#61 Crapometer

Genre: Fantasy

In the Five Kingdoms of Rhadon, now united under a single king, two associations of mages exist under an uneasy truce. The author of the 'Diary of an Awkward Mage' is Valedon rha Kenui, member of the ruling body - the Ofran - of the weaker, the 'Black' Ishtar.

you’re missing some words here. This sentence doesn’t make sense.

Here’s how it reads to me: The author of (title) is (name), member of the ruling body of the weaker, the Black Ishtar.

And what’s a mage?

What ambitions Valendon held when he was elected have crumpled before the demands of bureaucracy, personified in Taslin, administrator of the academy of the Black.

There’s a reason we have you capitalize the names of characters. As of now I’m pretty confused about who is who and what is what.

When a new member to the Ofran has to be elected, Valendon begins to face not only his fellow members, but his own attitudes. He is shaken from his complacency by the gradual discovery that on the anniversary of the magic-assisted destruction of the vibrant city of Elechan, the
Black Ishtar will have to defend itself before the king. This anniversary lies (anniversaries do not lie, they occur; lie is a description of a physical place) a mere seven years from the beginning of his diary, too close to ignore, but too far in the future to take direct action.
To survive, the Black Ishtar needs to be unified in purpose; with a strong Ofran and an archmage well-versed in diplomacy. It must also be seen to eliminate favoritism and any breaking of those rules put in place to protect both members of the White Ishtar and the general population of the five kingdoms.

I have no idea what you are talking about here, none. this is not a good sign.

What Valendon finds instead is an archmage who takes little interest in the future of his Ishtar; six members of the Ofran - himself included - who should, for the sake of peace, not spend much time under the same roof; a library that is barred to all students; and an
Ishtar that lies in shambles. The newest member of the Ofran, Benvar, whom Valendon had
half-heartedly elected, makes his hand felt almost from the beginning, mostly by interfering in the trial of a personal friend, Yako fen Rhuad.

Valendon begins, as Taslin advises him, to change the Ishtar one mage at a time, ensuring fair trials for all that would be tested in their proficiency, restoring the Academy as a place of learning, and forming tentative bonds with mages across the five kingdoms, particularly with his fellow Ofran members Taslin and Itish.

His opponents in this quest are a group that call themselves the Mages of Dhia, who have their own vision of the future. They see themselves as superior within the Black, and almost succeed in driving Itish from the Ofran. Valendon manages to foil that plan, and succeeds in forging connections to Dhia of his own; but the Mages retaliate in collaboration with Benvar, forcing,the archmage to retire and the Ofran to choose between three, seemingly equally
unsuitable candidates, for the archmageship.

The diary ends with the uneasy election of Yako fen Rhuad to the position of archmage, a man upon whom the hopes of the Black Ishtar will rest, but whose election was not without misgivings.

Well, I’m totally at sea here. It’s like reading Greek..I recognize the letters but I don’t recognize the words.

When you create a world you’ve got to give us a framework. Without that, I don’t know
what you're talking about.

Here is how to start: The hero of the story is:
He faces a big problem. The problem is:
He gets advice about how to solve it from :
That advice is:
He gets conflicting advice from:
That advice is:

The hero faces a challenge from:
The challenger wants to do this to the hero:

The problem is resolved when:

From these sentences you have a framework.
You have to have ALL that information, pretty much in that order for me to understand what you’re talking about.

If I’d looked at this earlier I might have thought I didn’t get it cause I don’t read this genre, but we’re late enough in the line up that I know a mess when I see one even in fantasy.


Anonymous said...

A mage is merely a word for "magic user" which is commonly found in fantasy books. Someone who handles fantasy regularly wouldn't even blink at its usage.

Anonymous said...

Call on me, teacher, I can define "mage!" It's the English rendition of the Latin "magus."

Originally magi were heriditary Babylonian/Median/Persian priests--like the three wise men--but the usage has expanded to mean any kind of sorcerer or magician.

I assume that 'mage' is used in the synopsis in the latter sense, as there was no indication (despite the holiday season) that any of the characters were bearing gold, frankincense, or myrrh. But it's a pretty vague concept--about on a par with 'warrior.'

Rick said...

Mage implies a bit more than any old magic-user - while there are no fixed definitions, in this context it clearly means high-level practitioners who form a sort of priesthood. (Though presumably their miracles actually work.)

But Miss Snark's confusion about "mage" points to a broader issue. She has said she doesn't handle SF/F; she may not read all that much, and here it shows. This is the first Crapometer I've read where Miss Snark seemed clearly off her turf and a bit out of her depth. (Yeah, mixed metaphors!)

To be clear, this is not a sparkling synopsis, and confusing at points (itself a warning sign). Still, the basic story is there. Valendon is a newly elected member of the board of regents of a priestly university that is up for re-accreditation in seven years. He finds that it has big problems. The library is never open, and generally the place is a mess.

Valendon sets out to reform it and get it back on its feet, opposed by an inner clique who have their own - undisclosed - motives. At end of the story there has been no big breakthrough, but bit by bit our guy Valendon is gaining headway.


Why the hell should I care whether the Black Ishtar survives? Even if reformed, what good will be served?

Why was the destruction of the "vibrant" city of Elechan a good thing, so that the anniversary (isn't there one every year?) is when the college has to re-earn its status?

What is the motive of the Mages of Dhia? They are evidently baddies, but what are they doing? Diverting university funds to their private offshore accounts? Planning to conquer the universe? Turn the coeds into sex slaves?

That last possibility is suggested by the name "Ishtar." Besides being the title of a famous Hollywood bomb, it is the name of a sex goddess, I believe the Mesopotamian equivalent of Aphrodite. Don't use that name unless it has some relevant connotation.

So this has problems, but also possibilities. I'm a bit perplexed by Miss Snark's perplexity!

Anonymous said...

It need some putting in order (big time) and less reliance on plot as opposed to a character-driven story. Plot-driven stories (like Da Vinci Code) make me yawn, compared to character-driven (like anything written by Lois McMaster Bujold). Read some Bujold and check out her structuring of a plot around character development. She won all those Hugos for a dang good reason!

And careful on the generation of exotic names. "Yako" made me think a) barfing in the toilet; b) Yakko, Whakko, and Dot, along with their sprightly theme song.

The hero in a quest-type fantasy, whether he faces dragons or political parties, should overcome and achieve *something* of significance so the reader has a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
They don't call it a climax for nothing.

To quote a writer I know with at least 20 novels on the racks: "A good story is like good sex. If you don't have a decent climax at the end, then why bother?"

Anonymous said...

If it was Greek, you probably wouldn't recognise the letters either. Just saying...

Miss Snark said...

I do recognize Greek letters. That misspent youth in the halls of Academe were relieved by nights of revelry at Phi Eta Theta.

Anonymous said...

i stand corrected!

Anonymous said...

re: your greek knowledge - i stand corrected!