Once again, my sincere thanks to renaissance man about town, Tom Powers, for contributing the following review.
A neuroscientist by trade living in San Diego, author Heather M. Elledge, in her debut novel Craven Deeds (Infinity Publishing 2008), crafts a fantasy world that is paradoxically familiar and unique. This assessment itself could be criticized as sounding trite, but, once you’ve read Elledge’s work, you’ll see that this statement honestly captures the tone of her writing. The author begins her tale with the freshly orphaned Carla attempting to adjust to her new ostensibly mundane existence living with her wealthy grandmother Hanna, whom she’s never met hitherto now due to familial estrangement. Hanna, however, with a subtle wink-wink to the audience, is not as simple and boring as Carla believes the woman to be as she introduces her granddaughter to an object Carla’s mother once owned – an old snow globe. On this side of reality, the globe appears as a nostalgic remnant of Carla’s mother’s childhood – but this is the world of fantasy; consequently, the globe becomes the magical catalyst that propels young Carla on a quest accompanying a gnome rescue party as they go in search of their kidnapped King Ruben.
Elledge then rapidly introduces a world that echoes well-revered fantasy tropes –quirky creatures, ancient royalty living in mighty castles, dark, mysterious forests, and treacherous mountains. Elledge indeed applies these fantasy traditions in her writing, but the novelty in this first-time writer’s approach to these elements is the sense of joy she brings to her world-building. Along these lines, she offers such creations as gongors – a sort of fantasy horse – and sand pouches that represent a gnome’s soul married with magic. She also taps into contemporary fantasy reader needs, in a manner similar to the cross-genre short stories found in last year’s Bad-Ass Faeries collection, by combining adventure-fantasy with murder mystery in a successful recipe for continual page-turning on the reader’s part.
Despite enjoying Craven Deeds’ brisk-paced narrative, I must confess that Elledge’s ending leaves me wanting much more, as the story’s tantalizingly unfinished by the novel’s end and certain characters remain underdeveloped and their motivations unexplained. Of course, there’s an apparent method to Elledge’s circumvention of these necessary storytelling elements – she’s wisely committing trilogy, assembling the narrative scaffolding for her projected “Gnome King Trilogy,” the second part of which she has already begun composing. For this reviewer, then, the literary expansion of Elledge’s world awaits…
Available September 5, 2008, from Infinity Publishing.
-Review by Tom Powers
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