Too Much of a Good Thing

One of my all-time favorite bits comes courtesy of Danny Kaye, circa 1995 in The Court Jester:
Hawkins: I’ve got it! The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true! Right?
Griselda: Right! — but there’s been a change: they broke the chalice from the palace…
Hawkins: They broke the chalice from the palace?
Griselda: …and replaced it. With a flagon.
Hawkins: A flagon?
Griselda: With the figure of a dragon.
Hawkins: Flagon with a dragon.
Griselda: Right.
Hawkins: …but did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?
Griselda: No! The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon! The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!
Hawkins: The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon, the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.
Griselda: Just remember that!

I often review romances (when the muse isn’t speaking to me, or has taken to mumbling). Once in a while, I come upon a fantasy or paranormal romance that makes me feel like poor Hawkins. I often know that I’m going to have a tough time with an author who puts the “k” on “magic.” I’m no anti-Pagan. I swear on my Celtic ancestors. Sometimes, however, I really need the Pagan playbook. When things get wyrd, I get weary. Fae this and fae that. I’ve written about wizards, sometimes seriously and sometimes giving them a Danny Kaye twyst. Fantasy is my first reading love, and I’ve devoured stories of all sorts of creatures, with all sorts of powers. But the devil is in the details, and when the details get overwhelming, the story dies for me.

I’m reading a book now for review that is chock-full of references that mean absolutely nothing to me. There’s an index, but I’ve been out of school for ten years…cough…or so. I don’t want to have to turn to an index to understand what kind of spell is being cast. Leave that to Robert Jordan, may he rest in peace. The main characters can’t get together because they have different magickal DNA or some such. Can’t one be a dwarf and one be an elf or something? (Although, I got a lecture once about the different types of elves. I don’t want to go through that again.)

I’ve read some pretty heady stuff in my day. I’m about as smart as the average bear. I’m simply suggesting that authors who want to widen their readership might also want to lighten up on the lingo. Because at the end of the day, I really just want to make sure the girl gets the guy. Or the guy gets the guy. Or whichever. Now, I’d better get back to my analysis of Mayan rituals and cosmology…no one will have trouble with this book…

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