Welcome to Tales of Fascinating

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My name is Jim Doran and I’m a writer of genre fiction. My blog is composed of short stories, reflections on writing, and shameless plugs for my novels. I’ve written one novel and plan to publish another in 2019. Please visit the pages on my blog. I update the website often.

Purchase my novel on Amazon: Kingdom Come

Read more about Kingdom Come here: What type of novel is Kingdom Come?.

Read about my upcoming novel here: On Earth As It Is.

Learn more about Kingdom, read more stories, and enjoy art inspired by the world here: Kingdom Come.

Or scroll down to enjoy the latest blog posts.

Villains

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As it happens so often, I happen to read two novels that are similar in some way. In the last month, I’ve read “Renegades” by Marissa Meyer and V. E. Schwab’s “Vicious,” two of my favorite authors. Both are urban fantasy novels about superheroes, both have a main character (or two) who is a villain, and both explore moral ambiguity, but the similarities end there.

This isn’t a blog reviewing the books other than I recommend both novels. The reader is in the hands of two talented artists. That said, I’d like to explore our fascination with morally ambiguous lead characters or outright immoral protagonists. Are we naturally attracted to darkness? Keeping in the superhero genre, most people claim Batman’s villains are more interesting than its hero unless, like in “The Dark Knight Returns,” Batman himself becomes morally ambiguous.

I’m not attracted to evil characters or narratives describing the fall from grace of a character. Why? Because it’s too easy. The path to villainy is rarely difficult and the short-sighted decisions of the fallen character too shallow. Sometimes the author peppers a few redeeming characteristics, but usually their actions are so reprehensible that it overshadows any sympathy I have. I would rather read about a character who struggles with a moral choice. There’s something satisfying to me about a character who sacrifices something in order to make a life-affirming choice.

Nova Artino is the villain of Meyer’s Renegades. After a quick, horrific backstory of why she hates superheroes, we find her early in the book about to assassinate a superman-like figure in the Renegade world. I don’t want to give away the plot but I liked Nova. Meyer keeps her honest but on the other edge of the law. Filled with self-doubt and starting to understand the heroes point-of-view, Nova struggles to remain faithful to her nefarious mission. Naturally, it helps the “good side” isn’t as good as advertised. While the end of Renegades sets up the next novel in the series, Archenemies, Meyer pulled off the balance of good and evil in Nova…but just barely. If she had described a character with slightly less of a conscience, I would’ve lost interest in Nova early in the novel.

And then there’s Vicious. A study of two villains who start as best friends but end up hunting each other, Vicious weaves a magic spell because of V. E. Schwab’s superb writing. This is a book that has no right to be as good as it is. It’s rare when I dislike all characters in a novel yet feel compelled to keep reading, but that is exactly how I felt reading this novel. Nasty and gritty, here we have two main characters who aren’t redeemable in any way. I wasn’t thrilled that Schwab relied on religion to make one truly reprehensible—as this is a modern stereotype—but the motivation of the two characters are actually similar. In some ways, this is one story where the plot is more fascinating to me than the characters. I’m more interested in what will happen than in how the characters will evolve, or perhaps…devolve…might be a better term.

I won’t compare the books as they are too different to contrast against one another. What is interesting to me is how both drew me in and made me want to read to the end. Sure, in Renegades, there are heroes as well, but I found the hero passages not as interesting as the villain chapters. Vicious has no heroes that I could find. As a reader, I likes my heroes to lean toward the “light.” I shouldn’t have enjoyed these books as much as I did, so why did I keep reading?

I think the descent of evil characters and either rooting for a change (Renegades) or rooting against them (Vicious) drew me in. I can’t help but be satisfied watching the villains stumble themselves, or find inside a glimmer of light inside, all the while knowing they won’t convert. It’s the literary equivalent to a negative proof in geometry. If corruption fails, then there’s something to be said for purity. Often I’ve heard people read about evil characters because they see some of themselves in them. I don’t subscribe to that argument. Sorry, I can’t imagine myself murdering people, and when I do read something evil that reminds me of myself, I’m not entertained. For me, focusing on my faults is my non-fiction reading, not my fiction. It’s just not a draw for me. It’s more about watching villains rise and ultimately fail. When the author decides to let the “bad guy” triumph, it’s usually more of a cautionary tale, not something to be admired. At least, I hope not.

Heroes and heroines, bad guys, what do you seek when you read a book? Every good protagonist requires a decent antagonist. What are you looking for as you read? For me, I’ll always root for the hero, and if the book doesn’t allow me to do that, I will root against those dastardly villains!

