments:

Post a Comment