Bitchin' Blog Posts
Title: Red Hawk's Woman
Author: Karen Kay
Publication Info: Berkley Sensation 2007
Genre: Historical: American
To entertain myself while reading this book—because God knows this book was not entertaining, or at least, not intentionally so—I found myself imagining what it’d be like if the various elements of Red Hawk’s Woman were represented by interpetive dancers. I saw it going something like this:
THE BOOK, represented by a person clad in a dollar-store Indian costume
THE PLOT, represented by a half-baked cake the size of a wading pool
GRAMMAR, represented by a man in a suit
DIALOGUE, represented by a giant ball of twine
MALAPROPISMS, represented by a woman wearing a bright pink spandex leotard covered in sequins and gold puffy paint
A darkened stage, with a badly-painted backdrop of mountains and scrub. To the right of the stage is a big tub full of THE PLOT; off to the side is DIALOGUE, an end dangling seductively loose.
THE BOOK leaps out onto the darkened stage, spotlight trained solidly on it. It lets out a loud cry of anguish as it lands badly and breaks its ankle. This, however, does not prevent it from hobbling back on its feet; soon, it is twirling madly, if erratically. Its thrashings inevitably bring it up against GRAMMAR, whom THE BOOK proceeds to grope and molest in the most unseemly manner. MALAPROPISM sees this, and not one to be left out, comes up behind GRAMMAR, bashes him on the head, does the Hustle on his unconscious body and ties him up using some of the twine of DIALOGUE. She then grabs THE BOOK and makes out thoroughly with him. The two of them, lips still firmly locked, proceed to dance again, slowly at first, then going faster and faster, entangling themselves in DIALOGUE in the process, until they trip and fall over the body of GRAMMAR and straight into THE PLOT, where THE BOOK and MALAPROPISMS proceed to swim about, occasionally spuming like whales.
...what, you want an actual summary? And maybe some analysis? What the fuck? You think this is some kind of review site or something?
Bah. Fine. You win. Here’s the review proper:
The book kicks off with an old archaeologist geezer handing off a quartz artifact to a not-so-old archaeologist colleague and telling him that the quartz artifacts are actually the Sweet Savage Thunderer’s children, and that after you collect all four—GOTTA COLLECT THEM ALL, like prehistoric Pokemon—and give them to a living member of the Lost Tribe of Indians, it’ll end their curse.
Curse? What curse? Ah, see, ages and ages ago, a tribe of Indians killed the children of a supernatural being known as the Thunderer. Thunder dude’s pissed, so he kills a buncha tribe members in retaliation, and then curses the rest of them to live in everlasting fog. The Creator, however, takes pity on the schmucks and gives them a chance to redeem themselves: every generation (which, according to the book, is about 50 years—goddamn, that’s a big generation), champions are picked from the teenage boys of the unimaginatively-monickered Lost Tribe to head out into the world to save the tribe’s infanticidal asses. Something about forgiving enemies. Forgive my vagueness and my eagerness to get this over with, because I think my brain started melting down around page 5 of this book, and the damage proceeded apace with every excruciating paragraph.
After telling this story in one long, atrocious infodump, the old geezer, he bites it, and we move on to the plotline proper. So, years later, Not-so-old archaeologist geezer dude is excavating a site in Montana with his family in tow, including his beautiful, precocious pre-pubescent red-haired daughter named Effie.
What? Come on. It’s an Indian romance. Of COURSE the heroine is going to be white, and of COURSE she’s going to have red hair. The slightly rebellious may write a blonde heroine, and the really, really crazy might have a brunette or even a half-breed heroine, but I’m pretty sure that if you try to go beyond the bounds and write a historical romance between, say, two Native American characters or (SHOCK! HORROR!) a black person and a Native American, the Indian Romance Mob will send Tony out to break your kneecaps (or possibly to throw you into the trunk of his Caddy) and remind you of your place.
