Review: From a High Tower by Mercedes Lackey

From a High TowerThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“From a High Tower is newest adventure in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, featuring a retelling of Rapunzel’s not-so-happily-ever-after ending.”

Yeah, that actually is all the description that’s up online, and not just at B&N.  It’s fitting that there’s not much to the blurb, as there isn’t all that much to the story.  Oh, it’s decently written, and it certainly has the “feel” of Lackey’s other Elemental Masters novels, but if you’re looking for plot, look elsewhere.

You see, almost all of the other books in this series are fairy tale retellings–the stories follow the same basic framework as the source material, but then those elements are woven into historical settings to create something larger and different from the original.  I think this is the first time Lackey broke from that formula, and it didn’t come across all that well.

The traditional elements of “Rapunzel” are present only in the prologue.  After that, the author goes off on an extremely loose plot that is literally rambling (our main character, Giselle, wanders all over Germany).  The only fairy tale holdover, really, is Giselle’s quick-growing hair.  Otherwise, the novel devolves into a snapshot of what it was like to be part of a traveling Wild West show in Europe in the late 1800s.  It’s an interesting snapshot, don’t get me wrong; it’s just that it has absolutely nothing to do with the fairy tale, and it does nothing to advance any sort of plot.

In fact, there’s no tension at all in this book until around 50 pages from the end, when a bad guy suddenly manifests.  This bad guy is handily defeated in the first confrontation and all is well.  Bear in mind, this is a 300-plus page book in which there is no plot development until the final fifteen percent or so.  Then, the book is done and you’re left wondering why it took 300-plus pages to tell it.

I will say this: the book is not a bad read, although it may sound like I’m saying just that.  It’s certainly fun to watch the traveling show doing its thing, and there a couple of mini-adventures with Giselle and her friends confronting various otherworldly beasties.  Lackey’s use of language is well thought out and executed.  It’s a smooth, non-challenging read.  It’s just that it has no plot to speak of.

So what it boils down to is, if you want something easy to read and kind of fluffy, go for this one.  If a book with no clear direction would annoy you, pass this one by.  If you like fairy tale retellings, this isn’t one.  If you like books that paint a picture of a specific period in history, you might find this up your alley.  Basically, your mileage may vary, so approach with that knowledge firmly in mind.