Review of Blue Rabbit

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Blue Rabbit, a YA portal fantasy by Jimena I. Novaro, chronicles the adventures of five teenagers who cross over into an alien world from Knoxville, TN. Their crossing comes with consequences, and the five suddenly find themselves struggling to save both worlds while keeping themselves alive.

I have a preference to certain plots: disparate people come together to take on a mission, a portal to another world, an element of realistic danger, and rules that don’t follow Earth’s laws but make sense. Blue Rabbit checks all of these boxes. I really enjoyed that it starts in the middle of the story, enhancing the mystery. The book begins with the five teenagers already in trouble because of their discovery of this new world. It provides little backstory into how they found the portal, what they first experienced there, and what they did when they went home. The stakes start high and grow through the novel.

Front Cover

The diverse characters are unique from the beginning. You find each one’s voice fairly quickly and a foray to the other world early in the book focuses the reader on three of the five characters. The eldritch world on the other side of the portal is an extreme setting. The sky is difficult to see, seasons are inexistent, creatures indiscernible, and Earth weapons don’t work as advertised. The creatures that live in this world are both threatening and relatable. It is one creepy place.

The three teenagers who travel to the other world kidnap a creature to ransom for one of their own. Things go downhill from there but not for the reason you think. The creature is an endearing character, certainly a sixth to the group of five friends, and one of the friends is left behind to learn what is really going on between the worlds. As she finds out, both worlds are in danger of destruction.

Events escalate from this point. The novel moves along at a brisk pace with short interludes detailing character moments from the teenagers’ past lives. While this is a YA novel, I found it to be near the upper end of YA, much closer to a New Adult novel. The narrative introduces adult themes I’m not accustomed to reading in YA novels. The characters move along their different paths to a conclusion that is both satisfying but also a little abrupt. While I would’ve preferred the climax to draw out a little longer, the character arcs are resolved satisfactorily.

Blue Rabbit includes some really nice depictions of the landscape. “All the trees around them looked to be made of some viscous fluid that had come to a boil and frozen at the exact point where all the bubbles formed.” And “…she could hear the muffled tinkling of the leaves and branches, more like wind chimes than living plants.” And I won’t quote the passages about the bizarre stream one of the characters encounters but it’s wonderful. From little details like using plastic silverware to acting out Lord of the Rings to how different two characters react to their sudden encounter with death is a treat.

A fine novel, far better than most of the YA novels I see on bookshelves today, pick up Blue Rabbit if you like It by Stephen King or The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire. Personally, I liked this better than the Wayward Children series and look forward to reading more by Ms. Novaro in the future.

Review of Zeph1rum

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After reading the first two books in this trilogy, I was itching to dig into the “conclusion.” I put conclusion in quotes because the author plans many more in the series, but I had hoped this installment would bring the narrative in the first two books to a proper conclusion. I’m happy to report that the novel provides a satisfactory ending to Ameena Jardine’s (AJ) investigation into serial killer Copernicus.

The last novel, Abbac1, left our favorite detective in a perilous situation, but without revealing too much, she survives that encounter. The recovery is a long and slow process, and AJ’s PTSD has resurfaced with a vengeance. Nevertheless, AJ continues her investigation into the drug cartel The Fasciata as well as the serial killer Copernicus. Will she bring the cartel down or stop the killer? Surprisingly, these questions aren’t the focus of the novel. Plot takes a backseat to character in this installment.

The author has effectively put her main character in crisis and her conflict is the center of this novel—not the mystery. Although the plot, settings, and theme are still very much present in Zeph1rum. Two memorable scenes include AJ’s recovery and investigation into a crime scene because of the writer’s masterful style. I grew to root for AJ over the trilogy. She has a rock-solid family, supportive friends, and a boss who believes in her. What could make her a more well-rounded character? Add affection for some dangerous characters, of course.

Near the end, AJ solves some elements of the trilogy as we would expect from our main character. In previous installments, she shared the “aha” moments with other characters. In this one, she’s the sleuth following the clues, coming into her own as a detective.

All together now!

A wedding, family issues, prognostics, and PTSD episodes all play a significant part in this absorbing novel. Even my favorite humorous detail, the beloved desk scar, makes an appearance. I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first half. The conflict, as I said before, is front and center and plays a huge part in the resolution.

