28 March 2012

Review: El Rey by Ginger Myrick

El Rey: A Novel of Renaissance Iberia opens with an intriguing prologue of a woman talking to her great-granddaughter. The story then goes back in time to the elderly woman’s own childhood, when she was eleven years old and first met El Rey. We find that the girl/woman is Inez, younger daughter of merchant Inigo Garcia and his wife, Joanna. El Rey is a 28-year-old sea captain, rumoured to be a relative of the King of Portugal, and for Inez, this meeting is love at first sight despite the difference in their ages and situations.

El Rey is written from the omniscient point of view with long narrative passages and just enough dialogue to keep the story moving. It has a rich and varied vocabulary that reinforces the formality of the setting, which was Iberia in the early 1500’s.  The writing style is very formal, almost remote, but this fits well with the time and place, as it adds to the realism and the sense of ‘being there’. The style of writing is more Sharon Penman than Philippa Gregory, but the focus is on everyday characters and their relationships, rather than the historical accuracy and more political focus that a Penman novel would bring.

There were many examples of jarringly modern vocabulary (e.g. ‘moxie’), which I found distracting because they didn’t fit with formal style of writing. I noticed some details that were not historically accurate (e.g. the sextant had not been invented in the 1500’s), which makes me wonder what I didn’t notice. The author included individual character histories as part of the main plot when this information (if required at all) could have been better communicated through dialogue in real time, rather than a two-chapter story within a story. There were several of these digressions, and I found them to be quite distracting, as they had little relevance to the overall plot.

El Rey is not genre Christian fiction, nor is it specifically targeted at the Christian market. However, it is a clean read, set in a time and place where Christian faith was more cultural than personal, and the attitudes of the characters towards religion and the Church reflect that well. Overall, this is a good self-published first novel, but one that could be improved with the application of good modern editing principles. I enjoyed El Rey, but have to admit that even though the ending was lovely, there was a portion in the middle where I was just getting so cross with one of the characters… I have a tendency to forget that it’s fiction, not real life.

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