Aaaanyway. So Effie overhears her father talking about these mysterious quartz figures, and this is yet MORE infodumping and set-up, because Meanwhile, In a Parallel Dimension, One Infinitely Foggier Than Ours…
...a kid named Red Hawk is picked to be the Lost Tribe’s champion when all the other boys are unavailable for one damn reason or another. And he somehow wanders into Our Dimension, and stumbles across Effie taking a swim, and there’s some hilarious and utterly brain-damaged musing on Red Hawk’s part over whether Effie is some sort of magical sea creature because he can’t see her legs (she’s wearing pantaloons and she’s up to her waist in water, ya dipshit) and also some stumbling over OMG Effie is half-naked, but of course she has nothing to be ashamed of, she’s a child and of course so’s Red Hawk (and really, did that have to be noted in any way, shape or form?), and they frolic together like children do, and lo, it was magical, and they exchange little tchotchkes at the end of their frolic, and then before they part, little Effie says—I shit you not:
“I don’t know why I should say this to you,” she said, “for I know that you cannot understand me—and perhaps that is why I feel I must say this—but I think I have fallen in love with you.”
OK, Christ, hurrying on with the plot now, because summarizing this is seriously starting to sap my will to live…so yadda yadda yadda, years pass, Effie becomes a budding young archaeologist in her own right and is tasked with heading an expedition to find the rest of the figurines, and along the way some very literal Dei ex Machinae (Dei ex Aqua, actually), show up and push Red Hawk in the right direction so he becomes her guide, and they instantly fall in love, and some bad guys try to foil them (you know who they are instantly because they’re the people who inspire doubt in Red Hawk), more bla bla bla, the quartz figurines are eventually found via the machinations of even more gods and spirit guides (is that a spoiler? Do I even care?), and voila, Sweet Savage Thunderer has his kidlings back, the social ramifications of Effie marrying Red Hawk are not so much glossed over as packed, struggling, into a gunny sack then drowned like unwanted kittens, and ba-bam, Happily Ever After.
If I could pick one major thing from the embarrassment of riches that is raised by the question “So what’s wrong with this book, really?” it’d have to be how it manages to make the wrong step at just about every turn. It is quite uncanny. To start with, it uses malapropisms with unparalleled panache; besides the old man’s shaking subsisting, Effie goes to have a tête-a-tête with the river. But that’s not the worst of it. Worse than the malapropisms is the way the book is facile in all the wrong places (the relationship between Effie and Red Hawk and its ramifications; the motivation for the villain; the sufferings undergone by the Lost Tribe; the deep-seated anger Red Hawk feels towards the Thunder God for slaying his parents—I could go on) and convoluted in places where simplicity would’ve served (the weird explanations offered as to what archaeology is—is this book aimed at first-graders? COME ON; inexplicable character touches like Red Hawk’s klutziness; dragging in the extraneous gods into the plot).
And to add insult to injury, things happen in strange, disconnected fits and starts. The characters will be puttering along, and OH LOOK, the villain sub-plot will meander its way into the narrative, only to drift away again; and look, Effie’s feeling doubts about playing Bury the Meat Hatchet with Red Hawk, except not really, la dee da; and OOOH hey, we’re supposed to look for artifacts, that’s right, let’s give some half-assed details about an archaeological dig, hur dee hur; ooh, lookit, Red Hawk’s communing with the earth, isn’t that speshul? Etc.
So yeah. This book is terrible. So very, very awful on just about every level. I started dog-earing pages every time I encountered something egregiously, horribly bad, and I kid you not, about 3/4 of the pages are dog-eared. The poor book can barely stay shut. But you know what?
Still not as bad as cassie Edwards. There’s a line, you see, the Edwards line; other books may approach that asymptote, but none may touch it. There’s no mathematical function that would allow any book to cross the Edwards Line. Which is why I had to create a whole new grade category for this book, i.e., F+. To give it a D- implied that it still kind of sort of maybe passed, but it doesn’t. It fails. On just about every level, it fails. It just doesn’t fail on quite the same catastrophically painful level as an Edwards novel does, largely because this book, while not exactly elegantly-written—or even, y’know, coherent—doesn’t quite feature Edwards’ trademark random ellipses and exclamation points, and really, those are what push the excruciating experience of poor prose that one critical half-notch to “completely unbearable.”
And if there’s one good thing I can say about this book, that would be it. It’s horrible, but it’s still no Cassie Edwards. Damn with faint praise, indeed.