"The Shadow Mouse of Everjade" would have made a much better movie
than a book. I'm not saying it would have made a good movie---for one
thing, the plot doesn't really get started until about halfway
through---but at least audiences watching it onscreen would be spared
having to read the author's awful prose.
Machado's writing is truly dreadful, almost painful to read. Apart
from his frequent lapses in grammar, he has a fondness for purple
prose and his dialogue comes across as stilted and unnatural. It
takes real effort to get through a single page; it took me weeks to
nerve myself up to read all 282, in a quixotic search for any
redeeming qualities buried in the morass of nigh-unreadable wordage.
I wish I could say that "The Shadow Mouse of Everjade" has a decent
story struggling to escape from the stilted prose, but unfortunately,
within the execrable writing is a badly developed and formulaic plot.
The hero, Ethan, is a hopeless Marty Stu: everyone who looks into his
eyes can tell he's destined for greatness, all the females he
encounters (of any species) find him attractive, and after mere months
of learning swordplay he can disarm a man who has been an expert
swordsman for years. The first half of the book is entirely devoid of
dramatic tension; it consists mostly of Ethan's training, but since
the villain has not yet initiated any sort of evil plot, there is no
sense of urgency to his training---indeed, there is no real reason for
him to be training at all.
Machado also has no sense of priorities when it comes to character
development. He goes into detail about the health and eating habits
of the Duke, whose last appearance is in Chapter Two, but takes 150
pages before he introduces the villain. The characters are flatter
than the page they're written on: the wise wizard, the noble king, the
evil sorceress... and then there's poor Winston the Herbalist, who
seems to exist just to be the butt of jokes. And they're not even
especially funny ones.
What's really maddening is that every chapter or two, Machado comes up
with something that could be *good*... and then it gets bogged down in
the quagmire of the rest of the novel. The ending, for example, was
actually rather sweet; it just wasn't worth slogging through the
preceding 281 pages to get there. A good editor could have done
wonders for the book, or at least made the prose somewhat more
palatable, but given the quality of the finished product, I'm starting
to wonder if Machado's publisher employs an editor at all. It's the
only explanation for how a clunker like this ever saw print.