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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lady of the Veils by M.L. John

Hi there readers!
Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers. 

 A quick reminder before we get started that there is a contest ending tonight here at the site.  For all the details and to throw your hat in the ring, check out the contest link section on the right sidebar.  Now on with the show…

You’ve chosen a great day to stop by (okay, well every day you stop by is a great day in my opinion, but that’s beside the point) as we take a look at a recent reading adventure of mine in the Modern Fantasy genre (though a YA Fantasy moniker would not be far from the truth) from the digital land of eBooks…*gasp-shock-awe* I know, but it happens sometimes…in celebration of ‘Read an eBook Week’.  Who knew there were so many great bookish holidays out there?  Anywho…

Reining my thoughts in on this one was indeed a challenge; in fact I waited several days to even attempt to write the review as my mind tried to capture the thoughts and ideas spiraling around.  What was the problem?  Oh nothing…just needed to formulate actual sentences as oppose to my reactions to the reading.  Yep…it was a rather enjoyable adventure and one I’m finally ready to share.  Question is…are YOU ready?  Then let us begin.  Today’s book of choice is…


We begin in a most unlikely location, the local YMCA, where a young water Fey has just arrived, or perhaps it’d be better said “has just been delivered” as he is…dead.  Shocking certainly…but even more so when you consider this…the Fey are IMMORTAL.  How can this be?  What darkness could have possibly succeeded in such a monstrous act?  A wizard, or more accurately a Dryad, comes bearing the news...the Ogres are in Avalon, in the palace; we are conquered.  High King Thael Quintinar and the High Queen, royal defenders of the palace, have been executed along with their descendents; a sad and upsetting day for all Fey-kind.

Meanwhile back in California, the news is spreading like wildfire as the border security between the two worlds is beefed up to reflect the rising conflict.  Though to most residents it is simply news taken in passing, Karen MacGregor is not taking the news so lightly.  You see she is part Fey owing to the fact that her mother was a Seelie Princess once upon a time (hence the faery part) and her father was a regular run of the mill “Joe” (explaining the human part).  One of her best Fey friends is (was?) Beriani (aka Beri) Quintinar, one of the suspected executed.  A shocking revelation indeed and one that sends her little world spiraling out of control, with so many unanswered questions and unspoken feelings left now for her and her alone….or are they?  One strange call from the border station later and “up” and “down”, “right” and “left” no longer seem so easy to discern.  The caller claims the young prince is still alive, which is either an incredible stroke of luck or the vilest joke imaginable.  We’ll soon find out one way or another…but the journey that lies ahead in either case is not enviable in the least.

For those of you that have followed my reading exploits for any length of time, you know how I feel about high fantasy in general...and for those that don't, it's generally something I approach with a cautious eye.  Why?  Let's just say that despite being great at History (the subject) in school, I'd rather not feel the need to crack open a History book before I can truly follow and enjoy a story.  Call it a pet peeve if you will; I just prefer to keep the two subjects as acquaintances of each other as opposed to "besties" in my reading choices.  This book walked that line like a seasoned circus performer and all without the comfort of a net.

Story wise all the key elements are there.  There’s plenty of action with sword play, magic, invasions and the like…certainly enough to keep both guys and gals entertained throughout.  There’s a plentiful amount of fantastical lands, people, and creatures described incredibly well, and yet the author kept it from becoming so laden with these aspects that fantasy-light readers (*raises hand*) would not be swallowed whole by the details.  There’s just enough romance to keep a gal’s interest (with a kiss scene or two that is certainly swoon worthy -- *fans self*) but not so much that it crosses the line into a romance novel (or even a YA romance for that matter); it sticks to YA fantasy (and claims Modern Fantasy as its genre) with the romance blossoming on the edges to help frame the masterpiece within.  The emotional rainbow it explores bounces from one end of the spectrum to the other with heart warming moments, times of great concern, and even the bleakness of utter despair.  Speaking of bleak…

You know the scenes in New Moon where Bella is all distraught and lost after Edward pulls out? The feelings this story drew from me reminded me distinctly of that time…only with more of a story to fill in that blank void which is represented oh-so-well in the twists and turns. I mean really, it’s breathtakingly hopeless and you have no idea how, where, or when things will change and yet it simply doesn’t matter; the vast emptiness presented to you is so “full” of nothingness that you can’t break lose of its spell.  Now before any of you get in an uproar, no...I'm not comparing it to Twilight, that'd be like comparing apples to oranges; they both exist on separate spheres. I'm also not pulling a new rivalry out of the hat, and let me just say that I am a fan of BOTH series (just call me Switzerland...hehe)...but this is another book that you definitely should watch for. Can we expect a sequel anytime soon?  I suppose that’s up to the author as the story could continue onward…but it could even go backwards and it'd still be interesting as there are so many characters lives yet to be explored and truly worth exploring. Speaking characters…

The cast of characters we become acquainted with is fantastic and filled with so much diversity.  First off, there’s Karen.  A strong female lead, she’s only just discovering what she and the world have to offer.  There’s a bit of a rebel streak in her as well that comes to her aid more than once in the story as does her fluency in Fey.    You have to love the description Karen gives of herself as opposed to the Fey as their beauty is determined by their social rank (i.e. Beri, her friend and crush…GORGEOUS).  I believe it was so eloquently put that Karen is “…she of the frizzy hair and five extra pounds” (--pg 27/31); gotta love a character that has a sense of humor even when they are the subject of it. 

