Thursday, March 24, 2011

Non-Laughter Review: MODERN FANTASY




Readers of this space know that Apprentice Writer struggled previously with Urban Fantasy burnout. It was taking more and more innovation and stellar writing on the part of the authors to elicit reaction from her, and it gradually dawned on her that it was, perhaps, a little unfair to keep holding novels up to ever-escalating expectations when really, what she needed was a break.

Return to epic fantasy, in the form of the second-to-last volume of the 'Wheel of Time' megaseries, didn't do the trick either.

Paranormal, often considered to appeal to a similar type of demographic as UF, has never really worked for AW. The shapeshifting, blood-sucking, demonic storyliness somehow never quite hold her attention.

AW really liked Ilona Andrews pioneering 'rural fantasy' novels, but those are far and few between and so far other authors don't seem to be leaping into the new subgenre.

What is a voracious reader with taste for well-written fantastical worlds to do? By this point, AW was growing a little desperate.

Then: Rescue! Three books, each very different from the others, very different from classic urban/epic/paranormal, that she all adored. AW thinks of these novels (and hopefully, the many more that will ride in on what she dearly wishes will be a wave) as Modern Fantasy.

1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Inheritance Trilogy, Book 1)
2. The Broken Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Inheritance Trilogy, Book 2)
3. Indigo Springs, A.M. Dellamonica (Book 1 in series of unknown length)


Premise:
1. Orphaned offspring of renegade branch of the royal family is summoned to palace hanging in the sky and tossed into a battle of succession in a world balanced on a knife edge between enslaved gods and humans branded into strict social classes.

2. Blind artist rescues an injured, homeless man and is unwittingly caught up between jostling factions of godlings and an uprising of humans against gods in the Tree of Life on the planet beneath the Skypalace of Book 1.

3. Recently bereaved young woman inherits a house and slowly learns of the magical powers conveyed by the springs below, with catastrophic results.


Cover:
1. Title - Intriguing and apt for content. Art - Beautiful, indicative on content, AW was amused by inclusion of streaming hair of her favorite character in the story. Amused because the way it's streaming here is technically impossible unless underwater, yet in in this character's case is correctly depicted - and how this reminds her of the many romance covers that have been snarked because of hair blowing wildly in one way from the heroine's scalp while blowing in the other from hero's scalp, etc.

2. Title - relates well to title of Book 1, apt for content. Art - the tree of life is accurate for content, but the searchlight eyes creeped AW out. Not a cover she would habe been attracted to on its own.

3. Title - Simple (which is always good) and perfectly accurate for content. Art - gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. AW doesn't know why the 'corrugated' effect was added but for some strange reason it works.


What Works:

For all three books the strengths are the same: Beautiful writing. Superb, creative world-building. Intriguing, sympathetic protagist. Memorable secondary characters. And the best bit: unpredictability.

Which all leads up to AW salivating as she waits for the next books in each series.


What Doesn't:

This is a subjective matter, because the two aspects that might not work for some readers (judging by selective Goodreads comments) both actually worked really well for AW.

One was first person voice. AW thought it worked well it was well-suited to the subject matter and let the reader react like the protagonist when shocking things happened.

Another was the at times non-linear writing style. In the case of Jemisin, this took the form of occasional short paragraphs, usually at the start of a new chapter, wherein the protagonist appears to be talking to herself from a point in time after the story. AW will admit that it takes a bit of mental sorting out to adjust to this occasional gear changes, but she did not find them excessive or incomprehensible

In the case of Dellamonica it took the form of the story starting out in the 'head' of a secondary character, who interviews the protagonist after the bulk of the story events have taken place. This is tricky to assimilate on three levels: it is not the protagonist, it is a later point in time, and the protagonist is shown in an odd light. But once these first pages are dealt with, the rest of the story flows free and clear (Heh. AW loves a good pun).

Why did the author put them in, then, the Gentle Reader may ask? AW has to date not perfected the art of reading authorly minds. She will however speculate that the author may, at some point in time, have begun her story in the more conventional manner - that is, at the beginning, in the protagonist's 'regular' life, before anything especially unusual happened - and received feedback that this was not enough of a hook to keep readers interested in this short-attenion span age. Presto - the story starts with such blazingly spectacular events that even the most jaded reader would not be able to describe the setting as 'boring'.

Overall:

AW highly encourages her Gentle Readers to seek out these stories if they have not done so already, and then by all means let her reactions! Also, whether the Gentle Reader has any recommendations to round out her 'Modern Fantasy' list.

Next in Series:

For N.K. Jemisin: Book 3 in the 'Inheritance' Trilogy - 'Kingdom of the Gods'

For A.M. Dellamonica: Book 2 - "Blue Magic"

/m

1 comment:

nyc83 said...

Thanks for the review! I love reading your blog - always interesting insights and information. How do you choose what novels to review? Can people submit books to you?

Thanks!

Laura