Tuesday 28 January 2014

By Hook or By Book

It seems a long time since I've written a post about reading, as opposed to writing. So since I'm currently mid-way through book 3 of a 4 book series that I only started last Friday ... and I've managed to go to work and have a life, you may conclude that I've been up late at night and am totally smitten by a new author!

Don't you just love it when a book sucks you in completely? When you're not so much reading as living the story, when the real world dissolves and you find yourself obsessed by the characters, the story - everything, really? Or am I just weird that way?

It doesn't happen often to me. And I don't even know what it is that speaks to me from a book, but I do know that it's something to do with the way a particular author writes that resonates with me somehow. Take Matthew Reilly as an example. He writes what can only be described as lad-lit adventure: guns, chases, bigger guns and even bigger guns. As this review says, it's overwritten and utterly implausible with paper-thin characters and action scenes that can out-Bond James himself. The writing itself is not brilliant either - if you check out other reviews, they're completely polarised between love and hate. And yet there's something about his books that has you on the edge of your seat, turning pages (or flipping ereader buttons) desperate to find out how our hero survives. Because we know he will - the good guys always win. But what is it about Reilly as a writer? If I knew what it was, I'd bottle it and make a million....

So what am I obsessing about right now. Faeries. Yep. You got it. Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series, which I found in our local bargain book shop and about as far away from lad-lit action as you can get! It's labelled as the next Twilight, but that is just so wrong. Twilight made no sense at all to me - the internal logic was wrong and Bella herself was a needy drip of a girl who should have been strangled at birth. This series is so, so much more.

Any book that deals with fantasy (or science fiction, albeit with different rules) has to be consistent within its own environment. There has to be a logic - a structure - and a purpose. You can't invent spells and then conveniently find ways around them a few pages later. You can't solve every problem with magic. As I read somewhere (and if somebody tells me where, I'll edit this and credit the author), magic has to come with a price. Without sacrifice, there is no choice and without choice there is no conflict. That's where so many fantasy novels fall over - when things simply happen to the character, rather than events being driven by the choices the character makes.

In Kagawa's series, the world-building and internal logic is exquisite - everything is true to itself. Parallel worlds make sense, the laws of faerie work, nothing contradicts what has gone before and the characters are resourceful and courageous. And of course our bad-boy faery is drop-dead gorgeous as all heroes have to be. Kagawa stays true to most of the faery mythos but adds her own unique and clever spin on it that is just so awesome, I wish I'd thought of it! It's light-years ahead of Twilight's twaddle.

So I'm hooked. Again it's something in the writing that sings to me, although the genre helps. I admit I'm an easy target when it comes to faeries. I've always longed to believe in alternate realities and parallel worlds. And I so wish I could write like this.

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