Strange Wordings

Thoughts on fantasy, science fiction and genre writing in general . . . stuff that's strange.

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Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia

These Blogs are largely about the process of coercing words out of my head (at times I convince myself that I am a novelist). Thoughts about current reading and/or fantasy literature and writing in general may disgorge at random.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Online Literature

In keeping with my interest in free, online literature (and speaking of Blue Moose Press), I have been checking out a young adult book, Rowan of the Wood by Christine and Ethan Rose. Targeted for readers from, oh about eight to twelve or thirteen, Rowan is the story of ten-year old orphan Cullen Knight. Oppressed by his foster parents, and persecuted by his much larger foster brother, Cullen retreats into the world of reading fantasy to cope; until, that is, the fantasy finds him in the form of a magic wand Cullen uncovers in a redwood forest. Unknowingly, Cullen releases the wizard Rowan, trapped inside the wand for fourteen centuries, and now Cullen's fate is bound to that of the legendary Green Man.

Frankly, I had some initial difficulty with the orphan boy-hero suffering at the hands of nasty foster parents, and a bullying foster-brother, who finds himself suddenly possessed of magical powers. I mean, it's been done, and recently. Though I did come to enjoy the story of Cullen and Rowan, in some ways I never did get entirely over that initial discomfort. Still, this is a young adult book, and I suppose that readers of that year are perhaps a bit more tolerant of such recycling. (Indeed, the orphan-in-peril trope is hardly a recent invention).

That aside, Rowan could have used the services of an experienced YA editor, as the prose went to purple far too frequently, and there were a number of long, descriptive passages where a few words could have sufficed. There were far too many instances of 'telling, and not showing'. As a young adult novel, however, I could not honestly expect the narrative sophistication and complex structure that I would look for in an adult book.

To the kids the main thing is the story, I believe, and Rowan has a good one. Cullen bonds with Rowan, in some ways literally, as the strong, caring adult that he craves. That Cullen and Rowan must face, together, a truth that may be too painful to bear seems to me the lynchpin of the story. This melding of the worlds of the child and the adult strikes me as quite inventive and sets this book apart from its predecessors in the 'orphan hero' canon.

Rowan is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2008, but there is a preview copy available online at the Blue Moose Press website.

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