Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Glorious Feynard!

Review: Feynard

by Marc Secchia

Genre: Fantasy (Grand Fantasy, in all senses!)

Review:

Feynard is an uninhibited, fully realised grand fantasy and engages the reader in a wonderful, complex story. The land of Driadorn is under threat from a mysterious blight, and a saviour must be found.

Kevin Jenkins is the quintessential unlikely hero - weak, sickly, abused and hopeless. He spends his life in his room, or in the library of Pitterdown Manor with the books he loves, when he's not recuperating from being the family whipping boy. Sometimes he has strange dreams, and increasingly he dreams of a barefoot girl dressed in leaves. Then there's Great-grandmother Victoria's distinctly strange legacy...

Kevin finds himself in the world of Feynard, an invalid in the care of a honeybear (a healer named Zinfandir), a unicorn and a dryad, who seem to believe that he's some kind of warrior (ha ha). Feynard is in trouble, and someone needs to save the world. Kevin's focus is on wondering how long it will be before he dies of asthma without his pump.

The unicorn is Zephyr, intelligent, amusingly arrogant, and kind. The disturbingly attractive dryad is Alliathiune - whom Kevin irreverently calls "Thooney" when he gets drunk. Alliathiune seems to have the kind and gentle nature of a bramble bush, at least on first acquaintance. Then again, brambleberries are delicious! Among other notable character creatures is the large and endearing swamp Lurk from Mistral Bog nicknamed 'Snatcher'.

The world of Feynard is a wonderfully rich and original creation, which I felt was fully realised. There is a great diversity of lands and creatures, and of the kinds of magic that are used. Flora and fauna of Driadorn and elsewhere are referred to and described, casually or in detail, in a way that comes across as completely natural and as if of a world one has really visited. I find it hard to get across just how well developed every creature is. The dryads in particular, and the unicorns, are revealed in every facet of who and what they are: biology, society, magical abilities, lifestyle and character.

The monsters are scary and their characters are almost as fully developed as those creatures of the 'good' side, with complex motives and their own plans and tactics. The good allies are also not simplistically depicted, and co-operation must sometimes be obtained in spite of divergent motives and priorities.

 The story offers grand fantasy adventure, daunting challenges and a complicated romance - very complicated, because humans and dryads, while related, are not the same species! This is an important part of the amazing - excuse me! - climax to the whole wonderfully complex tale.

Criticisms are hard to point out and frankly I don't really want to criticise this book because I loved it so much! However, I did notice that some character responses, rarely, are a little implausible. Snatcher's heartache, for example, is too readily healed. 
The writing, as always with Marc Secchia, flows well and is easy to read; however, in this book he uses a somewhat larger and more old-fashioned vocabulary than in his more recent books. I prefer this style which I feel is appropriate to the fantasy setting, and the editing seems flawless. 
The pace of the book is very good, although some may feel that the early parts drag a little, especially where Kevin is whining and feeling sorry for himself. Personally, I was very happy with the pace throughout, and hoped for a slightly slower ending - but perhaps that was because I was running out of book, and just didn't want it to end at all!

I have not read such a good fantasy book since Tolkien. Were I to compare this to something, it would be to Terry Pratchett's original Landover book: Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold!, except that this is far bigger, better and more satisfying. I cannot understand why Feynard is not much more widely known except that, of course, it's Indie.

This is for anyone who loves fantasy - or even just likes it in a lukewarm sort of way. Get Feynard. Read Feynard. Love Feynard. Tell the world!

My thanks to Marc, who provided me with a free review copy for an honest and objective review.

Review: Romance in Four Seasons

by M. D. Gardner

Genre: Romance, Short Stories

Review:

Delight in Four Seasons

A delightful collection of four romantic cameos: the reader is surprised by Gardner's originality, delighted with the wit, wooed by the charm of each story and, most essentially, moved emotionally. In at least one case the being charmed by the story is wickedly deceptive; in another it's pleasurably satisfying.

The stories in order are: Bus Stop, The Big Four-O, Checkout and Ideal Match. I don't have a favourite, they're all good - but I must confess I needed a tissue at the end. Just one; I'm a man.

Gardner writes in a clean and subtle style; one is easily deceived into thinking the writing simple. Only when you consider the impact the author has had on the reader do you begin to realise how carefully the words have been put together. The editing is absolutely professional, although I feel that the quality of the current cover image is well below what the collection deserves.

If you enjoy romance, or good short stories, and especially if you'd like something other than the usual formulaic output of the big romance publishers, grab this one!

Currently Reading:

The Girl Who Sang with Whales

by Marc Secchia