Like many readers, I dislike entering a trilogy or book series somewhere in the middle. Doing so is jarring, keeping me from fully entering a story, or it forces me sit through long exposition on the history of the characters I had not yet met. Entering in the middle of a trilogy or series is never easy, and so I was disappointed to find that Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Longeye was the second book in a series that began with the novel Duainfey.
However, it is possible to enter a series later in the story, and skilled writers can make the reader feel at ease about having missed the first book. Such is not the case here. Lee and Miller assume that its readers have read the first book. I had not, and so was lost from the very first page. Nonetheless, it is always my practice to give every novel the benefit of the doubt by continuing to read, hoping that either an exposition or a subtle inclusion into the story of what has come before will be revealed.
Again, Lee and Miller failed me. Right from the outset, the authors of this “dark romantic fantasy” bombarded me with too many characters all at once, with complex histories and stories that are completely dependent on the first novel in the series. This might be excusable, but then again, in any novel, a comfortable build and adding of characters is good when books are released months or even years apart. (In this case, the books have been released about six months apart.) But let’s just leave that fact alone. Such writing is a style choice, and since it is a second novel in a series is something I would not make an author apologize for, nor explain. But then Lee and Miller go and mix lots of made up terms with no glossary, a world that is not comfortably established and built for new readers, and vague and imprecise writing. End result: complete and utter failure to create a novel of any worth or interest.
Let’s break the last three claims down. First, the made up terminology. Made-up terminology is a staple of the fantasy genre, and is often an added element that helps the reader leave the real world and enter the story the author presents. Longeye’s attempt makes that impossible. Lee and Miller throw so many strange and undefined words at you right away. Page one has two of these, kest and keleigh, neither of which is defined in the exposition or in the dialogue, not even with subtle hints. I, when I encounter this sort of practice (and it does happen fairly often) always turn to the back of the book to look for a glossary of terms. Knowing the definition the author has given for a word they designed allows me to settle in and read the book comfortably. There is no glossary in Longeye. As I continued to turn pages, more and more terms got thrown at me. “Duainfey”, the title of “Gardener” for one character, the title of “Engenium”, “Newmen”, “hellroad”, and more, all terms that a simple definition of would have added ease of reading to the story.
Second, there is the lack of establishing the world. This could have rectified by a prologue revisiting the world, except in Longeye the prologue is used to establish the villain, which is a fine enough use, but wasn’t really needed since the villain’s identity is found in Rebecca Beauvelley’s musings not long after. Even a slight exposition in the story when Renger Meri muses on the origins of the family he is helping at the beginning of the novel would have cleared up a complicated world. It could also have been done by the addition of a map, or some more detailed description, which brings us the third problem of the novel.
Thirdly, the writing is imprecise and vague. Characters seem to exist mostly in a void, with no presence in a physicality. The characters spin about each other in a hazy nimbus of nothingness, not seeming to be settled on solid ground. They talk to each other a lot, or interact with other creatures, but as to their surroundings, there is no ground, not solid earth beneath their feet. Good storytelling needs to have mundane description, something that roots the story in place in something other than the characters themselves. Lee and Miller do attempt this by having the Ranger Meri be among the trees and Rebecca in the garden early on, but each of these characters quickly segues into reminiscences that tell little about what has gone before and do not describe the world in which they exist.
So the writing is not good, the book is difficult to get into, but there is something more that could turn away even more readers. Unless you are able to stomach sexual violence, rape, torture, you may find this book less than appealing. Rebecca alludes to that violence from her story in Duainfey, “There was the place where they had taken her, one with his manhood in her mouth, the other buried in her anus…” (26-7). If that is how the series began, you can expect it to continue in its sequel Longeye. I do not enjoy such vivid description, preferring to get a sense of the violence without the detail.
Normally in a review, you might expect to find some sort of synopsis of plot, and understanding of what the story is about without too much detail to given away. I’m afraid I cannot do that in this review. I simply have no idea what this tale was about. There seems to be a plot, with Becca as the hero fighting against the villain Altimere (a villain established in the first book) but beyond that there is little else. I am simply unable to synopsize the book in any coherent fashion, as the novel is generally incoherent in its totality.
I don’t recommend reading Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Longeye unless a. you read Duainfey and want to continue the story, b. you enjoyed the writing duo’s Liaden universe and so are accustomed to their writing, or c. you have a masochistic streak.