Girl on the Run
Girl on the Run takes place in a lighthearted imaginary medieval realm. Kaia Kurinon is a princess, first cousin to the king, and has been raised and educated in a strictly orthodox manner. That means, among other things, that she was never taught to read. She is, however, an extremely high-spirited young woman, and due to her hijinks was sent to a convent to gain a little polish. This didn’t work; when we meet Kaia, the eighteen-year-old is being punished for one too many pranks perpetrated on the older nuns.
Kaia has loved Eben Dhion since she was a child. But Eben thinks of Kaia as a little girl, and she knows she’ll never win his love. That’s when she meets Merlin, who, like the Merlin in The Once and Future King by T. S. White, is traveling backwards through time. Merlin tells her of a way that she can travel to a future time, when women are educated and in charge of their fates. Along with Brother Absalom, a monk and frustrated scientist who also wants to travel to the future, Kaia runs away, planning to go to the standing stones in the Western Isles and travel to the future.
Of course, a princess can’t just run away without anyone noticing, and soon Eben is dispatched to find her and bring her back home safely. He chases her to an island called Ataxi, where Eben confronts his mortal enemy, Ranulph Gyp. Along the way are many madcap adventures, during which Eben is forced to reexamine his brotherly feelings for Kaia.
This book is, above all, a comedy. The author’s writing style is very unique and quite often made me smile, as in this passage. Eben is thinking to himself that the runaway Kaia needs a good spanking:
That particular train of thought sent Eben skidding down the slippery slope of inevitable male preoccupation, which in turn let loose a flaming arrow of lust straight to his loins. He was obliged to retire into a shadowed doorway to regain command of himself and adjust the drape of his tunic.Even though I didn’t care for the subject matter of this passage – spanking not being one of my things – the way it’s written cracked me up. There are a lot of little moments like that, where the author’s wit shines.
However, there are also plenty of moments that made me groan. Humor is a subjective thing, and it turns out that the humor in this book isn’t, in general, the type that I find funny. I like humor that’s based on intelligent people making witty observations about the world around them. This book’s humor tends to rely on the characters behaving in an extraordinarily foolish and immature manner, leading to wacky escapades.
In her review of the first book in this series, (She Who Laughs Last) Jane Jorgenson wrote of its heroine, “Every move she makes is thought and rethought. She takes no action lightly.” Alas, that’s hardly the case with the heroine of this novel. Kaia, for most of the book, acts like a child in the early stages of puberty. She has had a crush on Eben since she was three, and has spent her life engaging in pranks and antics in order to get his attention. When she doesn’t get his attention, she sulks, fumes, and runs away. In one memorable instance, she does something (involving the inadvertent display of her private parts) that no female over the age of four would do. I realize that this scene is supposed to be funny, but I could not get past my amazement and distaste.
Kaia actually does grow up quite a bit in this book – by the end, she’s acting like a headstrong sixteen-year-old, rather than a headstrong twelve-year-old. It’s an improvement, but she’s still impulsive, reckless, and almost physically incapable of doing what she’s told. In about ten years, she might be a worthy heroine.
It’s hard to see Kaia’s love for Eben as anything more than an adolescent crush, especially since Eben is so thickheaded that even Kaia should be able to see that he’s not much of a catch. As we’ve seen, Eben is extremely attracted to Kaia, but he knows that he can never, never, never act upon that attraction. Why? Is it because she’s too childish to be capable of giving informed consent? No, that is not the reason. Eben feels that he’s known Kaia for so long that she’s like a sister to him, so therefore sex with her would be a mortal sin. That makes no sense to me, not even as a joke. Then, when they’ve finally worked through that one, he goes into a fit of rage because Kaia saved his life, also putting herself in danger. How dare she! And so on. What an idiot.
The secondary characters all contribute to the goofiness, especially Merlin and Brother Absalom, whose passages I mostly skimmed. I also skimmed the long climactic sequence, in which we learn that the evil Ranulph Gyp has the most not-strong medieval stronghold I’ve ever read about. Too many unguarded secret doors and unsearched closets and storerooms in this place.
If you are looking for some very cheerful fare, or if you’re a fan of Jennie Klassel’s first book, you might enjoy this more than I did. Although the author is clearly a very witty woman, much of this book’s humor is just way too zany for me, and I couldn’t get into the pigheaded and thick-skulled characters. I might pick up her next novel, but only if someone reassures me that its protagonists are grown-ups.