|Publisher:||Research Associates, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)|
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From Chapter One
The first time I saw the scarefisher I thought he was a compost heap. Pieces of sun-browned flesh kept falling off him and rotting away into the soft brown sand that surrounded his hovel. Lush reeds grew out of his feet and delicate daisies nodded out of his forearms. Strange white grubs crawled in and out of his soft permeable belly. So many waterflies drowned his chest that from a distance it looked as though his skin was growing the shiny scales of his prey. Two long gouges in his neck suggested gills.
Of course he couldn't speak. Of course he wasn't real. But he leaned against his hovel and slowly wove kelp nets out of wind. His weaving made me more nervous than the loneliness of the spot. You see, although I'm methodical by nature and used to feeling my way through slow bursts of logic, the slowness of his rhythms demanded that I slow my thoughts to match his, and I won't do that. Not for life itself.
Besides, it is especially dangerous to slow one's thoughts in the North Country. Here one is likely to mistake rabbit holes for oak trees and fall toward infinity while grasping for strength. Or oak trees for wrens and bleed on rough bark while caressing soft contradictions. Or wrens for weather. Or weather for dreams. Or dreams for all you've ever envied. Or a scarefisher, weaving down your thoughts, for the real thing.
Or, cruelest of all, here the sun might make you believe you are beautiful. And if you're not careful, you'll embrace the light and joyfully throw your life away to gaze at your deadly reflection. And then you'll die while the Northern light chants that it was all a trick, that you were really dust and maggots all along. I mean, I've made something of a career out of destroying beauty, enough to establish a reputation as an evil cleric, but here in the North the sun's cruelty could transform even me into a poet, the kind of poet who writes precarious verses as the sun destroys them.
I guess I am becoming a poet. The North does that to people. You begin to describe the North, and you're more than half gone. I watched the scarefisher weaving kelp out of wind for what might as easily have been weeks as minutes. The magic that animated him was still strong and sure; someday it would pull the world as I knew it through his resilient and formless fingers. In the meantime I would sit and catch the kelp as it turned darkly back to wind.
A heavily shod foot thudding into my back probably saved the remnants of my reason, although I've no idea if this was my attacker's intent or if I was grateful. An old fisherman leaned over me, roughly grabbed my collar, and tossed me to my feet, away from the scarefisher. The movement startled the waterflies into a spurt of confusion. I tried miserably to gain some balance on the slippery sand. My knees were traitors. My breath was stone. I fell and rose again unsteadily. The fisherman stood watching me through dull eyes, eyes of sticky amber that held a paralyzed remnant of his youth like a dead fly. In my heightened sensitivity I knew he had once been kind and innocent and generous and simple. I also knew that something there is that punishes simple men, for this was the phrase that swirled through my brain as I helplessly read his inner life. I groaned and heard the sun creating beauty on the water with tiny explosions of light.
"Isulde...?" I gasped in explanation, immediately feeling my weakness intensify. What was I doing in this cold, charm-laden country, so far from the warm realities of southern climes? Nobody is real in the North. Even if one wanted to be real up here, there is very little the North Country will do to encourage such an ambition. My heart was splitting mountains and my stone breath was avalanching into pebbles of pain. Pain was real here. And Isulde, perhaps, could be real here. But what if she was really here, to see me like this?
"She ain't here." The old fisherman was sad and wistful. It was queer to realize that this was probably her foster father, this lonely beach her home. "How ye know Isulde?"
Hearing her name on his lips stunned me out of any reasonable answer.
"What's yer name, then?" the fisherman asked to prod my silence. He looked me over, his eyes and mouth narrowing suspiciously at my black riding clothes and the silver crescent moon that pinned my cloak. "Where ye come from? You either mighty sensitive or mighty weak to adapt so poorly to our Northern energies. Speak, boy!"
I lowered my eyes and stared through the impression I had made in the sand. It was dark beneath the surface. It usually is. "My name is Llewelyn. I come from . . . nowhere . . . Sunnashiven in the south . . . the capital . . . I am a priest of Hecate, leastways I used to be. . . ." The memory of my horse sent me spinning into the sand again. "I think my horse became sea foam and I nearly drowned." Maybe I said this. Maybe I dreamed it.
"Yer nag is tethered in back, where I found and secured her. Ye had ridden her into a sweat. How do ye know my daughter?"
"I dreamt of her in the moonlight once."
A bitter smile tore open his leather skin. "Then enter and be welcome." He helped me to my feet and nodded toward the scarefisher. "Isulde made that one when she was a little girl. Still draws in the fish on a good day. Probably always will."
I nodded dumbly, leaning on his arm for support as we entered the hovel. Isulde was simply the best.
Of course, this was not her fault. The North Country bred magical talent, magic in these parts being as common as fish, and just as undisciplined. It's said that a Northern magician with the right training could rule the world with a smile, but again, try to train one. They'll have none of it, usually. And not from principle or moral qualms about the powers of chaos taking instruction. It's sheer laziness. Why build a fancy cottage when a makeshift hovel will do as well? Why hunt if food grows wild at your door? Why eat if the moon will sustain you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was excellent! Karen's writing style is very beautiful and poetic. The storyline as well as the main character are together very intriguing. In book 2-Hecate's Glory- the story only gets better. Highly recommended if you like fantasy or if you're like me--working with inmates in a warehouse drinking coffee talking about how this is the year for the Dallas Cowboys. By the way I supervise the inmates rather than BE an inmate--just in case you cared. Goodbye,God Bless!
I was in a love-hate relationship with Llewelyn, the protagonist, throughout the book. He can be frustrating and obnoxious, but then the author has him use a turn of phrase or makes him do something that suddenly makes you really like him even if you don't want to. By the end of the book I mostly liked him. I loved the poetic tone and feel of Michalson's language throughout, which made her world quite vivid. It's quite dense, though, so I might have to read it again to catch everything.
This book gave me weird dreams, but it also made me think. My boyfriend hated this book and said only Goth girls who frequent coffeehouses and read Yeats would like it. So I read it and thought it was great! It's dark with an intellectual element, but I wouldn't exactly call it Goth. In my opinion it isn't even close to being Goth. It gave me a different perspective on the nature of evil and I was sad when I finished it because the narrator, Llewelyn, felt like a real person to me and I wanted more. I'm happy there will be another book.
I liked the layered complexities of the first person narrator. He is one of the most interesting fantasy characters I've encountered in awhile, and he goes against type, which I like. The writing was gorgeous, poetic, and beautiful. I was also taken by Michalson's unique take on good and evil, which I haven't seen elsewhere. The ending left me wanting more, so I'll definately be around for the next installment.
This book is strange. Strange can be good, but not in this case. All of this book is told from the main character's view point. After a while ~ like three pages ~ this becomes obnocious and self-absorbed. The magic makes no scientific sense, and worst of all, the ending drops you, telling you that it is 'to be continued.' I am very sorry I listened to the reviews that touted this as if it was a new experience in superior English language use ~ it is NOT. Save your cash. Buy something else.