If it didn't say Ace on the cover, I would swear that Gail van Asten's THE BLIND KNIGHT was fanfiction.
The book is unselfconsciously bad: the author clearly believes herself a literary genius and brutally overwrites each phrase. I know purple prose, but THE BLIND KNIGHT is absolutely ultraviolet. Bathetic descriptions suffocate under the weight of their own pomposity. Sentences hang themselves on twisted lengths of verbiage. Imagine Janny Wurts and H.P. Lovecraft hammering out skaldic verse on a typewriter with keys of cyanide-laced fudge.
No, I don't know what that means, either. Van Asten inspires me to such heights of poetry. Let me demonstrate her craft: "During the darkest hours of each night, the warlock stood high upon the walk of his tower that, at such times, reached above the secretive convolutions of the vast and ancient forests thereabouts. Quietly stroking the feathers of his far-seeing friend, the warlock watched time and the world pass along their loosely ordained courses." (Page 13.) "His white skin gleamed with wonderful continuity.... Fine hairs sparkled against the surface of his thighs and forearms with the delicacy of silver cobwebs, and the accoutrements of manhood jutted with unselfconscious arrogance from his loins." (Page 73.)
Okay, someone should have revoked her poetic license after the phrase "accoutrements of manhood". Van Asten wastes entire paragraphs on details which sound impressive but mean absolutely nothing (how, exactly, does skin have "wonderful continuity"?). She ought to explain the qualities of the objects she describes rather than simply tack on adjectives. Don't tell me it was a secretive forest; tell me about the shadows whispering between the leaves or some such.
Overabundance of adjectives is a problem throughout the book. The fact that one character is a Scottish knight and has a pet peregrine falcon does not justify sentences like "It sunk its peregrine talons into his knightly Scottish arm." I made that sentence up, but it's strikingly similar to an actual line in the book. "Muscular arm", I could understand, but telling us that the arm is Scottish doesn't even convey actual description.
Besides her ornate prose, van Asten's language is unnecessarily antique. I appreciate her historical research, and yes, I realize that people actually did talk like that in medieval England. But the archaic grammar is too obtrusive, like a stage actor who overdoes an accent just to prove, "See, my character is BRITISH!"
Speaking of exaggerated characters...all of the players in THE BLIND KNIGHT are blunt archetypes courtesy of Þe Olde Casting Department: the saintly knight, the crabby warlock, his saucy daughter, etc.
Pretty soon, the underlying structure of the novel becomes obvious: it's Arthurian sequel-fic. Our bold hero, Gary Stu, Knows Absolutely Everything (including What Is Good For Everyone Else). He is totally imperturbable even when torturers burn holes through the soles of his feet. He is undefeatable in combat and has a Super Special Magic Wolf and a Super Special Magic Horse and a Super Special Magic Hawk and a Super Special Magic Sword (which he inherited from the warlock, who is Merlin's secret brother). Saucy Wench, Merlyn's secret niece, has raven hair and alabaster skin, yada yada ya. The hero's accoutrements of manhood so impress her that she makes love to him in the middle of a pond (anatomically unlikely!) but later becomes jealous of his Mad Skillz. Thankfully, the villain humbles her by imprisoning her in his room and raping her repeatedly. But then he decides that he actually does love her, and she acknowledges that he helped her tame her womanly pride. (Saintly Knight is indifferent to the entire affair.) And yes, a woman wrote this.
On the other hand, van Asten deals very sensitively with the difficulties of blindness; her practical sense in this regard lends some realism to the hero's struggles. Problem is, those struggles themselves are ridiculous. The fantasy tropes - secret children and fateful jousts and gratuitous rapes - are melodramatically puerile.
Only in its closing chapters does THE BLIND KNIGHT achieve the mythic status for which it struggles. The passage about the last Faerie is moving and slightly more minimalist than the rest of the book. Then the story slumps into the obligatory epilogue with expository dialogue to fill in the years since the final chapter. ("Knowest thou not that Mary unto Gary hath borne a man-child?" "Yea, forsooth, did I know it!") But it's not like I had high hopes for the resolution.
Pure and simple, THE BLIND KNIGHT is fanfiction - too amateur to even qualify for a serious literary treatment. But all right, I admit it: van Asten's bad prose does create absorbing atmosphere. Crude atmosphere, but hey, I now know all about accoutrements of manhood.