|Dead to the World
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It’s funny, sometimes, how two people can read the same story and yet still find completely different things in it. That’s exactly what LdDurham and I found in Dead To The World. If nothing else, this novel has served to illustrate how profoundly different LdDurham and I can be. Where she was disappointed not to find a romance, I was wonderfully surprised. Where she found the story dry and passionless, I suffered with and for Erred from beginning to end. Where she tried to identify with Erred and failed, I never expected to identify with him, and yet that’s exactly what I ended up doing. This novel took our expectations and dumped them bottoms up.
It’s been two days now since I finally clicked out of this story, and I’m still reeling from the emotional storm this book drew out of me. I have a great deal of admiration for Bryce’s abilities as an author, for how easily she was able to manipulate my responses and emotions. Sometimes a little too much response – at one point, I had to stop and ask LdDurham for reassurance that it would become less painful to read.
Thinking about it critically after I finished reading, I have to agree with LdDurham that there was not as much showing as telling, but I have to say that I’m glad Bryce skimped so much on unnecessary detail. No, I didn’t feel as though I were in Erred’s skin – but then, no author has ever succeeded in that, not even my favorite, so in my opinion, she accomplished something better. She provided enough description to put me into the scene and then left the rest up to me. Without the annoyance of being beaten over the head by details I didn’t care about and didn’t need, I was allowed the opportunity to use my own imagination – which is absolutely the greatest gift any author can give her readers. I was with Erred every step of the way, and empathized with him so deeply and subconsciously that I didn’t even realize it until after I’d come up for air and was discussing it with LdDurham in our usual post-mortem.
One of the things that impressed me most in this book is that Bryce put so many layers of meaning into the use of Water as Erred’s deity that I could write an entire thesis on the subject. It wasn’t just a matter of a silver statue and a magical transformation for Erred. Water was the element that shaped his entire life. For instance, Erred came from a place where water, like love, was taken for granted, and was forced to leave that behind for a country where water (like love) was a luxury: hard to find, hard to hold, and impossible to take for granted.
The one thing that disappointed me was that I had hoped for a happier ending for Erred, that he would eventually find a love and a happiness that was worthy of what he’d had to go through to deserve it. But even this reaction, I suspect, is one that the author herself carefully fostered. By the time I finished the book, it seemed utterly logical to me that it would end the way it did, and I couldn’t imagine it realistically ending on a happier note.
This novel is beautiful. Not pretty – there’s nothing pretty about it. Beautiful in a way that a sword is beautiful, when it’s crafted by a master: clean, well-balanced, and so sharp that the reader is bleeding even before she’s aware of it.
Dead to the World was worth every penny I spent – and if I had really known what I was getting beforehand, I would have paid twice as much. So, yeah… I’d have to say that I definitely recommend this book to other readers. Just realize that this is not the sort of traditional M/M romance that we’ve reviewed in the past.
First, I want to congratulate the author for sticking to her guns and not allowing any other book cover than the one that we get to see. It’s beautiful and I would have been horrified by the previous two attempts.
As for the story, this book filled me with a lot of mixed emotions.
It was an engrossing tale. It sucked me in with only the first few paragraphs. The author used the emotions and descriptions well in the first chapter and it completely captured me and made me want to continue.
I am a huge advocate for the writer’s creed “Show, don’t tell”. I want to see and feel everything I can. But in this book there was a lot of telling and it really suited the story. A lot of ground, people, and years are covered in this epic. I think the best way to describe this would be to liken it to old-time tales that are laid out by events.
This is a long novel. There is a lot going on and while a lot of it feels familiar if you have read any of the harem romances in the het genre, there are some big differences as well. There is an element of magic and mystery in this book. It’s almost subtle in the way it is used. I liked the way Bryce couched it in the religion aspect. Erred is faithful even as he feels his deity has turned away from him. You understand that even as his faith begins to slip, he clings to his prayers, meditations, and other daily rituals to help him through his ordeal.
And it is an ordeal.
Erred is a survivor. He’s not a feisty character, or a fighter, but a survivor who did his best to remain sane and controlled in such a foreign and hostile land for him. He is the reed that bends in the wind instead of snapping, and by doing so learned how to adapt and negotiate his new world.
I am always a sucker for the harems and pleasure-slave type stories. As a fantasy, it is such a wonderful escape. Dressing in fine and rich clothing, hidden away, used for pleasure and beauty. Oh, yeah, that gets my engine revving. So when I saw this book I knew I was going to like it.
I think the only drawback to this book is that I felt it was, well, passionless. Not necessarily dry, but not as lush as one would expect in a setting such as the “decadent city of Tajhaan”. It felt as if I was just skimming along. Even Erred was still somewhat of a distant character to me. Sex scenes were described briefly and vaguely. In the beginning of the story, I can understand why since it was rough and forced sex. But when Erred falls in love, I just didn’t feel it. And when Erred sacrifices himself to protect his lover, we are told of it chapters later and only in a “you sacrificed yourself and were abused by that man for your lover” type way. I’m not saying I wanted blood and gore and crying and pain, but I did want to feel what Erred and his lover must have felt. I wanted to feel the love he had for him. But it was more of a stated emotion than one I could feel and see. I admit, I like my sex scenes. I’m not saying I need them, but I think if Bryce had utilized explicitness in the scenes when love was present, the impact would have been tremendous. By drawing them all the same way —forced, political, or love— none of them felt different than the other for me, and therefore none of them felt more significant than another.
Due to this lack of explicitness and romance, I would suggest that this is more of a General Fiction novel rather than an M/M romance or erotica. At the very least, it is a General Gay Fiction. This story reminded me of the few books I would come across in my library in my innocent youth that would mention sex and love between men, titillating me and making me search out more. I wish I had had my head in a more literary set so that I could enjoy the novel more. As it was, I kept trying to hook Erred up with every strong lead character and was lamenting the lack of love scenes. I have to admit being initially dissatisfied with the novel, especially the ending. But now that time has passed, I’ve discussed it with CarvedWood, and I have realized what a wonderful, and yes, beautiful tale I had indeed read. I have come to find a new appreciation for it. But it is not a classically defined romance. It’s best readers know this before setting out.
Dead to the World is well thought out and well written. There are a few typos, most prevalent in the first quarter of the book, but overall, it was very entertaining and enthralling.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the harem-and-sultan stories or if you like epic-styled tales of survival. And if you enjoyed Bertrice Small’s The Kadin, this is right up your alley.