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
March 2008

The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
Firebird Books, Copyright © 2004
368 pages, $7.99 Trade Size Paperback
Age Group: 15 up
(Out of five, I really liked it!)

Seventeen-year-old Imogene is out of her element when she moves to Newford with her mother. She has tried to leave her rebel nature behind and become a more peaceful and tolerant person. One reason for this is that in the Redding High School in urban Tyson, Imogene ran with a pretty tough crowd where she carried a switchblade. She took no mouth from other students because they knew that Bobby's gang would get them if they touched Imogene.

The first day of school is monumental because Imogene makes a friend. She has been a loner most of her life. During lunch or break or after school (that should cover all the bases), she spies a girl sitting alone under a tree, with her nose buried in a book. Imogene treks over there and they become close friends from that moment. Although Maxine is dressed like all the preppies at school, in her heart she has a secret desire to be her own person, if only her mother would let her. They say that opposites attract, and in this case it seems to be true. There is some mother trouble at first, but Imogene deals with that in a very creative way. Perhaps I should at least point out that both girls have had their families broken with fathers leaving. It's not so bad for Imogene because her mother sees her husband's departure as a voyage to discover himself. Whereas Maxine cannot mention her father at home. Her mother prefers to act as if he never existed. Anyway, the lost fathers give the girls something huge in common. Not to mention that they are both outcasts, one being a nerd (with a rebel inside) and the other a rebel (with a normal girl inside).

Imogene was born on a hippy commune. It must have been one of the last because she only lived there until she was ten or so. Her parents were hippies in the true sense of the word, and Imogene was allowed to grow up with a great deal of freedom to find out who she was and to learn to not trust "authority." Consequently, Imogene is very secure about herself, very opinionated and not afraid to speak her mind. Her manner of dress is hippy crossed with thrift store. Imogene has a number of tattoos, but they are strategically placed so she can cover them with the right outfit if she so desires. This is one girl who is not a Barbie doll. Maxine isn't in her heart, but her mother picks her cloths and decorates her bedroom: very Barbie-like atmosphere. Everything Maxine has matches. It doesn't take long for Imogene's way of thinking begins to rub off on Maxine. Before Imogene, Maxine's few bits of pathetic independence were kept under a loose floorboard in her room.

Hardly a day passes without trouble from Brent Carter, the quarterback for the school football team and biggest bully in the school. He and his girlfriend, Valerie, corner Imogene in the stairwell. Carter tells Imogene that he could squash her like a bug to the giggles of Valerie and her friend. Imogene lets it go by even though she is fuming with anger. These two "doll people" (Imogene's label) and their crowd will torment Imogene for most of the book. It is a credit to Imogene that in the end of the book she protects Valerie from Brent, who has already beaten her badly, and then takes Valerie to the hospital. She pushes Valerie to press charges but we never find out the conclusion to that thread of subplot.

A boy who jumped off the roof haunts the high school Imogene attends. A few students have only seen Adrian, the ghost, but rumors abound. Imogene spots him right away. When the ghost sees her, it's love at first sight. Pretty sad considering he's a ghost. Conversations soon begin and Adrian tries to convince Imogene that there are fairies that live in the school. Imogene is doubtful, so Adrian asks the fairies if they can do anything to make it possible for Imogene to see them. Big trouble begins and unfolds quickly when the fairies comply. Imogene cannot only see the fairies, bad fairies can see her. These are the dark ones who feed on the souls of men. They are immediately drawn to Imogene because her soul shines so brightly.

From this point onward the main story unfolds and at the same time brings the subplots together. Imogene's life hangs in the balance and Maxine's is also threatened. Help comes from the most unexpected people and things. Including the ghost who has fallen in love with Imogene. Halloween night is only a few days away and on that night supernatural beings have special powers. For example, Adrian will get his body back. He dreams of holding Imogene's hand and maybe even a kiss. Later he is willing to give himself to the soul eaters in Imogene's place.

This is a good story with a very fun ending. It was a comfortable book to read. Almost a lazy book that would have been in place in front of the fireplace while you munched on popcorn. However, it is not typical of Charles de Lint who has been called the master of urban fantasy. The book lacks the emotional thrust I am used to from de Lint. Still, I'm glad I read it.

Winter Wood by Steve Augarde
David Flicking Books, Copyright © 2008
504 Pages, $16.95 Hardcover
Age Group: 14 up
(Out of five, I loved it!)

