One for the Morning Glory, by John Barnes

I’m re-reading One for the Morning Glory, by John Barnes and it occurred to me that some of y’all who read a wordplay blog might not be aware of it and would enjoy it.

It’s a fairy-tale, of sorts, with fencing, fighting torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, pain, death, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles. But it isn’t The Princess Bride. No, the thing that made me mention One for the Morning Glory in this place is its use of malapropisms. Mr. Barnes sprinkles a large triple-handful or so of malapropisms throughout the book—or, perhaps, the world in which the book is set uses mostly our own English but a triple-handful of false cognates. So firearm that is small enough to be held in one hand is a pismire, in this world, and there is an animal hunted for food that is called a gazebo, and the architectural feature for defending a fortress is a battue, and so on and so forth.

This will be either a Source of Reader Pleasure or a Source of Reader Irritation—I enjoy it a lot, but a fair number of reviewers around the web seem to have gone the other way, and I certainly understand how it could take a person right out of a scene. Particularly as the book is actually fairly serious, in its way, and of course having initially called a dueling sword an escree, Mr. Barnes has to stick with calling it an escree even when it is being used in earnest. Which information is probably enough to tell you whether this book is For You or Not For You.

I will add, though, that reading a different book in between chapters of One for the Morning Glory can be a wee bit disorienting. I happened to read a phrase that was something like ramparts, battlements and parapets and snorted at these ridiculous made-up words.


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