Book Review: The Watchtower by Lee Carroll

Hi all…

About a year ago I entered the world of Garet James, a jewelry designer living in New York City, in the book Black Swan Rising. Garet’s artistic abilities and a family history she knew nothing about collide violently when she meets and is given a beautiful silver box by a strange shopkeeper. From the moment she opens that box, her life is never the same.

Black Swan Rising kicked off Garet’s story by writers Carol Goodman (Arcadia Falls, The Night Villa) and her husband – poet and hedge fund manager Lee Slonimsky – writing under the pseudonym of Lee Carroll. And with its Shakespearean faeries, evil sorcerer, and mysterious vampire, I was hooked. The book was well written and sucked me in immediately. (You can read my review here.)

Unfortunately, I found their follow-up The Watchtower to be extremely difficult to get into and a struggle to read.

Once again, we’re thrust into the world of Garet James, but this time we find her in Paris chasing after the potential love of her life Will Hughes the vampire. Hughes is trying to find a way to become mortal again after 400 years of immortality so he can be with Garet. When he journeys to Paris in search of the hidden path to the Summer Country, the magical realm of the faeries, Garet follows after him.

From the beginning of the book, the reader is set upon two separate roads. The first follows Garet as she navigates the obstacles in the modern world between her and finding Will. The second follows Will in the past as as young poet who fell in love with Marguerite, Garet’s ancestor. And quite honestly, though I enjoyed Garet’s journey as she meets several new faeries and mortals touched in lasting ways by their magic, I really didn’t care to follow young Will Hughes at all. He was a spoiled brat with no patience who is selfishly seeking to spend time with an immortal lover. The alternating chapters between Garet and Will made me dread any time I ended a chapter with Garet…

However, even as I struggled to get through the book to the end, the amazing back story mixing faerie lore and alchemy was fascinating. The alchemist/sorcerer John Dee is a right evil bastard and I knew any time he was in the picture something bad would occur. Learning how Will Hughes became a vampire in a double-cross by the malicious Dee was fun to discover. And meeting the various fae Garet (and Will) encountered along the journey was intriguing – from the 17th century botanist transformed into a tree by the fae to the octopus librarian, each had a history that gracefully weaved past and present together while educating the reader on a bit of faerie history.

Ultimately I didn’t enjoy The Watchtower as much as Black Swan Rising, but I look forward to seeing where the writing duo takes Will and Garet next. No spoilers here, but there was nice twist at the end that should make the next book quite entertaining if done well. Hopefully we’ll stay in a single timeline and not alternate between the characters next time. You can check out both Black Swan Rising and The Watchtower on bookstore shelves today!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: Fairy Hunters, Ink. by Sheila A. Dane

Hi all!

Do you believe in fairies? Sheila A. Dane does, and in Fairy Hunters, Ink. you meet Ashley, Big Rabbit, Turtle, and all of the different fairies they find during their many expeditions. Though the book is subtitled “A Book of Fairies for Children and (Not So) Grown Ups”, I think Dane did a magnificent job of writing this to capture a sense of childlike wonder throughout the text.

From the very beginning, the reader follows along as this small group of Fairy Hunters explores the area around the narrator’s (a young girl) house. They find many different faeries, from the Button Fairies having parties in the narrator’s closet at the beginning of the book to the Picnic Fairies and the Gremlin of Unfinished Business at the end.

Also included are illustrations by Rose Csorba, who did a beautiful job of capturing the little absurdities of each of the fairies encountered. She also did a beautiful job on the cover, which is also included as an interior illustration.

I read through the book with my two young daughters and really enjoyed it. It’s hard to explain though – the writing is interesting at times, with little asides and odd capitalizations, made-up words and so on. But I think this lends to the charm of the book, making the reader feel as though they’re reading something written by a child.

Among our favorite fairy stories were:

  • Pocket Fairies… “All Pockets have Fairies, at least until the Pocket gets a hole and your Fairy falls out…” They tend to be frazzled looking, though they aren’t generally frazzled – they just look that way because they live in your pocket.
  • Sock Fairies… “It’s favorite form of Mischief seems to be going in the laundry and stealing Socks.” We have a big problem with Sock Fairies at my house.
  • Button Fairies… “I either have a lot of mice [in my closet] or all my buttons fell off at once and are having parties in my closet at night. And they haven’t invited me, which I think is quite Rude.” We have a big problem with Button Fairies at our house as well – like all kids, I think they’re allergic to tidy closets or have a lot of Button Fairies causing issues when they sleep!

There seems to have been renewed interest in fairies in children’s books of late. We really enjoyed the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, but those have a slightly darker tone than Fairy Hunters, Ink.. It’s nice to be able to share lighter fare with children to explain some of life’s little “mysteries.”

Dane has a website FairyHunters.net, where she is writing regular blog articles that will eventually become the sequel. I know we look forward to the sequel and will share it with other kids and parents as the opportunity arises. Be sure to look for Fairy Hunters, Ink by Sheila A. Dane at your local library or favorite bookstore!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other books below!

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