Finis. tells the tale of Elsa, an unremarkable person in a world where, in large part, people develop a preternatural "animal affinity." Because of he
Finis. tells the tale of Elsa, an unremarkable person in a world where, in large part, people develop a preternatural "animal affinity." Because of her lack of animalistic tendencies, she has a raging boss who is increasingly cruel to her, family members who are cold to her at best, and to make matters worse, roaming gangs are targeting those who are older and yet still have not produced an affinity. Elsa worries that rather than being a late bloomer, she will never gain an animal affinity at all and remain ostracized or even menaced for the rest of her life. Will some odd physical occurrences turn into a full-blown affinity, or is Elsa doomed to be an outcast?
Finis. was my first free-standing novella - not provided as part of a collection of short stories. Prior to this, novellas seemed to me to be either short stories that were in dire need of editing, or novels that needed to be fleshed out, and so I tended to avoid them. After Finis however, that opinion has changed. Jamail's work is lovely in that it is the perfect amount of text. There is nothing extraneous here; every sentence is one that furthers the story. And yet despite the quick read I wasn't left feeling as though I had missed something. The story is full - the reader has a strong sense of Elsa's life. We see her struggle through varying waves of animosity and pity from acquaintances and friends, feel her bounce from ennui to despair to grim determination, and hear her inner strength wax and wane. Honestly, this is some of the most intimate knowledge of a main character that I have ever read.
Though the story was complete in and of itself, I do wish that Jamail would revisit the world she's created for a longer-length novel. Such a novel would not need to be about Elsa (as I said, this story is fully realized and does not necessarily need to be revisited), but there are a lot of interesting aspects to work with here. The world of animal affinities - how did it begin? Are these mutations? How did the youths running in the gangs end up with an almost Nazi-like attitude towards individuals who did not develop an affinity? Might there be communities of non-animalistic individuals living out their days in hiding, and what would those communities look like? What are the strongest affinities, and do they inevitably end up in positions of power? I had a plethora of ideas about this world, which just goes to show the work Jamail put into developing a complete concept in a short amount of pages.
On the whole, I would recommend Finis. to any reader who enjoys magical realism, fantasy, short stories, or well-drawn portraits of inner turmoil with a slight nod to wit every now and then. Jamail is a poet, apparently, and poetry is not generally my cup of tea (with a few noted exceptions). However, if she writes another novella or novel, I will be sure to make space for it on my to-read shelf.
A beautiful book, at first - a fantasy that was cozy in all the right ways, and extrememly well-written. All of that came to a grinding halt about 3/4A beautiful book, at first - a fantasy that was cozy in all the right ways, and extrememly well-written. All of that came to a grinding halt about 3/4 of the way into the book. An abrupt shift, and suddenly everything the story had been working towards was abandoned. Pages from the end, I simply didn't care enough to finish. This is a real shame...the majority of the book was astoundingly good....more
The White Forest plunges the reader into the aftermath of the disappearance of one Nathan Ashe, a high society youth, and the two women who love him -The White Forest plunges the reader into the aftermath of the disappearance of one Nathan Ashe, a high society youth, and the two women who love him - Maddy, a debutante with a family in disgrace, and Jane Silverlake, a main character harboring the supernatural ability to sense the souls of objects. Nathan is fascinated by Jane's abilities, and, convinced she is the key to some cosmic mystery, presses her to include him in ever greater experiments to see where her power leads. But Jane has no idea of the source of her abilities, nor what they mean. Nathan turns to a dangerous cult led by an even more dangerous leader for answers, and disappears. Maddy and Jane search for Nathan, wading into ever more perilous waters and learning more about the truth concerning Jane's powers. My responses to The White Forest felt oddly like I was reading two separate books. For the first half, I was not enthused in the slightest. It was not so much that The White Forest was not a good plot, but more that I could not seem to immerse myself in the writing. The first half of the novel depended heavily on flashbacks introduced merely with Jane mentally moving from aspect of the present that would remind her of some key events that occurred prior to the novel's beginning. The constant interruption was not conducive to sinking into the world McComber presented. The disjointed feeling grew, and I soon found that every little thing could derail the flow of the book - I felt myself becoming distracted quite often. At one point, the author used the phrase "cemetery gates," and I couldn't stop myself from singing the lyrics of the song by Pantera. I simply was not engaged by the story, which is strange because the concept of the novel is so different and enticing. I also found myself having an extremely hard time relating to any of the three main characters. Jane was cold, Maddy seemed to wear a constant mask, and Nathan...well, I simply thought he was a twit. A slightly tool-like twit.
