Friday, April 30, 2010

King in Check by Treva Harte

TITLE: King in Check
AUTHOR: Treva Harte
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 22k)
GENRE: Futuristic western (cowpunk)
COST: $4.99

As the boss’ kid, Mosquito is doing everything possible to earn the staff’s respect. But the memory of the foreman lingers strong with them, and now that Rey is returning home, Mosquito is even more fearful of losing control. Until Rey shows up, and his appeal becomes more than obvious…

When I read this blurb, I was half in love already. I loved the cover, I loved the idea, and the 1st person excerpt hooked me in. I think my high hopes contributes a great deal to just how disappointed I am in the final result.

My mini-blurb above only gives the beginning, because a lot of stuff happens after Rey comes home. Rey is suffering from fighter flu, the effects of a drug he took as a fighter that enhanced his natural abilities. It is killing him, and his life expectancy when he returns to the compound is extremely short. After falling for Rey, Mosquito is determined to do what it takes to help him, which means trying to find the old healer who left the compound years ago in hopes she’ll have some sort of folk medicine that will help. It goes on from there, with Federistas hunting for them, intrigue, jealousy, and more. And it never really works for me.

The biggest problem rests in the world building. It’s clear this is some kind of futuristic western milieu (cowpunk, the publisher’s site calls it), but little to no explanation is provided to explain the setting, either physical or political. There are hints of some great imaginative details, but nothing is ever fully explored, leaving me with a ton of questions almost from the very beginning. The only rationalization I can come up for it is that the author intends to provide explanations in later stories, but honestly, by the time I reached the end, I was so frustrated, I’m just not willing to take that risk.

This lack of detailing is also the primary issue with Rey, Mosquito, and well, all the rest of the characters. Motivations are only hinted at. Actions come out of nowhere. Intent is nonexistent, because without providing context (more than “I’m the boss’ kid” or “I’m the ex-foreman”), it falls flat on its face. I liked Rey and Mosquito, but frankly, never felt like I knew them. Their feelings sprung out of nowhere. One minute Mosquito hated him, next she understands why everybody worships him. Rey and Calle – his lifelong friend and lover before leaving to fight – have a better developed relationship, but even that wasn’t very deeply explored. Calle seemed more of a plot device than a character.

For readers who care about body parts, this is a het romance with an m/m erotic scene in it as well. I did like the fluidity of sexuality in this universe, but it will likely bother those readers who don’t want their romance tainted (het readers who don’t want m/m contact, m/m readers who don’t want het contact).


8/10 – Alternating 1st person POVs gives perspective but lacks true depth for me


6/10 – I liked him, I just felt like I didn’t know much about him


5/10 – A casualty of the holes-filled world-building, interesting but uneven

Entertainment value

4/10 – In the end, as much as I liked the ideas behind this, the serial feel to the ending as well as the huge holes in the world building frustrated me too much to enjoy the story

World building

5/10 – Points for originality, minus points for lack of followthrough on the execution



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