on 30 November 2008
"The book you are about to begin to read, Shaemus, is illusive and has changed since this retelling of it. Relatively speaking, it seems to be some sort of porthole into the mind. Magic can disregard all notions of standard logic and explanation, even that of light and energy itself! You will discover mesmerizing beauty, which cannot be believed or imagined by anyone living in the world presently, my young Roma son. It would suffice to say that time, gravity, and space became irrelevant words on this very day when you were looking at the circle centre of jewels on the cover with your greedy brown gypsy eyes. Some time change has already leaked into the book you are presently hearing this very moment. I say this to you before you delve any deeper.
Only the very intrepid mind may read beyond this point. I think you can do this, Shaemus. Otherwise, I wouldn't have given you this treacherous, terrifying, and wonderfully exquisite, virtuous tale."
This quote with which I hope to entice you to consider taking this book of enchantment into your hands is offered on the author's own website. I dare not share another excerpt than that which he chose for fear of giving any of its treasures away prematurely. No, not one. This book was recommended to me by an acquaintance and ever since I picked it up, I keep getting lost within the layers of its pages. When I looked here and saw it sitting so unadorned by descriptive words and, therefore, unrecognizable in masses of books brought before the eyes of the public each and every day, I was somewhat disappointed. Now to set wrongs to right, I think it best to provide a brief synopsis of the book as given on the back cover before I begin my review proper.
"A.S. Angelo spins a delectable tale of magic, mystery and moral. Mastering descriptive colour and taste, Angelo brings his charming characters to life.
A young fiddler is on a quest to win his lady. Shaemus, the unfortunate son of a late gypsy clan leader, sets out into the forest. A young lady, Rose, follows, trying not to be discovered. By a twist of fortune, a wee witty being named Topsy, sweeps them away to an enchanted realm. Here hide the spellbound faeries of Charmylopi. Finding himself at their mercy, Shaemus is bound by fate to save them. Seeking to breach their sanctum, a dark dragon and his meddlesome bogies are on the prowl to undermine his quest. Joined by Master Vennutius the satyr, Popodapolus the centaur, Glimbik the dwarf, the stunning Queen of the Faeries and the Green Wizard Bard, Shaemus will be challenged to face his destiny. Will he find the courage to fight for what he treasures most? Suspense and delight await you."
It is my opinion that everyone who risks opening these covers will close them only to find themselves richer for having lost themselves awhile between them. There is truly something to which each who reads it will relate. It can be read effortlessly skimming the playful surface as a good, proper faerie tale (ah, but, what a waste!) However, those with the patience and tenacity to let themselves be drawn deeper into its pages will truly find a dialog in progress, not only with the book but within ones own self.
It is a stunningly visual book which one can imagine equally as well as a film. The texture of the narrative is so delightful on the tip of the tongue (though some of the word-constructions did tie mine up now and then) that one can not help wanting to read it aloud which, in fact, I have done. I admit that I did not make swift progress for the tale is multi-dimensional and one which must be savored and given its own time to unfold. There is a never ending delectable play of words and interconnectedness of themes throughout the book which kept me doubling back and getting sidetracked to take another, deeper look. Not everything is as it appears on first look. Actually, almost nothing is.
The author is a master wordsmith which is truly rare in our day. There are many elements reminiscent of the early works of the great forefathers of fantasy: MacDonald, Lewis and Tolkein. The Pandian language reminds me of the fantasy language of the latter, though if one relaxes the mind gently, one can understand the words somehow intuitively without need of the grammar books of Elves et al. There is also that delightful eloquence and attention to the details of place and persons which are most common to literature of the 19th Century. One can see that the author is well-read with references to a number of themes woven in (sometime hidden) such as literature, music, art, theology, philosophy, geometry and physics as well his rich personal experience which he draws upon. There is a gentleness about the way the tale is wrought; an innocence and child-like sense of wonder at discovery which, without blind naiveté, is wise.
The characters are well-developed, multi-faceted and very memorable. I see them so vividly in my mind and many of their words cleave to the folds of my memory and fall into my active speech sometimes unexpectedly if I do not watch out. The relationships between the characters and their dialogs with one another (as well as inner ones) are some of the strongest elements of this narrative. I have filled a notebook with witty and thought-provoking quotes contained therein. There is music in the flow of the words.
I cannot fail to mention the incredible artwork which also flowed from the brush of the author which fits the tale so perfectly.
The journey of each character in his or her way reflects the journey of each individual within in his own unique history and that of humanity in its entirety; in its brokenness and its triumphant transcendence. The underlying tale is an ancient one based on the eternal battle between the forces of good and evil which is at the root of all faerie tales but there are unexpected vistas to be awaited in this work which crosses the usual framework of this genre.
I highly recommend this highly imaginative, eloquent, thought-provoking and intelligent book. It is an astonishing debut novel from a talented gentleman from whom I hope to be hearing a lot more of in the coming years.
"Only the very intrepid mind may read beyond this point..." but please do... and let yourself be enchanted.