Nov 30, 2017

Dun Lady's Jess

by Doranna Durgin

This story features another world, parallel to ours, that has magic. Technology isn't developed because they use magic for everything- from keeping bugs out of the house and starting fires to sending messages and travelling far distances. But anything done with magic can be felt by other people with magical abilities- and intercepted by magic as well. To avoid that, important items are written down and carried by couriers on horses. When the book opens, a new and possibly dangerous spell is being taken on horseback from a magician's hold to his ruler- and the courier gets attacked by men who want the spell for someone else. In the confusion of a fight, the courier invokes a charm that should protect him- it does, by transporting him and his horse to our world.

His horse is somehow turned into a woman. Two people walking in the woods find her there alone and unconscious, naked except for the horse's tack, saddle and blanket. They take her home intending to call authorities in the morning. But after arguing about it, decide she has suffered some kind of trauma and they'd rather help her personally, than see her locked up by police or committed to an insane asylum. She still has the mind of a horse, so she acts very strangely for a person. She has a limited use of language, which gets better with some practice. Once over her shock, she is very anxious to find the man who was her courier- but it so happens that his attacker was also transported to our world. So the horse-woman gets her new friends involved in trying to find the courier and help him return to his own world, while evading "the bad guys" as I kept thinking of them...

I expected going into it (from some other reviews) that this book was a little weak in points, so I was able to overlook some of that. There were a few typos, occasionally a phrase that didn't quite make sense. The e-book edition I read has some odd formatting, worst of which was the title of contents included as the last pages of the book, instead of at the beginning where it would actually be useful.

Hardest to get around were the poorly-written characters- human characters, that is. The horse-turned-woman is very convincing. In fact, she's the best aspect of the entire book, and the main thing that kept me reading. The author obviously knows horses, and her idea of how an animal suddenly transformed into a person might think and behave was excellently done. But the other people in the story often had me baffled. They frequently jumped to conclusions in an unbelievable manner- convenient for advancing the story but frustrating the reader. Their arguments with each other felt flat and unconvincing, dialog was awkward. Sometimes I was completely confused by decisions they made and responses they had to situations. Personalities did not stand out well- in fact, I didn't even care when one of the group got killed. The two main villains were unbelievable as well- their statements and actions often didn't make sense. Parts of the storyline that had to do with conflict between the courier's side and "the bad guys" in the other world really started to bore me, so much that I almost quit halfway. However the description of this alternate, magical reality was interesting, and the details about horses so well done that I'm considering reading the sequel- although prepared to roll my eyes at what the people say and do, and just pay attention to the animals in it, haha.

It's overall kind of an odd mix. Parts of this book feel like an action/thriller, parts like urban fantasy, and then it starts to lean towards being a romance as well. Not strongly any one thing- except for the horses.

Rating: 3/5             295 pages, 1994

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Thistle said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it more than I did! I agree with you though, Jess was the best part of the book by far.

Jeane said...