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To Play the Lady by Naomi Lane
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To Play the Lady (2011)

by Naomi Lane

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I think this book is excellent and am looking forward to a sequel. ( )
  GanneC | Jan 28, 2016 |
I suppose there must be something compelling about this book, or else I just felt a need to finish it to the end since a friend loaned it to me, because it's pretty awful and I can't really figure out why I bothered to finish it.

The plot is okay. It's very much the adventurous young teenage girl fantasy plot with magic and cross-dressing and breaking the prescribed gender rules. There's nothing wrong with that, and I like to read that kind of story now and then. (I hear it compared to Tamora Pierce, yet somehow I've never read one of her books.)

But the actual writing is fair to poor. It needs an editor desperately. To list all the problems I came across would make this review far too long, but one of the major ones is that the main character, Jenna, keeps brushing up against rules she doesn't like and getting into (very minor) trouble when she breaks them, only for those very same rules to be brushed aside not very long after. It seems like there's no point for them in the first place, especially since they're often related to gender roles and there doesn't seem to be a story-reason for them - at most, they're there to create a certain fantasy "feel", except that they're only temporary.

Also, a lot of the writing is beginner's mistakes, or first-draft problems. It seems like Lane tried very hard to Show And Not Tell, but bungled it up somehow. It drove me crazy the number of times that Jenna "felt" or "noticed" or "recognized" or "sensed" something that could have just been stated outright - for example, she might notice the rain is falling, rather than the narrator simply stating "it was raining". On the other hand, there are countless times when the exact opposite happens - people seem concerned, or shocked, or whatever adjective, telling us their state of mind, or Jenna notices it, without the "show, don't tell" explanations.

The third major thing that bugged me as I read is the dialogue and age-appropriate behavior. Jenna is supposed to turn 13 years old halfway through the book, but it's difficult to remember that she isn't much older. Plus, all the character sound alike. I could never figure out how old Jenna's boyfriend was supposed to be, but assumed he was 16 or 17 (until they started getting hot-and-heavy with kisses, and I began to really wonder). Just about every romantic scene between those two was pretty uncomfortable to read, not least because mere weeks before Jenna enters the relationship (with no apparent nervousness or anything), she was extremely naïve about relationships and sex and couldn't imagine herself doing anything like that.

There are a lot more issues - in fact, I found it rather cathartic to keep a notebook at my side as I read to catalogue every question and problem that came to mind. The book just desperately needs an editor to fix it up.

But? Maybe people who are less picky about their reading material will enjoy this. Plenty of folks read non-professional writing all the time of this calibre and enjoy it. In fact, I've happily read fan-fiction written with similar skill - maybe the biggest reason I was frustrated with the book is that it is for sale, and people do spend money on it, but it feels like the author didn't get an impartial outside reader to give it a good edit once her friends insisted the story be published. ( )
  keristars | May 4, 2013 |
Very much with a Tamora Pierce, but not as captivating. The heroine loses consciousness every time the author needs a scene change, that because comical very quickly. There's also very little consequences for the heroine's daring acts, which made the stakes feel pretty low. Perhaps this book is just a bit too "young" to keep me entertained. ( )
  Capnrandm | Apr 15, 2013 |
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Mid-summer in the high plains of the Kingdom of Sevalia was always oppressively hot and dry.
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Most girls in the Kingdom of Sevalia would be thrilled to receive an invitation to become one of the Queen's Ladies, but for tomboy Jenna Mallory, it was her worst nightmare. While the other Ladies would only worry about making a proper match, especially with three young princes up for grabs, for Jenna the stakes would be much higher. Not only would she need to suppress her natural "boyish" tendencies in order to meet her family's expectations and impress the nobility, but as the first girl invited to court without noble blood, any failure could jeopardize the future rights of other commoners in the Kingdom. Jenna knew it would not be easy. She would need to overcome not only her lack of social status, but her mixed heritage. Jenna received the invitation because her father was a wealthy merchant, but since her mother was from the desert across the sea, Jenna had inherited both her mother's darker coloring and two magical abilities, abilities that would seem odd to Sevalian nobles that all have magic of their own. Any hopes to lead a quiet life at court are quickly dashed after Jenna gets sucked into the world of court intrigue and becomes the subject of palace scandal when her magic is discovered.… (more)

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