Endings are fickle elements in books. They can elude the best of writers. I’m happy to report that Zeph1rum nails the ending. It’s suspenseful and imaginative. I’m partial to the type of ending that occurs here, and the main character’s arc was completely believable and satisfying. How I feel about a book hinges primarily on the opening chapter and the climax, and this book’s ending won me over.

The final section of this book contains a number of appendices that contribute to the work embodied in the novel. Everything is there…including recipes! I really enjoyed how much the author has thought about her world and what she shares in the final pages. As I said in a previous review, this is a novel about details, and Karma Lei Angelo goes above and beyond documenting the material she used to build AJ’s world. This is so fun that I wish more authors would provide similar contributions.

Overall, the book has a satisfying conclusion but remains open to future installments. Zeph1rum is a thrill ride about characters, honor, and ultimately love. I’m happy to recommend it.

In Search of Happily Ever After

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“And they lived happily ever after.”

A common, if trite and clichéd, ending to a fairy tale. It paints a picture in the reader’s mind that nothing untoward will happen to your beloved characters after this point in the narration. Usually, the characters have suffered enough through the stories. In the Grimm version of the fairy tales, the witch tries to kill Snow White not once, but three times and Rapunzel is left wandering a desert. In Anderson, the Little Mermaid does not capture the prince’s heart.

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Let’s dispel this common misunderstanding right off the bat. Not all fairy tales end happy. The aforementioned Little Mermaid and the Little Match Girl both do not end happy by anyone’s definition of the term. The phrase is usually not found on the end of the traditional interpretations of the stories either. My imagination pictures a Middle Ages parent, exhausted from a day’s work in the field, finishing the fairy tale, and the wide-eyed children asking for more. Knowing this is coming, the parent simply says “And they lived happily ever after” to cut short the requests for the story to continue. It also can be a reassurance to the children that their favorite protagonist did not suffer any longer.

Let’s explore the theme of happily-ever-after endings in fairy tales. Is it possible to have an ending that both is happy and makes for a good story? I ask this question in light of our post-modern, information-overload world. The top three stories on CNN the morning I wrote this was a meteorite may have struck Cuba, a child abuse article, and a FedEx worker found dead of the cold (ironically calling to mind the Little Match Girl). Fortunately, no one was hurt in the meteorite story, but people two hundred years ago never worried about meteorites hitting the Earth as much as we do because we simply have more information.

Philosophically, if our lives end in tragedy (death) then how could there be happy endings? As an example, if Snow White were a real person, we know that she must die of something. Pulmonary tuberculosis, or consumption as it was commonly called in the past, might have killed her. Perhaps Sleeping Beauty was murdered in a political intrigue that sought to overthrow her husband, and Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” depicts a ticked-off Giant’s wife searching for Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) for revenge.

Are we allowed to write happy endings given what we know? Most people say “for children, it’s acceptable.” But don’t children suffer? Some children are present when their parents die. Children are abused and treated as non-persons every day. Why do they get an exclusive on happy endings? I reject that happy endings must be limited to children’s literature only. If we are to accept them, we must accept them for all ages.

I think the problem exists in one letter of the phrase “and they lived happily ever after.” The “d” in “lived” is, unfortunately, the hardest part to swallow. It implies the character is dead and every event after the story was a happy one. Despite a world telling us different, we do have happy endings. Marriage, births, adoption, retirement, vacations all are examples of events that, in general, are generally viewed favorably. The moment your first child speaks, the welcoming of a new pet, the purchase of a new home may all be happy events. I’m writing of a joy-level of happiness, but I am happy when I wake up on a October day and it’s foggy outside. Saturday mornings and Sunday evening dinner both make me happy. But not ever-after, you say. No, I suffer like everyone else, but it’s the moments of happiness that make the suffering worthwhile. And sometimes when I suffer, I’m still happy. When I brave the weather to pick up my son from college, I’m fairly worried. It’s a subtle form of suffering but it’s worth it to greet my son at the end of the journey.

Can a story end happy? I say yes. You can end a story on a high point for the characters. Our lives are not composed of a series of low points. Happiness exists in moments, and those moments are significant.

But can we have a happily-ever-after ending? I would say it’s possible if your outlook on life at the end of it is “overall, I had a good life.” I’ve met people who have endured monumental suffering, yet they will tell you that overall, life has been good to them. The tragedy at the end of life, death, is not such a tragedy when viewed this way, even for those who don’t believe they are transitioning to another form of life.

