Whoosh! Issue 46 - July 2000


By bluecitywriter@aol.com
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
1408 words

Author's Note: I have read all of the Xena books and a couple of Ru Emerson's other fantasy/science fiction novels. This article gives a brief review of Emerson's last two Xena books.

Official Fiction (01-04)
Questing Joxer (05-07)
Commentary (08-12)
Warrior Princess Lost (13-14)

Published Fan Fiction: A Critique of Emerson's Latest Xena Novels

Official Fiction

The 'Lightning Rod Xena' cover

Why is it custom fan fiction covers look better than the sanctioned ones?

[1] Sanctioned by Universal Studios, Ru Emerson has the coveted position of being the only current Official Xena Fiction Writer. Her first Xena books, The Empty Throne, The Thief Of Hermes, and The Huntress And The Sphinx were fairly well received by Xenites (Prophecy Of Darkness, the only other Official Xena book, was written by Stella Howard).

[2] The author helped her popularity by making herself available on America Online. Her willingness to listen to Xenites and to ask for help with the initial novels via contests made her appear at least to give fans an "in" to the writing process. Many fans find this kind of input flattering, and so they were willing to forgive YAXI's in the first novels. The first three books, however, were written in typical Emerson style, which is to say they were sometimes confusing and a little difficult to follow.

[3] Her latest entry, a trilogy, follows the journey/quest outline familiar to many fantasy readers. Go Quest, Young Man and Questward Ho! are the first two books. The third has not been released to the public yet. Emerson appears to have changed her style with her latest two publications. These books are easier to read, with simpler plot lines and more dialogue to carry the action.

[4] The plot is fairly straight forward: Joxer, being Joxer, goes off in a snit and undertakes a perilous quest in search of glory, fame, and Gabrielle's approval. His quest, offered up by King Menelaus of Sparta, is to find Helen of Troy and persuade her to return to the king. Guided by an evil priest of Apollo, the king seeks out the "pure of heart" to search for the missing beauty.

Questing Joxer

[5] Go Quest, Young Man deals with Joxer's adventures as he goes to Sparta to see if he qualifies as a pure hero who might do the king's bidding. He meets Xena and Gabrielle, fights with Gabrielle, and flounces off on a secret quest. Xena and Gabrielle encounter some of Menelaus' men as they seek young "heroes" to find a special something. Each young man thinks he's going after a different prize. Xena realizes the priest of Apollo is behind things after she discovers an eavesdropping magic fur ball. However, she has a message to take to Hercules, so she sends Gabrielle to follow Joxer, while she goes to do what she considers most important. She tells Gabrielle she will join her as soon as she can.

[6] The author then follows Gabrielle and Joxer as they roam the countryside, miles apart and each muttering about the other. They reach Sparta, where Joxer is greeted by the royalty. Gabrielle hides in the bushes. Xena slips in, meets up with Gabrielle, leaves Gabrielle, eavesdrops on the king and his priest, and learns that Draco is also one of the chosen warriors. There are fights, Joxer slips off, Gabrielle follows him, Xena follows her, and the book ends with all three aboard a ship, bound for the next portion of Joxer's adventure.

The original plot from the cover was 'Xena eats bad mushrooms and sees serpents growing out of Joxer's head'.

Another installment in the series.

[7] Questward Ho! continues the adventures as the ship puts in at various ports. Squealing, writhing, happy sea serpents near the end of the book are a highlight. Xena battles various bad men. Xena and Gabrielle get a lead on Helen by following a trail of signature pottery. The book ends with Xena and Gabrielle finding the former queen working as a tutor to the children of another king.


[8] Nice, fast-paced plot aside, these books are really more about Joxer and Gabrielle than Xena. Joxer seems an easy character for Emerson to write. She finds his head and stays inside it quite a bit. Gabrielle too seems easy for Emerson. Not so with the stalwart Xena. In Emerson's first Xena novels, the heroine was center stage, but the plots were hard to follow. The novels moved slowly, and dialogue was noticeably sparse. In these later novels, Xena is merely along to protect her two young proteges from the horrors of the world. Emerson spends a lot less time with the brooding warrior. Apparently, for Emerson, Xena's lack of communication skills either give rise to plodding tomes or to books that have Xena as the peripheral character.

[9] For subtext lovers, there is only a little of that ingredient in these books. Go Quest, Young Man offers up a bit of friendship and pride as Xena watches Gabrielle deck a few fellows. The end also takes on a touchy-feely note, when Xena holds Gabrielle after she has spent most the book attempting to catch up with her friend and with Joxer. She calls Gabrielle her "best, dearest, and truest friend" in the last paragraph.

[10] Even in Questward Ho!, when the two women are together on a boat, Emerson somehow manages to keep them separate the majority of the time. Xena deals with the captain and crawls around the crow's nest. Gabrielle wanders about an island, while Xena takes care of business. Xena speaks to people, while Gabrielle wanders around an amphitheater. They come together to discuss the pottery clues, to exchange information, and to exclaim incredulously about Joxer, but for the most part their friendship and love for one another is assumed and not commented on further by Emerson.

[11] The books should definitely appeal to Joxer lovers. They are about Joxer, not Xena. We learn a little about Gabrielle and next to nothing about the Warrior Princess. The books come across as the elder, more learned Warrior leading about the "young 'uns" with just a touch of impatience.

[12] The author also makes her presence felt in the books. She seems to delight in throwing in references to past episodes, a kind of "see, I watch, I really do!" effort. The first reference is appreciated. Gabrielle reminds Joxer within the first three pages that he met her because of Callisto. It also shows how Gabrielle's relationship with Joxer seems to always bring about trouble. So the reference serves a purpose. Many of the other references, though, are just annoying. Too many to cite, they are along the lines of "like that time we fought the giant". They do little to further the plot, and the one-line references mean nothing to a non-Xenite reader. For a Xenite, they slow the pace of the book while one stops to think, "Oh, yes, I think she means episode such-and-such in season whatever".

Warrior Princess Lost

In the 'work smart not hard' department, note this book cover of Xena is simply the mirror image of the other book cover at the top of this article

Another book cover.

[13] For what it is worth, Emerson has made a good effort to capture Gabrielle and Joxer. She has lost out on the characterization of Xena, though. Xena comes across as older, wiser, and smarter than her companions. Her past is mentioned, but cause-and-effect do not exist. Her character does not grow. She serves as a mentor to others only. The books have her name, but they are not about the Warrior Princess.

[14] These two books are readable. They would make good beach fare. They are not, however, the kinds of stories that many Xenites expect in fan fiction. There is too little interaction between the Xena and Gabrielle. Maybe in Emerson's last book, Xena and Gabrielle will have center stage as the author is writing the only "official" Xena: Warrior Princess books.


bluecitywriter bluecitywriter@aol.com
Bluecitywriter lives in the country, but hopes to be a household name in Gotham some day. She is a freelance hack who reads a lot. She has seen every Xena episode at least once. She also likes the color blue.

Favorite episode: THE GREATER GOOD (21/121) ranks high, but I like all the first and second season episodes.
Favorite line: "You are what you do. You can recreate yourself every second of your life." Xena, FORGIVEN (60/314).
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) and the first airing of the Hercules trilogy featuring Xena
Least favorite episode: All of Season 5 and IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404). And I'm not a comedy fan.

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