It was Henry James, dear reader, that drove me to it. I was in such a rage after struggling through that book that I needed something calming to read before bed. What, thought I, could possibly be the biggest contrast to Henry James that I can find on my bookcase? The answer was clear and unambiguous: Xena.
Actually, I’m not sure there are many occasions in life where Xena isn’t the answer.
This book was exactly what I wanted: clear goodies, clear baddies, a lot of plot, a bit of magic and a good old-fashioned fight at the end. And, best of all, large print! Those of you who know Xena from the TV series will know that each episode follows a reliable formula:
- It starts with a fight in which Xena fights an improbable number of people and wins
- There is some problem to be resolved: a quest to follow, a prophesy to fulfil, a town to rescue from peril
- They work out a really clever plan to resolve it, and Xena worries about her dark past or Gabrielle, her sidekick, worries about how to be taken seriously as a woman in a man’s world
- The plan goes wrong
- They revert to plan B in which Xena fights an improbable number of people and wins
- Xena and Gabrielle wander off into the sunset telling jokes.
This book did not really stray far from the formula, and I think it really captured the spirit of the TV series. What was great was that, because it was a book, you got more of Xena’s internal monologues which are normally conveyed merely through the power of her enigmatic expressions. The dialogue and humour were very faithful to the series too as were a lot of the scenes: I knew just what the generic peasant village would look like, and what the childlike prophet would be like.
The other thing I love about the Xena TV series is its totally cavalier approach to myth, history and geography. Historical figures who lived centuries apart happily rub shoulders while Xena and her horse travel across the world in the space of a single episode. This book didn’t do much in this space, other than see us find the entrance to Hades, but it was still good fun and enabled me to purge my Henry James related rage.
High literature it ain’t, but it is perfect if you need a good dose of entirely mindless, riotous fun.
Xena Warrior Princess: Prophesy of Darkness, Stella Howard, Harper Collins, London, 1997