Tahn
L. A. Kelly

Morality: B
Writing: C-

Tahn starts off right in the middle of the action as the hardened assassin Tahn Dorn scales castle walls to kidnap Lady Netta Trillet, whose husband he murdered several years ago. But this time his purpose is far different: to save Netta from an impending attack on the castle. Sickened by his life, Tahn is trying to leave his evil master Samis, and along with Netta and a group of children he has saved from Samis’s clutches, he flees into the woods. Since he and Netta have no reason to love or trust each other at all, naturally romance is inevitable; their budding relationship forms one of the main threads of the book, while Tahn’s slow acceptance of Netta’s Christian faith forms the other.

This book is moderately enjoyable. The plot starts off fast-paced, and while it slows in some of the later sections, remains pretty interesting throughout. Kelly’s prose is readable but not brilliant; her worldbuilding is minimal but serviceable, with the one annoying plot hole that everybody is Christian even though the story obviously doesn’t take place on earth. (Maybe copies of the Bible arrived by wormhole?) I did find Tahn a pretty sympathetic character, who managed to be repentant and guilty without being too self-absorbed. Unfortunately, Netta seemed fairly bland, which makes it hard to root for their romance (especially since romance between a woman and the man who killed her husband is pretty weird anyway).

My main problem with Tahn was how it handled the melodrama–of which, obviously, there is a lot, and sometimes at the expense of psychological credibility. But as I was reading it, I found myself wishing there was actually more. I think that if you’re going to have a really over-the-top, melodramatic situation, you’ve just got to go for it. If your heroine is going to fall in love with the repentant assassin who killed her husband, there should be tears and blood and attempted revenge, and they shouldn’t reconcile until three-quarters of the way through the book, when one of them is hanging off a cliff or being held at swordpoint. Instead–after an action-packed and fairly gripping beginning–Tahn and Netta spend a the first half of the book hiding in the woods and taking care of the children, and they reconcile after a series of not very tense conversations. It doesn’t really work as either realism or melodrama.

On the moral side, the book is mostly wholesome: the good characters are all Christians who try to forgive their enemies and trust in God, and Tahn realizes that Jesus died for him and his sins can be forgiven. However, I think there is one flaw, which is both a moral and a stylistic issue: one of the characters is able to quit opium with basically no withdrawal because he trusts in God. Now, obviously faith and grace are very important for a person trying to break an addiction, but they’re not magic tickets to make everything easy, and I think it sends a very wrong message to portray them that way.

Content-wise, the book is reasonably clean, with some assassin-related violence and a few references to men wanting to have their wicked way with Netta.

Posted by Rose | November 5, 2007

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