Monday, April 7, 2008

Los Cielos by Michelle L. Levigne

TITLE: Los Cielos
AUTHOR: Michelle L. Levigne
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 90k)
GENRE: Fantasy historical romance
COST: $4.99

Miss Elizabeth Seal-Croft has a secret identity – the Princess Elizabelita Innocente Concepcion Margarita de Los Cielos. Centuries ago, the tiny kingdom of Los Cielos was divided and devastated by warring sisters. Now, prophecies are coming to pass to unite the two houses and bring prosperity back to its once fruitful valley. She thinks that destiny lies with Prince Esteban, the brother of the prince she had been promised to as a young child. But when another brother comes into her life, she finds herself torn. Eduardo looks strikingly like his dead brother Emmanuel, and the stories he has to tell about Esteban’s evil character makes her blood run cold. Taking her life into her own hands – as any proud Suffragist would do – Lita travels with Eduardo to Los Cielos, determined to do what she must to bring life back to the valley. But their troubles seem only to begin all over again once they reach the remote land…

I’m very much a fan of this author’s Bainevah Series at Amber Quill Press, so much so that I own all four books in print as well as e-book. When I saw she had a new fantasy romance title with a different publisher, I jumped at buying it, even if it came wrapped up in a historical setting in a time period that doesn’t automatically engage me. The magic I found in the other series, however, never materialized, and I’m left feeling vaguely disappointed.

The story itself is straight out of a fairy tale. Princess in hiding must return to claim her throne, finds true love, saves her people. The slight twist here is the setting. It takes place in the early 20th century, with women’s rights just starting to become political issues. Lita is raised to be free-thinking, well-versed in a wide variety of disciplines. The last thing she wants is a man to consider her as less than his equal. For creating a potentially powerful queen, it’s exactly the road I imagine most people would take. The drawback, however, is that Lita comes off as too perfect. She’s educated in everything under the sun, speaks a multitude of languages, even knows self-defense from the lessons she’s given from the Black Monks (a group from Los Cielos that have been protecting and watching over her since her birth). There’s never a sense that Lita is going to fail, because, well, she just doesn’t. What that ends up doing is negating any sense of urgency to the story, any sense of real risk. Without that, I just couldn’t get as involved with the ongoing twists and turns as I would have liked.

My immersion into this world was also stunted by awkward moments scattered throughout, most often in dialogue. Both the hero and the heroine are prone to talking out loud to themselves, which I find unbelievable, 9 times out of 10. I especially find it very difficult to believe in a scene where the author takes great pains to have the hero be utterly silent when he rises from bed. Eduardo and Lita are sharing a room, and he ended up getting the bed instead of the pallet on the floor when they drew straws. His gentlemanly sensibilities refuse to let him sleep with Lita on the floor, so he gets up, gets her, and puts her in the bed in his place. Now, he knows if she wakes up, she’ll fight with him. So he takes painstaking care to be as silent as possible, moving at the speed of molasses. Yet, once they have switched places, there’s this:

“I will have to find some way to make sure you stay free of Esteban,” he murmured as he sank down on the pallet Lita had occupied just moments ago. It smelled of her, and that was sure to keep him awake for at least an hour. “If we cannot bring our valley back to life, if I cannot ensure you can vanish into the world to evade his claim on you ... well, I have committed enough sins, what does it matter if I kill my brother for your sake?” A bark of laughter, muffled into a sigh, didn't disturb Lita's sleep. “Perhaps that will be counted in my favor, as a good deed. You think?”

Why oh why would he do this? Lita is sound asleep. He's afraid of waking her up. It makes no sense for him to drop the care he had only seconds earlier to utter this particular speech out loud. Maybe if it was the first time he’d spoken aloud, I might not have noticed it so much, but this happened nearly halfway through the story, after numerous other times both characters have talked out loud to themselves with someone else right there. But the logic of why he would do this after being so careful not wake just makes no sense to me. At all. And is rather indicative of other illogical occurrences scattered throughout the latter half of the book.

In the end, the fantasy setting never came through with its promise for me. Without being able to fear for the heroine, it just became a matter of seeing it through to the end.


7/10 – Mostly solid prose, though a little plodding, with dialogue that vacillates between stiff and too modern


6/10 – Written way too perfectly from the beginning with his major flaw feeling manipulative and unbelievable. It smooths out as the story progresses, though.


6/10 – Another example of too perfect to be believable.

Entertainment value

5/10 – I kept waiting to get swept up in the magic, but the different styles never completely gelled for me.

World building

8/10 – The details are there, but the juxtaposition of fantastic details against the all-too-real world ones was never completely smooth.




Josh Lanyon said...

I might not have noticed it so much, but this happened nearly halfway through the story, after numerous other times both characters have talked out loud to themselves with someone else right there. But the logic of why he would do this after being so careful not wake just makes no sense to me.

How bizarre. Why not just use internal dialog? I'm trying to think if I ever talk aloud to myself that it isn't unprintable obscenities...

Book Utopia Mom said...

You'd be surprised how many authors actually do this. I don't know why they do; I can't think of a single time where I didn't think it looked completely out of place or illogical.