Today's book review is The Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton.
This is a complete story. It seemed to be a standalone novel until near the end, where there were references to things I know about from my limited exposure to the Witch World universe.
Some indeterminate while ago, I was talking about books, I believe with ithiriel, and since we'd discussed that I like reading fantasy with werewolves, intelligent animals, and such, I should read this book. I have read a few books by Norton over the years, but I never really got into them. I'd known there was a book by this title since I was a kid, but I had no idea what it was actually about; somehow when I first heard the title, I got the idea stuck in my head that "pard" was cowboy slang for "partner", which just didn't seem interesting. Had I realized that it was pard as in leopard, I might have read it 30 years ago. It's a decent plot, it has werecats and an evil sorceress and a beautiful good sorceress, magic, internal struggle, and self discovery. It hints at more of the world than just what is necessary to the story. It ought to be a good book, but the writing is flat and dead for me, the world and the characters never come alive and force themselves to really matter to me.
It occurs to me that there are a lot of levels to the craft of writing a novel. There is a broad level of imagining an interesting world and a good overall story, and this book is solid, though not outstanding, at this level. There is the fine detail level of individual sentence construction. At this level, this book is a bit dry, but not badly done. But there is a middle level, the level of writing individual scenes so that they really resonate, which I can't really pin down objectively, but I know what I like when I see it. I find it in most of the fiction I put my eyes to, from the urban fantasy novels that crowd the bookstores (which, when it fails for me usually fails because the broad level isn't convincing enough) to stuff on weird bulletin board sites that is so bad at the level of spelling and grammar that it's an effort to work though. It's just not there for me in The Jargoon Pard, which is sad.
4 out of 10.