Liesel Schwartz’s Chronicles of Light and Shadow 3: Sky Pirates is an Adventure. There’s much incident and little depth, plus a great deal of painstaking pointing-out of the states characters are in rather than trusting the Idiot Reader to figure it out for herself. For example, near the beginning, the protagonist finds herself ‘in the vastness of the Sudan’ and we’re told ‘the sight of it made a lump well up in her throat. Being out here in the vastness ... the emptiness of her surroundings perfectly matched the emptiness she felt in her heart—she felt desolate and alone’ . Those last five words in particular are the prose-style equivalent of bellowing into a person’s ear because you think they’re deaf, or dim, or both. The effect on the normally calibrated ear is not an agreeable one.
Elle Chance feels an emptiness in her heart—she FEELS DESOLATE—AND ALONE—because in a previous instalment of this multi-volume Adventure her husband went missing in the netherworld, a wraith now, perhaps dead, possibly retrievable. The novel steers Elle across her steampunk world on a book-length quest for him, fighting all the time through an endless blizzard of clichés: ‘throw caution to the wind’; ‘a dull ache’; ‘a dizzying height’; ‘her back straight as a ramrod’; ‘she hated him with every fibre of her being’. It’s like this all the way through: teeth are gritted; mettle is tested; trouble kicks off. Not once but many times we have the exchange: ‘There was a knock on the door. “Enter!” X said’, where X might be any of the sinister men in Schwarz’s dramatis personae. This is how the pirates speak: ‘gold! The cap’n is going to be pleased!’ . Indeed these pirates do pretty much everything you'd expect them to except actually say ‘arrr!’ ‘Dashwood’s words had struck a nerve. That nerve had been connected to sensitive thoughts she had buried deep within her’ . Oh THAT sort of nerve! Moments of ultra violence jar awkwardly against this cosily over-familiar texture:
Elle raised her Colt and shot the pirate in the face. His head exploded like a melon, with bright red gore splattering against the wood panelling behind him. There’s also a sex scene in a jungle lake, where Elle shags the Pirate Captain (despite being still on the search for her hubbie) in which ‘they both climaxed with such force’ that it makes the whole lake ‘vibrate’. That’s some shagging!