Sythyry (sythyry) wrote,

Review: "Remedy: a novel of Aligare" by Heidi Vlach

"Remedy: a novel of Aligare" by Heidi Vlach ... oh, I so wanted to love this book, and for the first few chapters I did. Aligare is a world with three anthropomorphic intelligent species: the dragon/bird Korvi, the pikachuesque ferrin, and the moth-humanoid aemet. They're all quite different, but they're all innately cooperative and peaceful. they live in a cooperative and peaceful medieval-technology, politically decentralized, magically semisophisticated, and vaguely utopianish setting.

But one of the problems with medieval technology is that medicine is not all that good, even with magic to bolster it. Remedy is about when the land is struck by a plague of gripthia — think diphtheria. A nasty disease it is too, contagious among aemet, and first it kills you by clogging your windpipe, and if you survive that it's terribly poisonous. The Aligarians personify it as a demon, complete with a charming story about its name.

And this story is about how Aligare handles the plague. It focusses on a few people. I particularly liked the overworked, undertrained, and utterly doomed town mage trying to take care of two dozen plague victims while herself dying of it.

Ultimately, though ... the story kind of drags. Tending the sick is long hours of giving them mint-water and cold compresses, punctuated by moments of crisis. That's an occupation, a calling even. It is not, alas, a plot for a novel. Some other characters suffer or exert themselves in other ways. That is also not, alas, a plot.

I really love the small parts of this book. The snippets of legend woven in with regular life. The naming conventions of the ferrin, plus the way they signify that they are no longer children. The flavors of love within some protagonist's family.

I just wish the author had written it as a short story, or an ethnography, instead of a full-length novel. The story just doesn't stand up at that length, and the novel is boring with characters constantly fretting the same fret, or making up yet another bowl of mint-water, or aching from yet another flight from point A to point B.

Three magic-filled crystals out of five.
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