This opening from Daughter of Exile is a completely different style than the one I posted Friday. I believe this is the first novel by Isabel Glass (Tor 2004) and it seems to break many rules. The voice of the entire novel is similar to this opening snippet (so at least it is consistent!) but it does evoke a lot of TELLING.
It had been fourteen years since Lord Challo Hashan was banished from court, but as the years passed he did not grow resigned. Instead he turned bitter in his exile: his once-thin frame became gaunt, lines of discontent etched themselves in his face, his mouth turned downward in a permanent sneer of unhappiness. His golden hair developed strands of gray, turning it a strange rusted color, and grew unkempt to his shoulders. His beard, completely white, fell to his chest.
From court he and his four-year-old daughter, Angarred, had gone to his manor house, Hashan Hall. Once there, though, he neglected his lands, and more and more of them had to be sold off to pay his debts. He spent long hours in his study, poring over histories and genealogies, trying to understand where he had gone wrong, trying to plot a way back to power. After awhile his thoughts would stray from his books and he would remember the long candle-lit halls where he had danced, or the king’s great feasts of twenty courses. As if torturing him, his mind would present each scene perfectly, the straight lines of the dancers as they bowed and curtsied toward each other on the checkered marble floor, the delicious smells of food mingling in the air.
Angarred frequently discovered him bent over one or another leather-bound tome, the fat candles guttering in the drafty air of the study. With her father distracted Angarred grew wild, roaming the fields and forests in her ragged finery. She ran with Lord Hashan’s packs of dogs or swam in the lake or visited the people who lived on his lands, some of whom had been there for years without his permission, or even his knowledge. She was tall for her age, like her father, but big-boned, more substantial, with thick red-gold hair that fell in tangles down her back.
Hashan could afford only three servants, all of them hired from the village near the manor: Rushlag the housekeeper, Elenin the cook and a steward they rarely saw. Rushlag would sometimes catch Angarred before she set out and try to bind her hair in plaits or mend the holes in her clothes, but Angarred came home in the evening she would have lost the hair-ribbons and torn and dirtied the dresses, and Rushlag, catching sight of her, would moan and wring her hands.
The things I see here are a solid setting and character descriptions. The reader certainly gets a hint of possible conflicts, but to me it did feel like a lot of data. Still, I read the book because it was recommended to me. Once I accepted that this was the book’s voice, I was okay with it, although it didn’t keep me riveted to the seat or up till three in the morning.
I’m curious what you think. Would you turn that one more page…and then maybe one more?