McDermott, J.M.: Last Dragon

I received an ARC of J.M. McDermott’s Last Dragon through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. Unfortunately this book confirmed that I should stop requesting things from that program without knowing more about them. “Hey, a fantasy novel, why not?” is insufficient reason to get a book, especially since flipping through it in the store would have made it clear that this was not a book for me.

So this is not really a review, because I only made it through the first chapter. The dealbreaker was that all the dialogue is in italics, which as a practical matter I found too much work to read. If the book had grabbed me right away, I might have been able to push through regardless, but it didn’t. The prose and narration are deliberately fractured, as the opening paragraph indicates:

My fingers are like spiders drifting over memories in my webbed brain. The husks of the dead gaze up at me, and my teeth sink in and I speak their ghosts. But it’s all mixed up in my head. I can’t separate lines from lines, or people from people. Everything is in this web, Esumi. Even you. Even me. Slowly the meat falls from the bones until only sunken cheeks and empty space between the filaments remind me that a person was there, in my head. The ghosts all fade the same way. They fade together. Your face fades into the face of my husband and the dying screams of my daughter. Esumi, your face is Seth’s face, and the face of the golem.

And then the narrator is remembering being a young woman in a strange city, and an unpleasant story her uncle told her, and for some reason even though she is very pale-skinned and from the far north, her teacher was called sensei, and I just couldn’t get any traction.

Since I couldn’t read this, I’m passing it on; see my LiveJournal for details.

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