Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
Princess Alethea's Magical Elixir
  Book Reviews by Alethea Kontis
January 2010

Title: The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
EAN: 9780553807219

I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen over a crotchety old woman and an apple tree. The woman was named Evanelle, and if she knocked on your door to hand you a thimble at 2 a.m. it was because you needed it . . . or would need it in the near future. The apple tree's fruit showed the eater the best moment of his or her life, regardless of whether or not that moment had already come to pass. The book was called Garden Spells, and I was a fan for life.

The next year heralded The Sugar Queen, which was just as quirky with its magical realism and just as much fun. And then came the wait. Well over a year later, fans of Sarah Addison Allen once again have reason to be overjoyed at the release of The Girl Who Chased the Moon.

The two main characters in this novel are Julia Winterson, a chef known for the exotic cakes she serves at the barbecue restaurant she inherited from her father. Julia wears a pink streak in her hair as a reminder of the hairstyle she sported back in her wild and crazy high school days, and bakes cakes because of a boy . . . a boy who has grown into a man with even more feelings for her now than he had then. Our second heroine is Emily Benedict, a teenager whose outcast mother passed away and has come back to Mullaby, North Carolina, to live with her grandfather, a gentle giant of over eight feet tall. Emily must find a way to fit in this odd town, survive in the mess left in the wake of her mother's leaving, and dig through the secrets of Mullaby to get to the truth.

Therein lies the one problem I had with this novel -- it's a device writers use called "withheld information." It's usual in a storyline for a person to have a secret-to-be-revealed-later. Even two. It's a little more unusual for there to be three or more secrets running around that you're not allowed to know anything about for a good chunk of the book. What is the Coffey family hiding? What exactly did Emily's mother do that made everyone hate her? What's Julia's big secret? What happened between Julia and Sawyer that they can't seem to resolve? And what the heck are the Mullaby Lights? The reader can definitely empathize with Emily's frustration as what seems like far too much time goes by before each of these questions is slowly answered.

And yet, the magic of Sarah Addison Allen's talent remains steadfast. The wallpaper in Emily's bedroom changes its own pattern. Sawyer's sweet tooth gives him the ability to not only smell but also see baking sugar in the air and follow it back to its origin. The characters are beautifully realized and their interactions are genuine -- I only wish we had been able to spend more time with them in a few scenes that didn't solely have to do with secrets, their discovery, or the lack thereof.

Overall I enjoyed The Girl Who Chased the Moon as immensely as I knew I would . . . but my heart still belongs to Garden Spells. If you haven't tried Sarah Addison Allen's brand of enchantment for yourself, I highly recommend starting with that one. And then be sure to drop me a line and tell me how you like them apples.

Title: Absolute Death
Author: Neil Gaiman
EAN: 9781401224639

I'm overstepping my bounds a bit on this one and toeing into my friend and fellow sideshow freak Spencer Ellsworth's demesne, but when a Miracle Pictograph is oversized, slipcased, bound with fancy artwork, and put on sale for just shy of a Ben Franklin to hardcore collectors, it's slightly more than just your average graphic novel.

It doesn't take much to make a Neil Gaiman fan these days, now that he's a Newbury winner, a consummate Twitterer, and all-around Renaissance man. Oh, he still wore the black-leather-jacket-and-jeans ensemble, but those of us misfits on the fringes of society back in the late-80s/early 90s knew him only as "that guy who writes the Sandman comics" or "the guy Tori Amos keeps mentioning in all her songs."

I was one of the latter, with my angsty girl music and a little sister who dyed her hair pink. My boyfriend bought the Sandman graphic novels and I enjoyed them . . . but not as much as I did the two slender volumes dedicated solely to Dream's eldest sister Death.

Death is who every inner-goth girl wanted to be, and who every misfit guy wanted to date. She was smart and confident and pretty and quirky and had a vocabulary as huge as she was tiny. She had seen and known more in her existence than even her other immortal siblings could comprehend, and that air of mystery made her just that much more magnificent.

Absolute Death is a must-have for all of us crazy comic book geeks who made Death our muse. It includes a brief introduction from the Picasso-esque morbid darling Amanda Palmer herself, "The Time of Your Life" and "The High Cost of Living," as well as five shorter pieces from Sandman issues and Vertigo anthologies. The "Death Miscellany" appendix contains an art gallery, a PSA, various and sundry collectible ephemera, sketches, and the pencils and script for Sandman issue eight. In farewell, Neil bids us adieu with the afterward from "The Time of Your Life," as well as a brief paragraph about the Absolute Death compendium itself.

It's gorgeous, it's chock full of goodness, and it's black. If you've ever owned an ankh and the t-shirt on page 320 (I have two), it's worth the money to have this beauty on your shelf. If I have any complaint at all -- and how can one complain about something so positively wonderful? -- it's that the original introductions from "The Time of Your Life" and "The High Cost of Living" were not included. I probably wouldn't have even noticed had I not been such a huge Tori Amos fan. It only seems natural for Tori to always be hanging out with the Dream King somewhere.

Thanks, Spencer, for letting me twirl in your playground a bit. I'll leave the rest of our magical Miracle Pictographs for you and won't even mention how I've got the ending of DC's Blackest Night storyline aaaaaall figured out. Promise.

Read more by Alethea Kontis


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