Heart of the Dove
Imagine spending two centuries underground, caught in a magical sleep, the victim of a greedy warlock. When you woke, you’d be pale, peeved, 200 years out of fashion, and ready to kick some butt. In Tracy Fobes’ Heart of the Dove, Morgana Fey (warning: this is not the only clumsy Arthurian reference) claws her way to the surface, ready to make her dreams of vengeance a reality. Her targets are Lucinda Drakewyck and Richard Clairmont, the descendants of the men who destroyed her life.
In 1593, Edward Drakewyck sent Morgana to an early (and temporary) grave in order to obtain a crystal dove. The dove is a “magical icon” which gains power as it is passed from witch to witch. Before Morgana’s death she cursed Edward Drakewyck and his henchman, Henry Clairmont, claiming that two of their descendants would fall in love, resurrect her, and bring destruction on both of their families.
The powerful, pre-destined attraction between Lucinda and Richard is compelling. But what is most appealing about this hero and heroine is that they actually talk. Both are stubborn, but smart and refreshingly honest. They also don’t miscommunciate simply for the sake of conflict. Fobes handles the development of their relationship well, particularly Lucinda’s concern that by falling in love, she will give Morgana a dangerous emotional weapon to use against her. Also, Richard’s experiences with the charge of the Light Brigade make for a nice take on the tortured hero angle.
But much of the promise in Heart of the Dove goes to waste due to Fobes’ heavy-handed style. The prose, particularly the dialogue, is often painfully purple. But worse, the language seems not only overblown, but lazy. Despite lots of “involuntary arching,” the love scenes fall flat largely because they seem recycled from bits and pieces of other works. The writer also insisted on constantly repeating the phrase, “to touch, to taste” (as in “She longed to,” “He yearned to,” etc). This was an advance readers copy so one hopes an editor will cut a few of these from the final draft.
This lack of inspired language does the most damage to the passages involving witchcraft. I can’t gauge the authenticity of Fobes’ rhyming spells, but they had a childish ring that did little to evoke any sense of power or mystery. The magical showdowns fizzle and the final conflict’s resolution was forgivably sentimental, but unforgivably predictable. It’s also never really clear why Edward Drakewyck put Morgana to sleep instead of just killing her off. He says he doesn’t want to bloody his hands, but he doesn’t seem to have any problem doing so later in the book.
By creating an unusually sympathetic villainess, Fobes took a promising risk with Heart of the Dove. Unfortunately, she seems unwilling to take the same risks with her style. And, in the end, she seems unwilling to fully explore the complexities or moral ambiguities of the history she has created. Too many promising threads simply don’t pay off. Heart of the Dove is a suspensful, well-paced read, but falls short of any real magic.
|Review Date:||July 13, 1999|