Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
Dr. Dan's Elixir
Potent Magic for Young Minds
    by Dan Shade
June 2007

Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Random House, Inc., Copyright © 2002
497 pages, $9.95 Trade Paperback
Age Group: 12 up

Truly a remarkable book in more ways than one. From a young author comes a book with the complexity of the Lord of the Rings and the readability of The Sword of Shannara.

I remember my first reaction to hearing that Eragon had been written by a fifteen-year-old. I reminded myself that I hadn't written anything decent since I was ten, which was titled "The Giant Earthworms of Mars." Having written this masterpiece it was easy for me to think there was no need to investigate Eragon because it could not possibly compare to my worm story. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Eragon turned out to be one of the finest fantasy novels I've ever read. I hope that it finds it's way from the young adult section to the regular science fiction section in local bookstores because it's too good to miss as I almost did.

Eragon finds a large gemstone in the mountains. He takes it home thinking it would be good for barter for food and other supplies for the coming winter. To his surprise, no one was interested in trading for the giant stone because they could not possibly know if it had any value or not. So Eragon took it home. Imagine his surprise when it hatched and a baby dragon came out. The stone was an egg and the dragon was of infinite value in a world where dragons had near become extinct. Not to mention the rise is status that Eragon experienced when he found himself a Dragonrider. The office comes naturally with the ownership of a dragon.

Dragonriders are nothing to frown upon or question. For hundreds of years they kept the peace until a war among themselves drove them to extinction. The evil Dragonrider who was the cause of that war is now king and not a good one at that. He would kill Eragon and his dragon in an instant were he to learn of their existence.

Eragon sneaks away to seek his destiny as a Dragonrider. He takes with him one named Brom who has been the village storyteller and lore master. Eragon later discovers that Brom knows so much about Dragonriders and their history because he had been a Dragonrider himself. Brom is instrumental in helping Eragon learn to ride, communicate and care for his dragon.

From this point on the book is full of elves, dwarves, magic and mayhem. There is intrigue, single handed combat and wars that one can only imagine. Much heroic

Having finished Eragon I went back and read my twenty-five year old work on the worms of Mars. It's more than obvious to me why my worm work is still in the round filing cabinet. Christopher Paolini is a master of his art, a creative writer and a true wordsmith. I look forward to reading the other volumes of this series.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
HarperTeen, Copyright © 2007
328 pages, $16.99 Hardcover
Age Group: 12 up

What a delightful story, but not one you can merely sip from. Marr's book calls to fairies everywhere to wake up and smell the roses. It's the 21st century, and human women have been liberated. No longer are the fey free to take human women to be their consorts, slaves and even their queens. Women today want options. They want to see the whole benefit package as well as the salary scale. Women are no longer satisfied to fill one role. Gone is the homemaker and welcome to the professional mom. Isn't it little wonder that when the Summer King chooses Aislinn to become his queen, he discovers a woman who wants more out of life?

Keenan, the Summer King, has been searching for a human woman to become his queen for nine centuries. It's quite complicated as there is a catch 22. Should the intended queen be validated by the Winter's Queen's staff (a process I don't pretend to understand, somehow the staff knows), she must leave her home and family forever. If the Winter Queen's staff doe not validate the intended queen, she is cursed to become a fairy and must leave her home and family forever. Either way the human girls lose.

As stated above, Keenan has been searching for a Summer Queen for nine centuries. He has chosen many times but the Winter Queen's staff has never validated a prospective queen. Each has been forced to accept the lesser station of a summer fairy or girl. There is a great deal of conflict between the Summer and Winter courts. The Winter Queen is the Summer King's, Keenan's, mother and worst enemy (another catch 22). He needs a queen to balance the power in the fey. During the time of the book, the Winter Queen's power is growing and soon she will freeze both the world of the fey and the world of the humans. A summer court is needed to balance this equation but that requires a queen. Hence, Aislinn.

Aislinn is cursed with the ability to see fairies. She can see them everywhere she goes and is in a constant danger should they discover that she can see them. Thus, Aislinn must be on guard constantly to never draw the attention of fairies to herself. The following three rules help:

Rule #1: Don't ever attract the attention of fairies.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible fairies.

Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible fairies.

Aislinn was taught to follow these guidelines by her grandmother who also has the sight, as did her mother (who was once a candidate for Summer Queen). As far as I can tell, having the sight is a major liability. It's very difficult to avoid looking especially when a fairy is wearing glamour and appearing as one of us. Even then they are so pleasing to the eye that one can hardly turn away.

It is this ability to see fairies that makes Aislinn a grand candidate for summer queen. Keenan knows there is something special about her and when he discovers she can see him in any form, he is committed to obtaining her for his queen. Furthermore, the sight seals her fate as looking upon Keenan begins to turn Aislinn into a fairy.

The ability to "see" has also been a major drag in Aislinn's life. Anywhere she goes she must act as if she sees nothing out of the ordinary. She cannot let it slip that she sees the myriad of fairies that are everywhere. This takes great control and concentration.

Aislinn is not opposed to being queen but she doesn't think it's fair to have to give up all the other things she loves such as her family, her boyfriend Seth and the opportunity to go to college. Aislinn must convince Keenan that she can be both Summer Queen and college freshman and friend instead of lover. She must convince him that she can do the "job" and that's all he really needs.

Rife with plot twists, great character development, crisp dialog and a truly modern point of view; this is one of the best reads I've had this year. I recommend it to you without reservation; confident you will find it as refreshing as I did.


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