And then The White Forest hit the halfway point, and it was as though another book had sprung up in its place. Perhaps it was reconciling myself with the fact that Jane was not a very sympathetic main character, perhaps it had to do with the cracks in Maddy's exterior falling apart, or perhaps it was an upswing in the pacing an action, but I found myself truly looking forward to the prospect of reading. Suddenly, Jane's secret moved from something to experiment with to something to use. The relationships between Maddy, Nathan, and Jane became more complex and nuanced. Sympathizing with Jane was less of a herculean task. I cared about the characters, and what became of them. The plot was suddenly quite stimulating, and I devoured the last quarter of the book in a single setting.
The vast difference in my reaction to the first and second half of the book make a review of this novel exceedingly difficult. If you enjoy a very slow build with characters who are not relatable before a sudden burst of action, this is the perfect book for you. If sticking it out for nearly two-hundred pages before being able to sink lovingly into the pages of a novel is just a bit too long of a wait, you may want to give this one a pass. For myself, I will not write off McOmber in the future. I was so completely entranced by the second half of The White Forest it has to bode well for future books he writes.
This is, quite simply, a lovely, lovely book. It is many-layered, well-written, and absolutely engrossing. I'll be watching out for other books by KatThis is, quite simply, a lovely, lovely book. It is many-layered, well-written, and absolutely engrossing. I'll be watching out for other books by Kate Forsyth, for sure!...more
Before I even went to the store to pick up Babayaga I knew I had to read it. There is just something about a book that involves old-world Russian witcBefore I even went to the store to pick up Babayaga I knew I had to read it. There is just something about a book that involves old-world Russian witches and the CIA set against the backdrop of post WWII 1950s France that screams, "This is a book that will be interesting - in a good way!" And it really, really was.
There is a lot going on here - ancient witches and brand new witches (complete with odd and intricate rituals), the history of Europe as seen through the eyes of very long-lived individuals, policemen (good and bad), striking agency characters, and one guy who is just trying to do the right thing and continue to live in Paris. Barlow has a way of presenting all of this in a way that wasn't just plausible, but utterly believable as well.
Toby Barlow on my list now. The good one. The list of authors I'll be certain to check back in with for a good read. ...more
In Spirits That Walk in Shadow, Jaimie is a young woman from a magical family off to college for the first time. There she meets Kim, a regular humanIn Spirits That Walk in Shadow, Jaimie is a young woman from a magical family off to college for the first time. There she meets Kim, a regular human being (aside from her ability to feel things in colors) who has unknowingly been under a magical influence for quite some time. Jaimie and her relatives resolve to help Kim fight her tormentor, all while getting the first week of college underway.
The concept was awesome, but in the end I simply couldn't attach to the characters. The story is related alternately between Jaimie and Kim, which is generally a good plot device. In this case, however, the two girls had such similar inner monologues that at times I forgot which narrator I was reading. Side characters also had similar voices - even the adults - and this didn't help garner any real attachment to the characters either.
In the end, I wish the novel had been longer. Sometimes short books allow for full character development (I've even read novellas that had such instant character development length wasn't an issue), but in this case I felt more time spent differentiating the characters and developing their time together would have made for a more complete experience....more
I've read another retelling of Dracula from Mina's perspective Mina, by Marie Kiraly, and both efforts are well-written. In Essex's tale, Mina becomesI've read another retelling of Dracula from Mina's perspective Mina, by Marie Kiraly, and both efforts are well-written. In Essex's tale, Mina becomes a character that is far, far more than the passive victim in Stoker's original story. I really rooted for her success.
Aside from an old whaler that was a bit of a bit character however, I did not root for a single male character in the book. As far as I could tell, all - supernatural or not - were subject to varying levels of douchiness. But Mina made up for this with her sheer believability and transformation. Kate Reed was also a valuable asset in the book
While the first 3/4 of the book had me absolutely hooked, I didn't like the way the plot rounded out. In the end, that is more about personal preference than any sort of real ding on Essex as a writer, so given time, I'd probably try another one of her novels....more