Jackmormon, over at Not Yet Enlightened, writes about reading the novels of Perez-Reverte, and a catastrophic realization that hit him while reading The Fencing-Master:
So what kind of a book is this? It’s not noir, which admits the imperfections of its protagonists, exposes systematic social corruption, and maintains some narrative suspense. It’s not historical fiction, which usually explains a few things about how recent events shape the lives of the characters. No, this book is a Gary Stu fantasy.I’ve never seen a better evocation of that terrible moment when you see too far into the emotional strategies of a work of fiction, and it falls dead for you. There’s no retrieving it. That moment of insight recolors all your previous readings, so that what was once fascinating is now just painful.
I’ve only ever seen one instance where it was salvaged. When I was a kid, I happily read Poul Anderson’s Dominic Flandry stories. When I got older they turned to ashes in my mouth, around the time I noticed what a shallow manipulative SOB Flandry is, and how often his exploits are paid for by the women in his vicinity. Then, much later, Poul Anderson paid off the series’ debts in full with the stark and (in my opinion) underrated A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows.
I was long past being a kid by then, certainly past believing that writers have any obligation to deserve the trust we give them; so the sense of relief and reassurance I felt came as a complete surprise. It surprises me still.