The Whore of New Slum

Title: The Whore of New Slum
Author: T. A. Chase
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: 37,000 words
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Shy

Summary: Gripping characters and a plot full of holes.

Blurb:

New Slum is the poorest borough in New City, and those who live there are considered the dregs of society. Yet they all have hopes and dreams to be more than what others say they should be.

Wendall works as a sex peddler, trying to survive as best he can in the Slum. One day, while visiting his dying sister, Wendall meets a man who will change his life, and puts into motion plans that have taken years to prepare.

Abdur is a prisoner of war, taken during battle between New France and New Britain. His injuries are such that the New Britain military have no problem experimenting on him. All he has to look forward to is more experiments or being used until he has nothing left to give.

Running into each other is a pivotal moment for both men. As they fall in love, they decide to shape the world around them to what they wish it to be, and start making their dreams come true…

Review:

Wendall is one of the strongest characters I’ve found in a while. You know that character who has no control over his life, the angst-ridden uke in an angst-inducing situation, drowning in helplessness? Wendall is not that guy. He takes a horrifying situation and not only endures it, not only improves it for himself and others, but finds a way to make himself more powerful and influential because of it. He’s impressive and intelligent, a leader who knows what the hell he’s doing.

The main problem I had was that the story felt – backwards. (Does that make sense?) A typical romance goes through the initial meeting, then the attraction, the conflict, the characters getting to know each other; then, once the two characters have reason to fall in love, they do. But Chase skipped over the “getting to know each other” part initially, then tacked it on at the end. The characters develop a relationship full of love, trust, and familiarity very quickly – very, very quickly. Shortly after they meet for the second time, Abdur is telling Wendall damning information I can’t imagine anyone telling a stranger.

I hesitate to call this insta-love, because I feel insta-love is usually (1) based in physical attraction and (2) more intense, which is not what happened here. It’s like Wendall and Abdur just sort of… instinctively became a couple. Then the deeper characterization comes later, when we learn more about Wendall and what he’s doing.

The book is full of inconsistent and just plain foolish behavior. Abdur, who is of some importance to the antagonists, is kept in a hospital run by nuns and full of civilians, and guarded by only one guard. And shortly after escape, Abdur, who has armed and dangerous men looking for him, walks into a brothel and casually informs a virtual stranger that he’s an escaped prisoner.

In order to escape the notice of the antagonists, Abdur: covers the majority of his face with a scarf, wears a hat, avoids eye contact with everyone, and dodges people on the street. I don’t know about you, but if I were a nameless bad guy searching the streets for an escaped prisoner, I’d arrest Abdur in a heartbeat. Given Abdur’s appearance, I can understand the need for disguise, but not why he’d be so foolish as to believe that this “disguise” made him less suspicious.

Wendall, meanwhile, is the strangest mix of “penniless” and “most influential man around”. He was forced into prostitution by a lack of options (it was prostitution, the coal mines, or a soldier’s life). He’s too poor to afford a magic-user to heal his sister. But later it seems he’s wealthier than he first appeared, and claims he has no need for Abdur’s money.

I was a little bemused by the fact Abdur had any money at all. Why was he allowed to keep his personal effects while being held captive? Did he steal it? Did I miss something?

And I was utterly baffled by the fact that Wendall personally knows the most talented magician in New City, but can’t manage to get his sister magical help. At first I thought, “Well, maybe healing magic and other kinds of magic are separate disciplines and this magician doesn’t know anything about healing.” But then why are they going to him for medical help?

At an early point, Abdur says that he’s had too many spells put on him for magic to work on him any longer. And then, near the end of the book, a magician works magic on him. What?

At another early point, Wendell is informed that none of the nuns are allowed to see the secret patient on the second floor of the hospital. Later, the Mother Superior, a nun, goes to visit this same secret patient. Not, I believe, in a secretive manner, but the manner of a nun who’s just walked past the singular guard at Abdur’s door, and who probably visits Abdur often, given how familiar they seem with each other.

Overall, this book was nice, but disappointing. I’d heard wonderful things about T. A. Chase, and I can only assume this is not her best work. The whole thing reads like a first draft by an excellent writer: lots of potential, but some glaring issues that could have been resolved. Enjoyable, but not recommended.

6 comments

  • This got a 3 stars?!! Very generous, IMO. After finishing the book, I had to do a double take because I wasn’t sure what I had just read or if the book was written in English. It was horrible!! I like her earlier books and have been so disappointed with her recent published works in the past 2 years. It is such a shame because her creativity is one of the best out there.

    Reply
  • Agreed, what Val said. And Feliz and Celeste. 😀 T.A. Chase was one of my favorite authors when I first got into m/m, but most of her newer stuff hasn’t worked for me at all. So disappointing! 🙁

    Reply
  • What Val said. Compelling characters, beautifully readable writing style. To reference a recent discussion, the lack of developmental editing shows. I happily reread several of her early works but have not bought but one in the past year.

    Nicely done review, Shy. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Thanks for the review, Shy. I was curious about this one because the blurb sounded terrific, but I’ve been disappointed before with this author’s work. She has great ideas and a very pleasing writing style, and can evoke wonderful emotions — but it’s as if she’s so driven to publish quickly and often that she chooses not to put the time into developing complicated plots with real conflict. Or to rewrite to fix the plot holes. I wish this weren’t the case because otherwise I’d be a huge fan. 🙁

    Reply

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