Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
Princess Alethea's Magical Elixir
  Book Reviews by Alethea Kontis
May 2012

Title: The Vicious Deep
Author: Zoraida Córdova
EAN: 9781402265105

Zoraida Córdova is one of those impossible beautiful young women, the kind you keep glancing at to make sure she's really still there, and not just a figment of your imagination. When she read from her debut novel The Vicious Deep at Lady Jane's Salon this month, I expected from the title that the content would be dark and angry and thick. But the scene she began to read was in the startlingly light and honest voice of a handsome teenage lifeguard on Coney Island . . .who has just discovered that he's a merman.

And Tristan Hart isn't just any old merman - he's the grandson of the Sea King, and heir to the throne. Tristan's gorgeous, red-haired mother, Maia, was the Sea King's eldest daughter who fell in love with a human and traded in her fins for a life on land. It's hard to force Disney's "The Little Mermaid" out of your mind when reading - it's almost a continuing tale, as if Ariel and Eric had a son, and this is his story.

So, yes, the first part of Vicious Deep deals with handsome, popular Tristan washing up on shore after rescuing a beach full of people from a dangerous tidal wave, and then living his life as a lifeguard on Coney Island, as the star of his high school swim team, and as a kid palling around with his best friends: Layla, Maddy, Jerry, Angelo, Bertie, and Ryan. He's still exhausted from his near-drowning and shortly after the Welcome Home Party has to deal with turning into a merman on top of everything else. "Why can't my mom be half powerful genie, or like a werewolf, anything that doesn't look like a ten-year-old girl bedazzled the bottom half of her Ken doll."

The adventure is only beginning, of course, as Tristan learns about his mother's true origins, about the existence of merfolk, and is suddenly joined by two of them who then accompany him to school - both to guard him and help him through the transition. Tristan really wants to turn to Layla and can't . . . but when he and his mer-companions take a ship to the island of the Children of Poseidon, Dwellers of the Vicious Deep, Layla finds a way to sneak on board. But humans are not typically allowed to walk among the fey . . . and Tristan is faced with a quest to win his throne . . . and there is a sea witch . . .

Vicious Deep is a light and fun read that would be right at home on your blanket at the beach, literally. Tristan's voice is fresh and realistic - though Córdova tackles the novel in first person present tense a-la Collins's Hunger Games, it's less like a literary device and more like listening to a friend tell you his story. The dialogue tags "I go" and "he goes" are used several times, but they weave naturally into the story instead of pulling you out. This is the way teenagers speak . . . I wonder why we don't see it more often?

I do love fantasy, but I honestly never thought I'd love a book about merfolk. If you feel the same way, I urge you to give Vicious Deep a shot. I look forward to the continuing saga of Tristan's adventures (The Savage Blue, Jan 2013).

Title: Wuftoom
Author: Mary G. Thompson
EAN: 9780547637242

Mary G. Thompson and I are book twins: our debut titles released on the exact same day (May 8, 2012) from the exact same publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). We were also scheduled to appear on the same panel at Books of Wonder the weekend before our release date (along with David Macinnis Gill, Paolo Bacigalupi, Galaxy Craze, Kat Klimo, and Elizabeth Norris) to chat about young adult fantasy and science fiction. I thought it only fitting that I acquire her book from our publisher (which is a magical power book twinsies can perform before release dates) and read it.

I had no idea what I was getting into. But then, I had no idea what a Wuftoom was. Where Vicious Deep was deceptively delightful, Wuftoom brought the dark, in spades.

The book begins with twelve-year-old Evan, who is sick. He climbed a fence he wasn't supposed to one day when escaping from bullies, and he slipped and fell in a pool of strange pink goo. He's been sick ever since. But Evan is not sick . . . he's transforming into a wormlike creature called a Wuftoom. He's been visited by one of them who whispers to him in the dark, but he is not comfortable telling his mother about it until things go too far and there is no turning back.

The Wuftoom are at war with the Vitflys, and each seeks to destroy the other completely. A Vitfly visits Evan in his sickroom as well, teaching him how to stretch his mind beyond his body and possess the bodies of others. Desperate to be outside his now-strange body that has trapped him in a dark room, Evan inhabits the body of both a popular boy in school and an outcast. He takes over a man in line at the grocery store to check in on his despairing mother. And he does things . . . horrible things that he may one day regret, in the desperate attempt to save himself from his fate.

Mary G. Thompson has brilliantly created a beautiful world made out of darkness and despair. How many young children on the verge of the Very Scary Teenage Years think that they are different, that they might have such a strange monster inside them, urging them to do things they would never do? Wuftoom deals with love, loyalty, transformation, and betrayal in a rich fantasy setting that Clive Barker fans will eat up with a spoon.

In the meantime, I'm still dealing with the delicious creep factor this book has left me with. When I go to bed at night and close my eyes, I still hear, "We are Wuftoom! We are strongest in the dark places. We are the smartest and the longest lived. Long after the rest have been destroyed and the trees have withered into ashes, we will still be here."

Shiver.

Read more by Alethea Kontis


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