Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Except the Queen: Using Many Viewpoints to Break Through Plot Conventions, a Book Review

Is there a greater convention than the heartless Queen of Faery? I'm sure Meteora and Serana, sisters of the Greenwood, think so when the Queen banishes them to the mundane world for spying out one of her secrets. The sisters are forced to live in different cities and forbidden to talk to each other.

Jane Yolen, one of the premier American writers, and Midori Snyder explore how a fey might cope in an American big city in Except the Queen. The plot twists and turns and intertwines story lines until an attempt by the Unseelie to take over the Seelie Court and mundane world is defeated. 

For those not in the know, in the Celtic tradition the Seelie Court is the domain of the fair folk, who are inclined to help human folk when their selfishness doesn't get in the way. The Unseelie are those fey with malevolent attitudes towards humans, who would as soon harm a human as look at them. They are responsible for the "elf bolts", sour milk, and changelings of mythology. Granted, the Unseelie were banished back in the dawn of time, but they always seem to create mayhem humans and fey alike.

Except the Queen is a study in using multiple viewpoints to tell a story. At first, the presentation is disjointed even though interesting. Each chapter uses one of several different characters' viewpoints. The beginning narrative is hard to follow, but slowly the characters meet and interact until the Unseelie are defeated and star-crossed lovers are united.

Some of the parts I especially liked include:
     -- the use of birds as messagers when the sisters are forbidden to talk to each other;
     -- using tattoos to possess and work evil; and
     -- the use of ash baseball bats to defeat the Unseelie.

Granted the story line distills into the same plot as a thousand or more other stories, but here the execution is everything. Just savor this opening from a chapter from the viewpoint of an unseelie who's trying to break free of his slavery. The rhythm of these lines is just an example of the writing in the book.
    
"My father left blood spoor at my door in the hind end of the night. It was a child's blood, one not yet weaned. I had to follow; there was never any choice. Gods, how I hate him. And how he feeds on that hate.

     "The trail led me to the park as I knew it must. He does not like the gray buildings. They heap [sic?] him. They leech him. They age him as they age all fey who settle here in the human towns. Green runs in our veins like sap. It keeps us young."

Except the Queen is a YA that can be enjoyed by all ages ... even, I suspect, by those who don't care for fantasy. This book is definitely a keeper for its elegant prose and plot twists.
[Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder. Except the Queen. New York: Roc, New American Library, Penguin Group, 2012.

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The Half-Elven Pig Prequel is now "Troublesome Neighbors" and has an ending. I've sent it out to be critiqued. Other parts of the self-publishing process are falling into place: have the formatters, a cover artist, and editor ... not necessarily in that order. Feels good to have accomplished something. Who knew weaving several story lines together could be such a pain in the behind.
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