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Last winter, over Christmas break, I had the chance to sit and read a lot of books. Lotus and I had just gotten Kindles, and I was obsessed with downloading all the free and under a dollar books I could find.
One morning, this book cover popped up on my homescreen, saying that it was only a dollar.
Well, dollar or no, I never ever read romance books, and anything called The Spy Lover, by Kiana Davenport (or by anyone else I guess, but I needed to work the author’s name in there), was something I would normally stay far away from.
However, it was billed as a work of Civil War historical fiction, and not a romance, so I thought, “Eh. It’s only a dollar,” and downloaded it.
There it sat for a while until I finally picked it up. And then I learned I’d been horribly, horribly tricked.
The whole thing is a love story. But that’s not why I hated the book so much, and would like to spare you. That part I’m going to explain now. In great detail, as I’m wont to do.
There are two great problems with The Spy Lover. The first is that EVERYTHING GOES WRONG. Just like that. In big bold letters.
It’s not enough that the story’s heroine, Era Tom, is a biracial child in a time and place that has patience for neither her Chinese nor her Cherokee heritage. Oh no. No, the Chinese/Cherokee child has to witness her mother being killed by Confederate soldiers. And it’s not enough that the biracial child has to witness her mother being killed by Confederate soldiers, she has to watch her father being kidnapped and her village burned to the ground.
And it’s not enough that the biracial child has to watch her mother murdered, her father kidnapped, and her village burned, but she also has to be raped by the soldiers, escape them, and swear to infiltrate their ranks so she can spy on them and rescue her father.
Once you manage to recover from all that, the book decides that it’ll have the biracial, motherless, sexually assaulted spy in search of her Chinese father do what? Fall in love with a Confederate soldier, of course.
This is not even the half of it. I didn’t mention the opium production or the shocking (of course) death of Era’s father, or the epic search undertaken by the Confederate soldier to reunite with the woman who (of course) betrayed him. Nope. I spared you. Too bad Davenport didn’t.
It’s too much. Too many outrageous, dramatic, tragic things to be contained in one novel of normal length. It stopped being a “historical novel” somewhere within the first 50 pages and launched itself wholeheartedly into the “hysterical novel” genre.
The second problem is the violence. Sure, duh, it’s a novel set against the Civil War, the bloodiest chapter in American history, but the descriptions of the battles were almost pornographic in the intensity of their detail.
Did you ever see Hotel Rwanda (if you haven’t, you should consider it. It’s by no means an enjoyable film, but it was moving)? There is a scene where the main character is called out to a specific spot in the countryside. The road is very bumpy, and the fog is so thick he can’t see anything.
As the sun burns off the mist, the road in front of him is revealed, and it’s discovered that the bumpiness in the road is from hundreds of thousands of butchered people. It is carnage that stretches as far out before and behind them as can be seen, nothing but an obscene swath of corpses.
That’s what this book is like. It takes impossibly tragic and dramatic personal stories, and tells them while the reader is being driven down a road of corpses. By doing all the things at once, nothing is done justice.
But, while looking over the reviews for the book I found online, I get the feeling that I’m pretty much alone in this thought. However, I’m sticking to my guns. I’m not recommending this book.
As always, head over to Housewifespice’s for more and better.