This will be a quick review, I think. I've just finished reading a book by C. E. Murphy titled Truthseeker.

On the whole, I enjoyed the book: Murphy writes well, with vividly described backgrounds, protagonists I can usually identify with on one level or another, and an often interesting fantasy/spiritual basis for the plot-producing strangeness in the story. This book was no exception in that regard. The fey lands were as vividly portrayed as the "mundane" world from which our heroine comes. The use of speaking styles within the story by both heroine and romantic lead both made sense, and was a smile-inducing nudge, for me, of sharing a long-standing love of language with the author. The unusual ability which the heroine possessed was one I've fascinatedly played with in roleplaying games, and I enjoyed the author's 'take' on it. The heroine herself developed more internal strength and personality during the story's trials, and her emotions under some startling duress were portrayed (at least to me) beautifully convincingly.

And yet… and yet. Truthseeker is the first of a two-parter series, and I do not think I will bother to read the second book. I was left, over all, with a vague feeling of (for lack of a better phrase) pleasant 'meh.' On the whole, technically, the book was good, and I enjoyed those parts. But the romance angle did not grab me whatsoever; I suspect my personal expression of my passions is a tad less coolly intellectual, despite many of my passions being based in intellectualism. More critically for me: the heroine's magic was entirely will-based, and I find that particular style of magic unconvincing.

I should probably back up a bit and explain my 'take' on success based in will power alone. To be fair, it is exceedingly easy to 'armchair quarterback' such things; to smugly proclaim: "Oh, no one would do something like that — it makes no sense!" when one has, in fact, never actually been up to one's ass in alligators, let alone trying to drain a swamp. :) Thus, when reading a book with such a premise, it would be easy for the reader to sniff disdainfully at the heroine not instantly willing things better — and completely missing how difficult focus can be when jouncing around on horseback on a noisy, disorienting, poorly lit, overwhelming battlefield where multiple people are doing their utmost to stab you to death with their swords.

On the other hand… that's not where our heroine started trying to exert her will through her magic. Further, I do have some familiarity with what might be called 'magic' through will power: I am a former animal trainer. Effectively, training an animal is the exertion of one's will power over the animal — to calmly, patiently, persistently, and unceasingly insist the animal will do as you wish. Oh, you have to frame the desired command in a format or language the animal understands, of course. But past that, thinking back on successful training I've done with animals others had given up on or decided were just 'bad,' I'd have to say it does sound much like a spell.

Think about it: I first make sure the command I wish to teach the animal is a good one, i.e. it will not cause the animal pain or harm, it will be intelligible to the animal, and is not against the animal's best interests — which I consider to be nothing more than responsible animal ownership. Then I pick a time where I have all day, if necessary, to work with the animal, so if he's stubborn or frightened he'll have time to work through it, and so I will not become impatient and increase the animal's tension. I set up the training location so there are only two options open to the animal: to stay where he started from (which I am careful to make undesirable to him), or to go forward into my chosen outcome. I make sure to have something to reward the animal with, so performing my chosen outcome becomes increasingly desirable to the animal.

Finally, I bring in the animal and give the command — and I repeat the command with gentle and unflagging persuasion, allowing no anger or impatience to creep into my demeanor despite any struggling by the animal against my will — until at some point the animal decides it just isn't worth fighting me any more, and does as I wish. When necessary I repeat the process every single day without fail, exactly the same way, until following the command is nearly reflexive for the animal.

That's why I compare it to a magical spell: I get the results I want through preparation of location, gestures, and incantations.

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