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To the King, A Daughter by Andre Norton

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Book Information  
AuthorAndre Norton
TitleTo the King, A Daughter
SeriesCycle of Oak, Yew, Ash, and Rowan /w Sash Miller
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Heresy 
(Mar 04, 2005)

I really hate to be so negative for any author, hoping to find some points of positives, but this book was a horrible read. It’s one of those stories where you wonder just what the authors were thinking.

The whole thing is thinly veiled telling masqueraded as ‘show’. A lot of stuff is just simplistic in detail and thrown out to make the reader believe that there’s a world out when there isn’t. It's poorly done. I felt as if these two authors thought, "Hey, we're famous, we can get away with anything because you know, WE are published!" I hate that attitude. It's a fast way of telling people, "Hey, we're lazy and we don't care because we don't have to work anymore."

I have several dozen points on what they did with characterization:

1. Omnipotent characters: Characters seem to know a lot about other people they haven't met. So, explain why this is so? A) where would they hear this? B) if it is rumour, WHERE does it get started? I find it highly unbelievable that we get told about what characters are like through other characters who should have no inkling or knowledge about them. Basically, it would be like me telling you all about the President's private life even though I'm Canadian and I don't follow politics nor live in his house.

2. I was greatly annoyed by the stereotypical beginning for the main character. If you’re going to be a lost princess raised in seclusion like a swamp, please develop that character to the land she’s living in. The princess basically has feeling she doesn’t belong (she's special!)where she is and only too happy to make EASY – guilt free changes from living in one place to another. (Garion anyone? At least with Rand and Simon, they progressed and developed… you don’t even get that with Ashen.)

3. The villain was the only enjoyable character out there. She was the only one who was fleshed out properly and given a background. She is portrayed NOT as evil as all the other characters claim she is and hence the problem. Everyone says SHE IS EVIL and bad and can’t be trust - YET the telling is outweighed by the showing of how the villain talks and acts with people. If you’re going to ruin someone by word of mouth you MUST also make your action follow suit.

Example: The queen fell in love with her husband and wanted the best for their marriage, however he only married her for the position and went on to become a drunkard and a slut. His wife has every right to feel betrayed and get revenge, but she does tend to the land as she believes… whereas he lets it rot. When the rings are passed on to her by the will of the rings, he gets all brutal with her as if she’s filth. What is his basis on that? Throughout the scene, she doesn’t do anything to steal the rings, or to bring shame to herself… and yet she’s still the villain?

Also this leads into a CLICHÉ, they made the King BE in love with Ashen’s mom. I guess this means Ashen’s birth is now sanctioned because there was love involved? (Considering the king went after any woman of Ash blood, I question his devotion here. I also question Ashen’s mom’s feelings as it plays out more that she’s want to empower a daughter in a line that was dying. It seems more likely that it all has to do with power, not love.)

4. As to characterization on the whole, the main character and most of the supporting cast are 2D. They're basically flat and you get no real feeling for them. We don't know much about most of them except for what others say, or what is hinted at in a scene. It's almost predictable at times at what will happen since the structure of the story is rather simplistic. This book should have been a short story, not a novel. Because they’re so flat, I didn’t feel any emotion in most of the characters. They do things as if on rote, but don't really FEEL anything let alone convey to us how close they are to others. Oh sure, Obern's dad looked as if he would cry when he thought his son was dead, but his overall attitude was basically "blank". Same thing when Obern finds out Neave, his wife, is ill. He doesn't ONCE go and see her... and yet he feels arousing interest for Ashen (Sounds like rehatching of the King’s complex) The only character who actually shows some strength of feeling is the Queen. Interesting how funny how only the villain is fully developed.

Comments on other things I found annoying or just aggravating:

1. I really thought this book would be good because of the way they set up divisions of Yew, Rowan, Ash, and Oak as if they have some mysterious or magical presence, but in reality, they are just titles to houses. They’re not special and it was a disappointment in seeing such an interesting concept wasted. They might as well have called them Paper, rock and scissors.

2. In sci-fi there is a saying that says, don't call a rabbit by any other name if it’s still a rabbit. It seems that both authors like to ignore that rule. I still want to know what a Lupper is. Also, sometimes they don't bother to tell you what it is, as if you should know by reference what it is. (Not if you name it something and then don't bother to explain what the hell it is. Oh, mosquito?! Why the hell did you say?)

3. The whole story just continued to give me implications that they didn’t know what they were writing about… as if they didn’t even know their own characters. Things and explanations are pulled out of thin air and NOT even explained WHY it is there and to what purpose does it solve OTHER THAN to say, "this will distract the reader and keep them entertain". You know flashy lights can entertain a child, but an adult know when someone is throwing a decoy out. I WANT answers to the WHY and HOW.

Example: We had the scene where Ashen is being stalked by the village boys because she is different. It’s implied they want to rape her for that difference, just because they can. They’re 2D bad guys stuck in simply as a ploy to create tension. It’s such a visible technique that it makes the story unrealistic.

4. A problem I came across countless time was the sentence structure. Often times the sentences would be phrased one way and then change to another by the end of completion. Basically, it was like saying, "The day was cold so we weren't allowed out, but they let us out anyway." First you say you can't, then you just do? They did this too many times. Either they didn’t know what they wanted to write on or it was plain carelessness.

(It seems fitting that even their cover art displays inaccuracies as their writing did. The cover art displays a brunette, but Ashen is blond. )

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