Kate Evangelista from Kate’s Blog put The Imaginings out to her readers for review, and I wanted to take this moment to thank her. If anyone else would be interested in reviewing The Imaginings for their blog, I would gladly provide you a coupon to pick it up at Smashwords for free. Just let me know.
What does the future hold?
Next Friday, I’ll be posting part one of another two part serial entitled The Terrible Old Mr. Roogs. I think you’ll enjoy it. As the holidays are upon us, I’ll be giving you my take on a traditional ghost story.
But without further ado…
As I mentioned last week, as a part of being awarded the Versatile Blogger Award (thanks again to Blaze McRob), I am supposed to list 7 facts about myself as well as nominate someone else. I’ll get to the former shortly, but for the latter, I’m passing this award to Jonathan D. Allen at Shaggin’ the Muse. His blog is worth checking out, and if you haven’t read the interview I did with him, click here.
7 facts about me.
1- Even though I don’t often admit it (even sometimes to myself), I am pretty superstitious. For example, I won’t walk under ladders. Of course, having worked construction for many years, that’s just good sense.
2- I’ve developed something of a man-crush on Tom Jones. I blame my wife who introduced me to his music.
3- Otherwise, I have pretty eclectic music tastes. They range from Waylon Jennings to Ministry (and just about anything in between).
4- While we’re on music, I’ll say that I’m a sucker for karaoke. I actually have a back burner writing project that deals with karaoke. It’s a travelogue entitled A Man Without a Band.
5- Much of the Hawaii segment of my first novel, The Imaginings, is based on fact. I have indeed worked for a guy who was an arms dealer. In addition to working on his house, I was also “night security” for him. He gave me a lead pipe to protect myself “because it would look more like self defense than a gun.”
6- Speaking of Hawaii, I’ve skydived (skydove?) twice. I want to do it one more time, preferably in Hawaii.
7- While I love horror movies, I hate haunted houses. Maybe the fact that some of them keep you in there for as long as 45 minutes has to do with it. Being tense for 45 minutes straight isn’t my idea of a good time. Plus, it’s like being part of a horror movie. At least in a theatre, you are safe in your seat.
So there are my seven facts. And now…
Review/Discussion of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England‘s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England–until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.
Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.
Let me start by saying that I don’t normally read in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but this one came highly recommended to me by a friend, so I gave it a chance. It almost didn’t get finished. At over 850 pages of smaller than usual print (and given my limited reading time), I was a little leery of committing that much time.
I was also nervous when I saw the style compared with Jane Austen. I’ve never been a huge fan of that style of writing. The characters often seem more like caricatures, either flat or over exaggerated. And this was the sense I got at the beginning of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but I decided I would give it 100 pages before I gave up on it.
Previous to the 100 pages, while I didn’t find myself caring that much about the characters, there were just enough interesting moments to keep me going (such as Norrell essentially banning all other magicians from ever doing magic again… or more specifically how he pulled that feat off).
However, I was hooked at probably page 96. Just in time. There was an act of just enough darkness to string me along past page 100, and the more I read, the more I enjoyed the story. There were still many moments where the character interactions bounced back to the superficial, but soon they started to fill out and seem like real people.
I also enjoyed the historical aspect, especially the idea that magic played a part in the Napoleonic Wars (and I really enjoyed the individual acts of magic used) and the idea that this was a time when magic was accepted as reality (I believe this would fall under “speculative fiction”?).
I even liked most of the numerous footnotes (although some tended to go on a little long. I’ve always been a fan of footnotes, often inserting them into my nonfiction). They added an element of “fantastic truth” to this world of men interacting with magic and the fairy realm (the latter of which was different than anything I’ve seen, although again, this isn’t my normal genre). The mythology surrounding the mysterious Raven King, a child taken by fairies who went on to become a king of both England and Faerie, was well-crafted.
I only had two gripes (besides the writing style/characterization in the beginning), which aren’t that major. The first one was that it seemed like Clarke wasn’t sure what type of story she wanted it to be once it really got going. There were several points where the story took very dark turns, and I would get excited and think it was a changing point, but then she would go back to the farcical. Some scenes were downright graphic (some I would even go so far as to describe as disturbing), and while I enjoyed them, they didn’t seem to fit with the flavor of the rest of the book. I found myself wanting more of that type of story . I understand that ultimately this is her story and she can write it however she wants, but there was an accompanying unsettling feeling brought about by the shifts in tone.
SPOILER ALERT FOR MY SECOND GRIPE
My other gripe was the fact that the Raven King never plays a significant part in the action of the story (beside in the development of the story). As I mentioned, the author goes to great lengths to create a mythology around this character and at least this reader was led to believe that he was going to make an appearance in some major way in the story. However, he only shows up for perhaps two pages towards the end (if I’m guessing correctly. The aforementioned figure is never named). Granted, what he does in those two pages is indeed important (and I know this isn’t his story), but it seems like all of the build-up should’ve had more pay-off.
Well, I hope I’ve given you enough information to decide if you want to read it or not. If you like historical fiction, matched with magic and fantasy, you’ll love it. Personally, even though I’m not normally a fan or any of that, I’m still happy to say that I’m glad I read it.
What do I want from you?
– Have you read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? What were your thoughts?
– What’s a book that you read (and enjoyed) in a genre that you rarely read?
– Any comments on my 7 facts?
– Finally, don’t forget to check back next Friday for part one of The Terrible Old Mr. Roogs.
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