Thursday, February 3, 2011

Princess of Wands by John Ringo

Princess of Wands
(review written 10/17/07)
Soccer Mom goes Rambo? This seems to be the underlying theme of Princess of Wands, by John Ringo. As always, Ringo writes fast-paced action that entertains, but there's just a few flaws in the book that niggle at my mind.

We have Barbara Everette, a "good Christian" woman, who was raised as a military brat, and whose father instilled in her a penchant for martial arts mastery and firearms proficiency. One weekend, while on a solo "vacation" from her husband and three kids, she gets forced into a conflict with a minor demigod who has begun gathering worshipers down in the Louisiana bayou. Her strong faith in God and Christ protects her from his evil influence, and allows her to manifest some pretty strong offensive "magic" skills and take him down. She's then recruited by a secret organization that battles supernatural evil creatures.

The first thing that sorta bugs me in this story is the cardboard cutout nature of some of the supporting characters, especially her husband. He's briefly summarized as a typical sports obsessed, helpless in the kitchen (and probably in the bedroom), self-absorbed twit. When his wife tells him she's taking off for the weekend by herself, he can't even rouse himself from the playoff game he's watching on tv to ask her any questions except, "Who's going to cook for us?" Same scene replayed later when she's leaving for a week to go to a training camp for paladins.

I have a tough time believing that a heroine as strong, intelligent and capable as Barbara is ever going to settle for someone this dopey. I also have a tough time believing that husbands that shallow actually exist, except in sitcoms. Their three kids in the story are pretty much just scenery, as well.

There's a conversation about going armed whenever leaving the house where Barbara says something like, "I'm pretty sure I would have been date-raped a couple of times, if the guys I was with hadn't known I was packing (a pistol) and wasn't afraid to use it" GMAFB! Not only would she not get date-raped, she wouldn't ever get asked out a 2nd time. How in the world did she snag a husband, with that attitude?

Barbara remembers being attacked by a knife-wielding rapist when she was in college, and disabling him quickly with her martial arts skills. She's also spent a lot of time at the gun range over the years, perfecting her target shooting. Ok, both plausible, I suppose. I'm not sure how well this translates into true combat skills when she finally faces a half-dozen armed thugs attacking her through the window of her hotel room, but she's able to take them all out without taking any damage, herself. Supernatural aid?

I was sorta irritated that Ringo introduces a cop character named Kelly, gives him way more fleshing out than any other character in the book, then kills him off halfway through. Wouldn't it be nice for a supernatural crime fighter to have a friend on the police force in later installments?

I'm not sure if Ringo's playing it straight or not in this book, but one of the themes that emerge is that not all Christians are the judgemental, holier-than-thou sorts that get skewered in the media. Or, at least, Barbara is not, and she claims there are others who aren't, either. We don't meet any of them in this book, though. Makes me wonder...again, a cardboard cutout view of the Christian and soccer mom life. We don't hear about any of Barbara's friends, who presumably would be that sort of Christian, and that she'd be close to. We are briefly informed that she was PTA president, and a couple other things, but still she has no close friends that appear in the story. Doesn't seem to have any commitments to worry about when she goes jaunting off on the weekend or for the whole week, like attending a bible study, teaching a sunday school class, or anything community oriented. Doesn't sound like a "good Christian woman" to me, but hey, I'm funny that way.

Ringo's got this ecumenical thing going on with the secret organization. Most of its members are not Christians, but mostly Wiccans, worshipers of Norse Gods, oriental gods, etc. There's an ongoing dialog about how all of the "good" gods are perhaps just facets of "The Light" and the christian or "White God" is another, albeit extremely powerful one. This is so totally in conflict with Christian doctrine, i.e., "I am the man comes to the Father but through Me.", that I begin to think the point of this book is more an anti-apologetic than not. He seems to be attempting to reconcile christianity with all those other "equally valid" religions out there. Very New Age.

Anyway, the story is pretty good, the concept interesting, but I know that Mr. Ringo can do a much better job of plotting, characterization, and making the details of the story consistent. If he's going to engage our brains by introducing philosophical discussions, he needs to keep the rest of the story more believable, so we're not distracted.

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