Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Into the Wrong Hands" - Tortall Fanfic Review

Next in my old list of favorite fanfiction is Tortallan universe fanfic "Into the Wrong Hands" by Lady Knight of Kennan, posted January 2nd, 2002--July 29th, 2002, left uncompleted. A Mary Sue girl and her high school love interest from our universe are transported to the Tortallan universe and are promptly captured by Emperor Ozorne during Emperor Mage. "Wrong Hands" is like a textbook example of what not to do when writing fanfic. It's got bad characters, bad spelling, and some racist overtones.

Theo looked up and screamed. Her face was inches away from a man's, ands it had startled her. The man himself was scary, with deeply tanned skin, and black paint lining all around his almond shaped eyes, that were so dark that they could be black. Her whore an expression of confusion mixed with anger. She didn't like that look.
First of all, the girl is so much of a Mary Sue that I initially wondered if it was supposed to be a parody. She's got the strange name Theodora, Theo to her friends. She's beautiful to the point of being ridiculous, described as looking like a fashion model without any makeup. She has a valuable magical ability, weird even in the context of the Tortallan universe to the extent that Numair has never heard of it. She's even so quirkily assertive that she can stand up to Ozorne when in an extremely compromised position. Sue...!

Besides the Mary Sue, the characters are bland. There's a love interest brought along with her, which is fairly unusual, and he's bland. What do I know about him? He's a cute boy who likes her. And he likes nachos. *shrugs* Even the canon characters barely have personalities, mainly in that the scholarly characters Numair and Lindhall talk more sciencey.

The fic has some problems with internal consistency. Kaddar warns them to stay quiet; Theo claps loudly to turn on the lights. Lindhall insists he's yet to make the level of master; his office says "Master Lindhall" (Wouldn't it have his surname Reed?). And then there's the whole 'she knows too much' thing.

Because Theo is a fan of Tamora Pierce's books, she already knows a lot about the Tortallan universe. She reveals her general knowledge in conversation, prompting Daine and Kaddar to look shocked... except they have no reason to be. She describes being transported to Carthak from a place that to them would sound like a foreign country, but there is no indication that it's a different universe until Theo comes clean. Why would it be shocking that Theo know about the Gift or that Carthak's palace is the most guarded place in the country? That's just common knowledge anyone in that universe would have. It would be more shocking if she didn't know about it.

Was this fanfic edited by Don Karnage? While there are few real misspellings that a spellchecker would catch, the fanfic is filled with the wrong words substituting similar ones. "Whore" is not the past tense of "wear", and "surly" does not mean "surely". She even mistakes "minuet" for "minute", a mistake I thought unrealistic when Don Karnage made it in "Plunder and Lightning". This is why basic knowledge of the English language is important before writing in it.

Authors' notes--at the beginning or the end, not the middle! Certainly not in the middle of a paragraph as in Chapter Six. You know how to effectively communicate that characters don't have sex? You write them not having sex. And she does, having Theo back away and then both of them fall asleep at the end of the chapter, thereby rendering the interruption meaningless. If absolutely necessary to indicate it will stay PG-13, include an author's note at the end of the chapter.

"Wrong Hands" comes off as rather racist for its depiction of the Carthaki people. Their "dark" and "Asian" characteristics are repeatedly described in a way to make them sound strange and alien, while the white Tortallans have no racial descriptions at all. Daine is just a beautiful girl, while Kaddar has to be described as one of the "Asian" people. Though I don't have Emperor Mage at hand, I got the impression that Carthak is the equivalent of a Middle-Eastern country, not an Asian one. Additionally, Numair is described as really hot for looking really tan, while he's supposed to be Hispanic. Even if he's not, you've still got the dramatic difference in description.

Its good parts? Well, it does describe the settings pretty well. And it does change around the usual Mary Sue story by having them end up prisoners and on the run for most of the story. Okay, I'll give her that.

I also like Theo's "Oh my fucking God, I'm in Carthak!", probably because it reminds me of Max's "Oh God, I'm in heat again!" from Dark Angel.

In general, though, this fic is bad. I clearly did not have good taste in fic ten years ago. Even then, I think I only liked it up until Theo and Justin escaped Ozorne. I figure, as with "Vitani's Dare", I had some masochistic attraction to the dangerous scenario, but my tastes have evolved. This one is so off the favorites list.

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