Normally, I have a strict books-on-shelves policy concerning review copies. That policy is simple. I only cover novels that can be found on the shelves (not via special order) of bookstores throughout the country. The reason for this is not snobbery. Let's get real; what do I have to be snobbish about?
I'm looking for authors who have achieved the dream of major press publication. It's exciting to cover those authors. They are always excited about their books and it's just plain fun to read their books, to exchange emails with them, to occasionally have coffee with them (ok, so this only happened once) and to interview them.
I decided to make an exception to this policy with GRIFFIN'S DAUGHTER (Amazon USA, UK, Canada), which I'm not sure is even available on shelves at all.
(BTW, two interviews of recently-featured authors should be incoming this week.)
Leslie Ann Moore has no idea that I've actually known about her book for quite a while. Back when I first started FD, I surfed around in Locus Magazine's Monitor section and took note of her book. However, since it came out in January of last year, almost six months before I started FD, I gave myself a pass on her book, along with other much more prominent books like oh, say Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind.
In January, she sent me a very professional email, asking if I was interested in her book. And I was. I looked at her website, which although somewhat incomplete, looked reasonably professional. I've seen worse websites from major-press authors. Then, I took a look at her publisher and noticed it was a very small press. I told her that I'm reluctant to take books directly from authors (which is true) and that if she could ask her publisher to send me a review copy, I'd take a look at it. Well, Avari Press ended up sending me a very nice press kit along with the copy. So I was impressed again.
Then, this weekend, I started reading it, and I was impressed a third time.
First, the cover. While I don't hate the cover, I must say that I like the back of the cover much more than the front. The artwork on the cover appears to be a watercolor and the subject matter is not particularly compelling. The back has a stylized griffin, but it, unfortunately, is covered by an over-long blurb. The white text on the griffin is hard to read. The cover looks slightly amateurish, and I'm afraid it probably hurts the author's efforts to get it into bookstores.
Which is a shame, because what is inside has been a wonderful surprise.
The novel begins with a prelude, but don't let that fool you. The prelude is action-packed with a warrior elven princess fighting her father. She had his concubine steal his magic ring, from which he derives vast magical power, which has driven him insane. If you think we're headed full-steam into a stereotype, just read a few pages more, for they end up ripping the magic out of the ring and stowing it safely within the body of a descendant far in the future. Did you expect that? I certainly didn't. The dark lord screams in agony and outrage and the story is over.
Unless, you happen to be the owner of the body in which they stowed the magical power. Since Jelena was a child in the womb when it happened, she didn't exactly comprehend what was going on. Her mother turns out to be the human sister of a duke, and when she dies during childbirth, Jelena is left at the tender mercies of her uncle. Who'd rather not admit that she exists. Humans have some serious hatred for elves, who they believe to be the soulless spawn of demons. Therefore, Jelena's foster mother--the castle midwife--brings her up as a servant.
Chapter one begins with Jelena waking up, but don't let that turn you off. She wakes up on the Day Everything Changes.
Jelena is easy to like in a sort of old-fashioned way. She doesn't have a lot of spunk and sass that you see in a lot of fiction nowadays, but she is loving and loyal, and once she makes up her mind to do something, she doesn't wait around. She also doesn't sit back and take abuse.
Avari claims to publish "a literary class of fantasy literature, or high fantasy, which is characterized by rich, intricate plots with well-developed characters, races, locations, magic systems, and themes." High fantasy describes this novel quite well, with its human and elven cast of characters. Moore's writing is decorative without being overwhelming. Similes salt the pages, but I found them clever. Let's grab one from a random page. It needs a bit of context:
Only the kitchen boys remained. There were three of them, orphans all, and they earned their keep by turning the spits, tending the fires, and running errands. They made their beds by the main hearth, huddling together like puppies in winter . . .Which I found delightful. I'm still reading, and I'll put up at least one more post on this novel.
The author has also done podcasts of her novel, which you can find here.