Picture Snow White again, dying of tuberculosis on a divan. While she’s in agony, she looks around and spies her faithful husband, her seven companions, an enemy-turned-ally huntsman. She’s experienced romance, friendship, safety, loyalty, and many happy memories. The power and riches won’t save her now. Those things don’t matter. She realizes it’s the quality of the relationships that matter in her last minutes before death. She knows she has lived a happily-ever-after life as she closes her eyes and relinquishes her life.

Review of Super

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Super is the first novel of (so-far) three books and multiple short stories. It depicts a world where certain people have fallen into a coma and emerge with superhuman powers — able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and all that.

An action adventure, Super starts with not-so-mild-mannered Zita Garcia on a blind date which goes bad quickly. We are introduced to Zita and discover she’s quite a handful to people who break the law. After Zita emerges from her coma, still powerless, she finds she and her companions are all stuck in a locked-down medical facility. While the world outside is starting to adjust to living with superheroes, Zita’s world is all about getting out of this “jail” to continue her extreme sports activities. Unfortunately, villains have designs on the people in the institution and one night, all hell breaks loose.

Without giving too much away, Zita discovers her powers and becomes involved in a kidnapping case. She doesn’t seek out justice, but finds herself often in situations where she must use her powers against evil-doers, both human and superhuman. I won’t reveal her abilities–as that would be spoilerific–other than to say she has multiple gifts and her primary power is quite creative.

While there are actions scenes aplenty, the characters also have time to themselves to interact and learn their new abilities. The plot engaged me from chapter one and I never wanted to put it down. Despite her abrasive nature, I enjoyed Zita’s personality and found it a refreshing change from the modern “dark” hero or the “I regret having any powers” anti-hero. While Zita doesn’t decide to become a crime fighter, she consistently makes moral choices in dangerous situations — always the true test of a hero. This made me root for her through the novel.

I’ve read a lot of comic books and graphic novels so superhero origin stories aren’t anything new to me, but I enjoyed the playful way Zita’s origin story was told. I liked how she and other characters had to learn their powers and how and where she exercised them. I also found Zita’s arc in the story interesting. And while I think others may want her to go from less snippy to more heroic, I’m glad she didn’t. It gave her an edge and makes her unique among other people in tights.

The story’s narrative style is difficult to follow at points and it took me a while to get into the flow, but eventually I got it. The plot and characters carried me over the rough spots, but you may want to read the first chapter to get a sense of the book. I think others may have wanted to dig deeper into Zita, but there’s so much going on in this novel, I’m happy to leave that for a future offering.

This novel exudes fun. It’s a positive take on the superhero genre, and it hits all the required sequences you would expect. Overall, I’m glad I picked up Super.

The Sequel to Kingdom Come

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Kingdom’s Crest

I am happy to announce the sequel to my first novel Kingdom Come, entitled On Earth, As It Is. This book will be a standalone novel as well as a sequel. Most characters will return, and a number of new characters will be introduced. I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that more of this novel will be set on Earth than the first one. If you like the world of Kingdom, however, not to worry! There are many scenes on both worlds.

The novel starts with Earth couple Harold and Sondra discovering the queens of the fantasy world of Kingdom have been kidnapped. The queens have actually been transported to Earth and must find a way back. However, as part of the curse that brought them here, they must disguise themselves as regular women until they return. And with fairytale queens like sweet Snow White, lovestruck Cinderella, or warrior-minded Helga, the main characters have their hands full keeping them out of trouble.

Kingdom Come barely scratches the surface of the characters of the fairytale queens. As this novel takes place three years later, the queens have been ruling Kingdom and have a better understanding of each other. They’re less polite—more like a family—than in the first novel, but they also have stronger bonds now.

The novel will be classified as a new adult, fantasy novel acceptable for all genders and for a mature (14+) young adult. It contains mild profanity (lighter than a lot of YA novels), some violence, and a light, romantic scene. The novel’s themes explore what it’s like to be someone in their early twenties, and, while it’s certainly rooted in fantasy, the book has scenes of people raising children, worried about their jobs, and other “normal” activities. Before you ask “What kind of a fantasy is this?”, rest assured, the novel contains sword-fighting and monster-vanquishing a-plenty as well.

Technically, the book will be about the same length, illustrated by the great Daniel Johnson, and available on all major bookseller sites. I strive to bring you the best product I can. It has been critiqued by a number of different people, and it has been professionally edited. I want to make sure you will get your money’s worth.

I hope to publish in spring of 2019. As time passes, I will update this post with a more accurate date. I hope you pick it up, read it, and enjoy it. I had a blast writing it.

