I decided to review this book because watching figure skating is rather a family hobby. My wife is the kind of super-fan who can tell at a glance a salchow from a loop. I have been watching skating for forty years, sitting beside an expert; something inevitably wears off. So, I am very aware of the oh-so-polite power politics of the skating world, and in a very good position to review an author who wants to do an exposé. As you can see from my star rating, she’s a good storyteller with a great background, but there are a few problems.
On the positive side, this author has certainly done her research. If you ever wondered what was going on in the head of a performer going through a skating routine, there are numerous different examples, all of them believable. Also, there are some really good moments in the story, when competitors come close to speaking the truth to each other, but shy away at the last moment. The climax of the book, once we get rid of all the extraneous characters and focus on the important ones, is tense and the suspense is well maintained.
The main writing flaw in this book is the complete lack of control of point of view. We see the world from the position of different characters too quickly, sometimes in the same paragraph. It exhausts the reader just trying to figure out who we’re listening to, now, and remember how we’re supposed to feel about him or her. In one count of a random 4 pages, the POV changed 10 times. The worst effect of this is that we never get connected to any of the characters, so they just come across as a parade of neurotic, driven megalomaniacs, with few redeeming qualities. There are better and worse characters, but we don’t stay with any of the good guys long enough to bond with them. This leaves the whole story with a bitter flavour and makes one wonder whether this author likes skating at all.
And now the unkindest cut of all. Due to the judging scandal of 2002, (duly noted in the appendix to the novel) the rules were all changed to make the kind of events that happen in the story much more unlikely. This detracts from the quasi-documentary, real-time exposé theme of the book and makes it more of a historical footnote.
The bottom line is that this author has a good handle on the politics of skating, but has chosen to reveal it with a melodramatic, soap-opera kind of simplicity. It seems like she took every idiosyncratic, kooky or malicious skater over the last forty years and put them all together in one time period. And added a media angle to give it a catch. Skating is a tough sport, but believe me, it’s not that bad. And even if it was that bad, in order to satisfy the emotional needs of readers, you have to show some of the good side to balance the evil.
I wanted to give it a 4-star, but the POV mess drops it to 3.(3 / 5)