There is little to say regarding this fabulous book that I have not already said regarding The Various and Celandine. Creativity, fast pace, unexpected plot twists and a surprise ending make this volume of the trilogy very exciting to read. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this, but the author illustrates the book himself. They are wonderful drawings that bring life to many of the characters and events. Regretfully, this may truly be the last we hear from the various peoples created by Mr. Augarde. I don't want the author to go crazy as some authors have, putting out dozens of books based on a first novel or trilogy. I can think of several that I've been collecting dozens from a few favorite authors. At one time the pile looked surmountable, but now the task seems overwhelming. Another book or three about the Various would be welcomed as long as the author's editors don't force Augarde to milk the trilogy for all he can.

The last and long-awaited conclusion to The Various Trilogy is available at your favorite bookstore. Augarde has created several tribes of new fairy tale creatures with this exciting trilogy. I don't make a practice of reviewing complete trilogies. Usually just the first volume is enough to suggest that the volumes to come will be as good. I only read the first part of a trilogy because there are indeed so many books and so little time. However, once in a while a reviewer finds something so wonderful that he/she must read them all. That is the case with The Various Trilogy. I simply could not resist them.

Augarde's tribes are rich in tradition and proud of their positions among the various. The Ickri are warriors and hunt daily for the communities needs. They also see themselves as brave and fearless and are thus the protectors of all. The Ickri live in the trees, as they are winged beings. The Wisps are of pale skin as they only come out at night to fish the nearby streams and rivers without fear of the Gorji (us). The Naiads are farmers and plant crops as well as pick the berries and such that grow wild in the woods and fields. The Troggles are cave dwellers. They mine ore from deep under the ground. The Tinklers are also cave dwellers, but they see themselves as craftsmen/artisans who fashion all manner of things out of 'tinsey' metal. Mr. Augarde assures me that 'tinsey' is the Tinklers word for precious metals such as silver and gold. As they are both cave dwellers, it seems that the Trogglers mine the ore used by the Tinklers. I may be wrong about this partnership.

Although each tribe contributes to feeding and safety of all, the Trogglers and Tinklers are the most educated. It was Celandine (book two) who taught them to read, write and sing songs. The cave dwellers still have the books Celandine gave to them, and you can see the ghosts of the letters and numbers she wrote on the cave walls while teaching them. Because of her teaching and the books she left them, the cave dwellers consider themselves superior to the tribes that live above the ground on an intellectual level. The Ickri, Naiad, and Wisp see themselves as "better" than those who live below the ground (Steve Augarde personal communication, Feb. 2008). Perhaps the Ickri hunters with their bows and wings think they are better than all.

The Queen Ba-betts of the Various tribes has died. Having no children, she leaves no heir to the throne. Leadership falls upon the leader of the Ickri, Maglin, being the senior most leader of all tribe's. He is not the king but the steward. The tribes are in his care as well as the Touchstone. His stewardship is a heavy burden but he has, as they say, an iron will and a strong constitution. The other tribes fear that the Ickri, with their weapons and ability to fly, will seize power and rule the tribes.

The Various want to go home. They have been in our would so long they no longer remember where they come from. However, they seek help from the Gorji girl Midge once more. They are clever enough to realize that somehow the Orbis stone is missing. Long ago the Orbis was given to Celandine for safekeeping. No one knows what she did with the stone. Midge is charged with finding the stone.

Against all odds, Midge finds her great Aunt Celandine living in a nearby nursing home. Celandine can't remember what she did with the Orbis stone. Midge must be clever and sharp if she is to awaken lost memory in Celandine.

A secondary plot involves the Ickri hunter Little-Marten and Henty, from the Tinklers. They wish to be wed but are confronted by Tadgemole, leader of the cave dwellers, and commanded that no cave dweller will marry an Ickri. Therefore, Henty and Little-Martin run away together into the Gorji land. Their adventures kept me turning pages when I sometimes got a bit tired with Midge's seemingly impossible task of finding the Orbis.

Finally the Orbis is found and returned to Tadgemole, leader of the cave peoples. Maglin has the Touchstone. The Various are convinced that together the stones will provide them with a way home, but no one believes the leaders from these two feuding tribes will be able to cooperate because each will want the other's stone. They will covet the power that comes of joining the two stones. Working together will require these two characters to humble themselves and think of their charges more than their own desires for power and glory.

There is little else I can say that has not already been said in my other two reviews. As with The Various and Celandine, Winter Wood provides a pleasing and satisfying read. There is plenty of conflict and plot twists to keep you turning pages. Winter Wood is also fitting end to the Various Trilogy. I enjoyed this third and final volume and was "in" long before page fifty. Have I mentioned in my previous reviews that Mr. Augarde also did all the artwork for the trilogy? He is an amazingly talented fellow.

I declare that someday this trilogy will be recognized as a classic for young adult readers. I give this final installment high marks and recommend it to readers young and old.


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