As for the others…though I could talk your ear off about each and every one, let’s go with a summary style mention, shall we?  Beri (the Fey prince and Karen’s friend…or something more), Julian (Karen’s lost – or is he -- brother), Cora (the little Hob witch that also goes by another rather infamous name you might recognize…shan’t spoil it here though), Shannon O’Grady (another half-fey “warrior” who just might be a whole lot more than his snarky self seems to be), Rhyn (The Lord of the Host….and one freaking scary dude…trust me, watch him), Brother (who is not actually Karen’s brother….but that’s explained in the book…another one to watch)…shall I continue?  Even with all of these key players having their turn in the spotlight, you still get to know them well enough to become connected to their fates. 

With all that is good (and there was so much more than even I mentioned), there must come a smidge of not-so-good…sad as that may be.  Here goes.  For me, a few of the characters seemed to play against their described natures at times...changing their minds in an instant.  How so?  Well for one, the Erlking who is known for his evil agenda and raw power…has a streak of mercy out of the blue.  For another, Brother who is of the immortal persuasion and has a distinct hatred for mortals, all but shrugs off Karen’s mortality status upon its revelation, but given the circumstances of the story, it is perhaps more acceptable….just seemed a bit too sudden. 

Next we have something that tends to plague first time novelists (at least in some of the works I’ve read)...word and/or phrase repetition.  Now let me reiterate, it doesn’t impede the overall enjoyment of the novel, it just gets a little cumbersome…case in point.  Almost every time Karen takes a waiting or impatient stance in her body language, it reads “...cross her arms under her breasts”.  Descriptive?  Yes.  Necessary?  Perhaps not; I mean what would the harm be in her just crossing her arms?  The image doesn't lose any "power", it just offers readers another way to read-all-about-it. 

Thirdly and very rarely, we have a case of dialogue drama.  Off and on (though more off than on) the dialogue tends to space out and feel disconnected - almost like the characters lose their place or forgot their lines and are adlibbing.  Case in point… the inconsistency between what Karen initially translates to herself upon the Dryad’s arrival in the opening scene and what she repeats to Mark and the bystanders.  In essence I suppose it means the same thing, but it just felt like it threw things off a bit creating a skip in the story’s transition.  Though it sounds like more of an issue than it is (hence my bringing it up), it only serves as a mild irritant once in a blue moon but still something to take into account so you’re not left wondering what you might have missed. 

When all is said and done, a fantastic adventure that will keep you glued to your screen under you’ve reached the final electronic page.  The chapters are not so long as to disallow completion before taking required breaks (as in bathroom, eating, and sleeping…though who needs THAT really?), a fact that this reader much appreciates, but they are long enough to continually move the story forward.  There is no stalling point as you progress because there is always some new action to take in, new revelation to contemplate, or new future to consider.  A strong debut from this emerging author and one that’ll certainly be making waves for some time to come; can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next.

Recommended reading for Young Adult, Fantasy, and Fiction fans alike of the teen and adult reading age.  A few off the cuff jokes will color your cheeks as will a romantic tinged scene or two, but nothing that wouldn’t be acceptable for those age groups.    Review eBook received courtesy of author M.L. John.  (THANKS!)  For more information, be sure to visit her blog, check out her Facebook page, or follow along on Twitter.  This book was released in eBook format through Gypsy Shadow Publishing December 2010…should you be interested in seeking a copy of your own (oh and there's a chapter 1 excerpt there for your reading pleasure as well!).

Until next time…happy reading!


Tales of Whimsy said...

Great review! I love that your branching out :) and your Bella/New Moon reference helped me visualize your point :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Gina! Thank you so much for the wonderful comment. It both inflated my ego and gave me some things to work on in the future. It was both balanced and fair. Thanks again, you're the best!

M.L John

The1stdaughter said...

Okay, seriously, how cool is it that it is read an eBook week, Read Aloud Day, and World Procrastination week all at the same time? I mean seriously, make time for reading because I'm procrastinating everything else! Hehe.

Fantastic review, really! I love what you mentioned about reading Fantasy. I'm not always a huge fan, but if done right it can be rather enjoyable, as it sounds like this one was. Too much background can put me to sleep as well. ;o)

I love your mention of the dialogue issue. We talked a lot about that in my recent writing workshops, you just need enough, not too much. A very fine line indeed.

Overall...such a good well-balanced review. I'm not sure it's a book I'd pick up right away but I loved how you wrote about it. Fabulous job! said...

I would love to read the book and I don't read a lot of YA books.

Thanks for the opportunity.

DanceAlert at aol dot com said...

I posted this giveawawy to my blog:

dancealert at aol dot com

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

I get what you are saying about repeating phrases.

Tribute Books said...

I know exactly what you mean about that portion of New Moon and I think the song in the movie - Possibility by Lykke Li captured that perfectly from the page to the screen.

Thanks for making that comparison because it makes me want to check out Lady of the Veils.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I did not realize there were so many sub sections of genres. High fantasy, Modern Fantasy...sheesh. I must be living in a my own fantasy world with my lack of know how..

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