Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
Princess Alethea's Magical Elixir
  Book Reviews by Alethea Kontis
September 2009

Title: Rogue Angel: Destiny (audiobook)
Author: Alex Archer
Publisher: GraphicAudio
EAN: 9781599502052

The idea of Harlequin's Rogue Angel series always appealed to me. I loved the cover art immediately; what's not to love about an athletic brunette with a sword? I liked the synopsis -- based on back cover copy it sounded like a fun blend of Indiana Jones and Alias. The concept was apparently right up my alley, as I had several friends present me with Annja Creed books, posters, and graphic novels because they saw it and thought of me. I kept the books, even recommended them to other people, but reading them always ended up coming second to something else.

I'm no stranger to this circumstance. I'm sure it's happened to you too, if you're even a fraction as much of a book hoarder as I am. It either takes a startling discovery during Spring Cleaning (Marjorie Hillis), an impending trip to the beach with nothing else on hand (Sherrilyn Kenyon), or a friend walking into my office and shaking it in my face until I give in (George R. R. Martin). I have some decidedly determined friends . . . and thanks to one of them, you now have this lovely book review.

The tagline for GraphicAudio is "A movie for your mind." It would sound silly if it wasn't so incredibly true. Listening to Rogue Angel was like putting in a DVD and then walking into the other room. The voice actors act. When Annja climbs a wall in a cave you hear the exertion in her voice, the echo off the stalactites, the waterfall in the distance, and the stones giving way beneath her feet. When the characters are in a car, you can hear the engine running. When someone gets stabbed, you flinch and consider calling 911.

I did my time on student films in college -- I appreciate the thought and effort it takes to act all that out, foley in all the effects, layer on the soundtrack, and make it all appear seamless. I actually went back and listened to that cave scene a couple of times, stunned by the complexity. Would it not have just been easier to fly the actors to Mammoth Cave and film the scene live?

Impressive technical performances aside, in hindsight I'm really glad I didn't read the books. My patience for the purple prose permeating romance and pulp novels peters as I progress, much to my chagrin. But since there's no "putting down" an audiobook (or throwing it across the room), it's easy to laugh at the disgustingly lurid descriptions and short-cut writing and just have fun.

Annja Creed is a beautiful genius archaeologist with a voice like a phone sex operator. She travels all over the world and alternately funds her trips with grants and her work on the TV show "Chasing History's Monsters." She's proficient in as many types of martial arts as she is languages -- both living and dead. She tosses up her hypotheses on Internet messageboards for quacks to chime in on, and she never goes to a bookstore without a stun baton. Oh yeah, and Annja is the reincarnation of Joan of Arc, can summon a magic sword out of thin air using the power of her mind, and has an 800-year-old mentor.

I swear, the more forfetched, the more the series grows on you. The multi-talented Nannette Savard narrates (and directs) the series in the same voice with which one might report death tolls on the six o-clock news. Juxtaposed with the dynamic background, I couldn't imagine it presented any other way. The accents are real (not "British-foreign" like so many Hollywood films), the cast is diverse, and it sounds like it was as much fun to make as it is to listen to.

If you've got a road trip coming up. Start with Rogue Angel: Destiny, the first in the series. (If it's a family road trip, I'd rate this series PG-8, for some extreme violence and scary situations.) I warn you, though, it's like buying only one season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Just know you're going to be hooked.

Title: Bad Moon Rising
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
EAN: 9780312369491

Part of me thought it might be a little strange for me to review a Sherrilyn Kenyon book. Another part of me thought it would be cool because it would be strange. The latter part won.

Bad Moon Rising is the eighteenth in Sherrilyn Kenyon's bestselling Dark-Hunter series, depending on how you're counting. I was asked to write the Dark-Hunter Companion somewhere around book twelve. After all these years and all this time, my favorite is still book six, Night Play. I'd loved how Night Embrace and Kiss of the Night (#3 & #5) complimented themselves as parallel novels (and showcased Sherri's talents), but there was just something about Vane that made him stand out. Perhaps it was because Night Play was the first novel in the series with a Were-Hunter for a hero.

I originally fell in love with Sherri's work after reading a short story called "Dragonswan" and Night Pleasures (#2), which I picked up before that aforementioned trip to the beach. The world-building involved in Sherri's shapeshifter mythos has always appealed to me. Their origins and motivations were something new, and yet took from stories that were centuries old. Love had cursed them into what they were, as a species, and love was very much a part of who they, as individuals, became. Love was the crux of the plot, and love glued the story together.

Fang Kattalakis, the hero of Bad Moon Rising, is Vane's brother. Fans of the series have followed this wolf-Were's plight in the background of several novels for years. True to her word, Sherri finally delivered a book about Fang the only way she could: she went back to the beginning.

Bad Moon Rising starts off as a parallel novel to Night Play. As the story progresses the reader moves through the entire series of Dark-Hunter books, from a different point of view . . . a point of view of a character who definitively answers yes, there was more going on in the background than you thought. As love is the glue for the Were-Hunter mythos, so Bad Moon Rising is a glue for the Dark-Hunter series. In theory it could be read alone if you'd never picked up another Dark-Hunter novel before, but there are so many layers of chewy goodness inside if you have read the books -- why would you willingly miss out on all the inside jokes?

Bad Moon Rising revisits the world of the Were-Hunters then and now, solves some issues that never fully came to light, and discovers a whole new demon realm I wish I had a videogame of on my computer. Can you say "Hellchasers," boys and girls? That's right! Forget vampires and werewolves and zombies; my new love is a snarky demon hunter with huge black wings.

Therin lies Sherrilyn Kenyon's true talent: delivering what the reader wants while introducing something new and shiny and whetting the appetite even more. It's no secret that Sherri adores this seemingly infinite universe, and that blissful obsession is contagious.

Title: Ophelia Joins the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook
Author: Sarah Schmelling
Publisher: Plume
EAN: 9780452295735

I'm cheating a little by writing this review when I haven't technically finished it yet, but that's okay, because this isn't the type of tome one necessarily hunkers down with and reads from cover to cover.

The book it just what the title says: if literary characters were signed up to Facebook, what kind of trouble would they get themselves into? The title itself is taken from the Hamlet Newsfeed, shortly after "Polonius thinks this curtain looks like a good thing to hide behind." and "Polonius is no longer online." Odysseus posts pictures from his Greek Isles Cruise 1170BC!, and you have a request to join the event The Canterbury Tales.

The book, and its author, are brilliant. Flip to any page and laugh yourself silly. According to the acknowledgments, Schmelling first published her Hamlet piece on McSweeny's Internet Tendencies, and Lily J. Kosner at Dutton encouraged her to expand the idea. If you're at all into social networking and have read a few classics, you'll get the joke. The more you've read, the more you'll laugh. It's the present for every English Major with an iPhone on your holiday shopping list. Only . . . be sure to pick up one for yourself too. You deserve it.

Yes, because you're going to look anyway, there is a Facebook Group called "Maidens Who Don't Float." And yes, I've joined it. Because why not? If you're not having fun, you're not living.

Alethea Kontis Eat, drink, be merry, and buy this book.
Oedipus removed "geneaology" from his Interests.
Ishmael says call me.

Read more by Alethea Kontis


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