Jim Doran

Review “I’m Not Saying It”

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I don’t read romance novels, not as a rule, but because I’m more of a mystery, fantasy, sci-fi sort of reader. However, I love all things Ireland so when I saw the romance novel “I’m Not Saying It” was set on a small island off the coast of Ireland, I had to check it out. The story blurb intrigued me and I thought I’d expand my reading tastes a bit.

I’m glad I did.

The novel follows a week in the life of a successful travel blogger and vlogger, Shade and musician and mysterious guy Diarmuid as they meet on an island. They decide to not talk about their past or discuss much about themselves, but live as much as possible in the present. After one night of heavy drinking, they agree to meet again. And after a few days of being together, they find they are…let’s say they aren’t saying it.

I found Eóin Brady’s first novel quite a treat. The writing is first-rate, the characters are sufficiently complex, and the twists and turns well done. It has a lot of great humor and some scenes, especially those involving a drone, which were quite imaginative. The dialog is witty and snappy, and the emotions both Shade and Diarmuid feel are genuine. You get a sense of Shade early in the novel by “When travelling to a new country, one of the first things Shade learned in the language was how to say goodbye.” The novel is third-person omniscient so you bounce back and forth inside both of their heads.

Ireland comes alive as well. I felt I was on the island as I read the book and passages like “The gnarled, stunted trees shaped by the wind were like frozen, black tendrils of smoke seeping from the cracks in the stone.” and “The moon was only a quarter full, a great eye always looking off somewhere else, a curious moon.” The culture and atmosphere of the country add to unique story as I had hoped when I picked up the novel.

The chapters zip along, bringing us deeper and deeper into the worlds of Shade and Diarmuid. Music, shared fears of small creatures, blog entries, and unexpected wakes tell not only the tale of a romance but an Irish contemporary as well. I can almost picture a person doffing an Aran-sweater relaying one part of this story or another. I have a soft spot for Irish tales, so this was right up my alley.

The author noted he is working on a sequel to this novel. There are missing pieces in both the main character’s back stories, so I’m eager to return to the world of Shade and Diarmuid. I hope they end up on a certain Emerald Isle once again, drone in hand.

Kingdom Come References

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Kingdom Come Image

Warning: Many spoilers ahead for Kingdom Come!

One of my goals in writing Kingdom Come was to mix in traditional characters with my own characters to create a fairy tale world where everyone lives together. Has this been done before? Yes. Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”, Chris Colfer’s “Land of Stories” series, and many more. I found Colfer’s books after I had finished my first draft and enjoyed it, but was relieved I had done something different. My world is religious, political, and true to the origin stories. I read a lot of fairy tales researching the book, and one of my objectives was to sprinkle in the more obscure tales into the main narrative.

First, spoilers about the cover (above). The front cover is an acrylic painting Daniel Johnson made for me and it hangs, framed, in my room. He and I put a few Easter eggs in the painting. From left to right, we have Snow White, Cinderella, Penta, Valencia – the Little Match Girl, and Helga. All are fairytale princesses from various authors. My Snow White and Cinderella are Grimm’s version which differed from the more popular versions (e.g. Cinderella’s slippers are golden not glass like Perrault’s. See https://tinyurl.com/y8mm929p). Naturally, the large version of the painting has more detail. The rose in Snow White’s hair was placed there to evoke the thought of the character “Rose” Red without drawing her. I chose white instead of red because of the rose in Snow White’s hair when Hero first meets her. Cinderella’s banner is purposely folded because the slipper is a dead giveaway. Cinderella is the happy princess and somehow I wanted to express this, but I didn’t want her to smile at such a serious scene. If you look at the bottom of her coat, you’ll see two buttons and hem that curves upward. Smiley faces? You bet. The hem of Valencia’s shirt reflects her poor condition of course. But if you flip her upside down, you may spot sharp blue flames with black smoke (her skirt) . Originally I was going to ask Daniel to depict her with colors like a match, red at the fringe with a yellow band above, but I chickened out. Helga has her trustworthy flail by her side and knives in her belt. If you look close enough you’ll spot she’s wearing a cross. Appropriate for her nature. Let me say that a lot of creativity in this illustration is thanks to Daniel and his research. I came to him with a vague idea and he crystalized it. My wife and I chose many of the colors of the women’s clothes.

Regarding the novel itself, the queens are all fairy tale characters although you may not recognize them all. Penta is a combination of the Italian story “Penta” but her origin story more resembles “The Girl Without Hands.” ( In Kingdom Come, she refers to it on pages 256 – 257). Cinderella/Radiance is, of course, Cinderella herself (P. 279 – 280), but she’s also the ballerina in the “The Steadfast Soldier.” Snow White is the famous “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (P. 66, entire “The Lady under Glass”) but also  Snow White of “Snow White and Rose Red.” (P. 57, 71). Valencia is of course, The Little Match Girl (P. 204 – 205, et. al.). Helga is the Marsh King’s Daughter (P. 160 – 161). There is another Icelandic fairy tale entitled “Helga.” She based on that one too, but I removed most of the chapter dealing with that origin story.

The other characters are from famous fairy tales too. Rose Red is from “Snow White and Rose Red” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” (P. 45). Jorinda and Joringel are from the fairy tale of the same name as is Honest John. Roger, particularly his leg, is from “Ten Brave Soldiers” as well as the “Steadfast Tin Soldier.” (P. 303). He’s actually also the prince in Cinderella too as they marry after the novel. I liked the idea he becomes royalty because of her and not the other way around. Bettle’s children are “Hansel and Gretal.” (P. 216). Goldilocks appears on page 196-197. The donkey, dog, cat, and rooster are “The Bremen Town Musicians.” And Turducken fulfills the “The Elves and the Shoemaker.” In all, there are eighteen fairy tale references in the novel.

More spoilers.

Planet speaks in contractions only when talking to Harold. When Harold wakes and overhears her talking in her sleep, she is clearly having an amorous conversation with someone. You can tell it’s Harold because she uses a contraction.

These lines, in a conversation between Harold and Penta back at the Inn of Five near the end of the book, have a funny backstory.

Harold: “Do you think Daemon will return?”

Penta: “As sure as the Lions will lose the Superbowl.”

Originally, Penta was supposed to go to Chicago and her original response was “As sure as the Cubs would lose the pennant.” I thought her ending up in Chicago a lot more of an overwhelming experience than in Detroit — larger buildings, more activity. As they say, “man plans and God laughs.” Well, God laughed at me because a few months before I went to publish, the Cubs won the pennant! This left me scrambling. I wanted a pop reference and a sport reference, and it had to be a failing team. I like the Lions and hated writing that line, but if it had to be, it had to be. On the plus side, knowing Detroit better than Chicago, I was able to pinpoint exactly where Penta appeared in the city and where she went instead of the vague nameless alley I had in mind in Chicago. I hope to share Penta’s backstory with you one day — there’s a lot of interesting tidbits that define her character.

This blog has gone on way too long, but I’m happy to pull back the curtain a bit in the hopes you enjoy the story even more. If you haven’t read it, shame on you for reading this blog, but I hope it piques your interest enough to give it a try.

 

Review 30 Days Without Wings

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The novel, 30 Days Without Wings, a fantasy novel aimed at YA readers, tells the story of Elise, a fairy who trades in her wings for legs and her tiny size for human height. Elise is at the age where she must declare what she will do for the rest of her life in front of a fairy council. She makes an unusual request and asks for a manifest, a leave of absence for 30 days, to live with another colony. In her case, the other colony is a human neighborhood. Elise thinks she’ll be more comfortable in the world of homo sapiens than fairies. Don’t try to guess why she wants to leave the fairy world. I guarantee it’s darker than what you think.

The council grants her leave, and with the reluctant help of a friend, Elise’s legs elongate and she proceeds to stomp through the forest, adjusting to her legs as well as her loss of her wings. Her travails as a human at first made me laugh, and the initial scenes are creative. Elise finds a job and a place to live rather quickly and with a touch of help, is enrolled in high school at her self-proclaimed age of sixteen. Elise has thirty days to decide whether to stay with the humans or return to the fairies.

I thought I had this story figured out after reading the early chapters. The novel unfurled as I expected as she turned human. I enjoyed the pixie’s observations of being so tall. After she finds a job and enters high school, I predicted what would happen next, but suddenly the novel took an unexpected turn and then another. I expected one character to follow a stereotypical arc you’d find in stories between an awkward fantastical creature and a ruggedly handsome boy but the novel took him in a different direction. The climax was both logical and satisfactory. I was surprised how innocent it started and how complex it ended. In this way, it exceeded my expectations. I anticipated the angst, the longing, but not the realistic portrayal of how a story like this would naturally play out.

This novel has surprising depth for its length. The author, Tabatha Shipley, packs a lot into her plot and characters without a lot of detail and wrings a great deal of emotion out of her readers.