Book Review: Awakenings by Edward Lazellari

Hey there!

Urban fantasy is one of my guilty pleasures these days. In a time where the modern world is full of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, it’s nice to believe, even just for a brief moment, that there’s a little more magic in the world and anything is truly possible. It doesn’t hurt that there have been some great new urban fantasy stories to read lately, such as Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver.

In Awakenings, author Edward Lazellari introduces us to an unlikely group of heroes in a multiverse where a little magic still exists here on Earth. Cal MacDonnell, Seth Ramcrest, and Daniel Hauer live lives very different from one another. One is a cop. One is a photographer/pornographer. And one is a 14-year-old student. But one thing connects them all. Thirteen years ago they seemed to just wink into existence. None of them remembers anything before that night that haunts their dreams.

Now, thirteen years later, events are conspiring against them. Cal finds himself on patrol with his partner when they encounter a giant with a sword. Seth meets an unusual lady who leads him away from his apartment shortly before it explodes in a fireball. And Daniel can’t seem to get through a single day without incurring the wrath of his principal, his step-father, or bullies at his school.

Awakenings is the first book in a series and Lazellari’s fantasy debut. It mixes actual multidimensional theory (M-theory, an outgrowth of string theory in physics) and the idea of multiple universes separated by thin membranes with a story that interlinks the lives of people in two separate worlds for quite an intriguing setting. Obviously not all the secrets of the series are revealed in the first book, but I’m curious to see where Lazellari is taking things.

My only beef with the book is the fact that the ending defies fantasy series convention a bit. Usually each book in a series will take a few of the overall story threads and keep a few going from book to book but resolve a few in each book. This leaves you wanting to know more but satisfied that least a few things have been wrapped up. Lazellari ends Awakenings more like the season finale to a TV show where you’re left hanging until the next season starts back up. Regardless of whether it was intentional or accidental, I’m now on the hook to read the next book in the series.

That said, the writing itself is excellent. Early in the book he describes the lack of sensation as a character gets her head chopped off:

“She heard a creak behind her. Before she could turn, there was a swish, like the sound of a switch whipped through the air. Then silence. Not a drop of rain, not a squeak; someone had pulled the plug on the whole world…”

I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of a multiverse based on String theory where on the other side of one of the membranes from Earth is a world of magic locked in a medieval struggle. And the Odd Couple-vibe of Cal and Seth working together just adds to the intrigue.

Check out Awakenings on bookstore shelves today!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Giveaway: The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

Courtesy of the kind folks at TOR Books and PR by the Book, I have an extra copy of Alex Bledsoe‘s recent release The Hum and the Shiver to give away to one lucky reader.

Unfortunately, because of my limited shipping budget, I can only offer this to United States residents… But all you have to do is leave a comment below and I’ll contact the winner via e-mail on October 14, 2011!

Check out the interview with Bledsoe and my review of the book to see if it might tickle your fancy. I think it’s one of the more creative, lyrical urban fantasies I’ve read in a while!

–Fitz

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Interview: Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver

Thanks to my friends at PR by the Book, I had a chance to get a bit more information from author Alex Bledsoe around his new book The Hum and the Shiver

1. What inspired your book, The Hum and the Shiver?

It was a conjunction of three things: Appalachian folk music, Celtic faery folklore, and the stories of the Melungeons of East Tennessee. Briefly, the Melungeons are an isolated ethnic group who legend says were already here when the first Europeans arrived in Appalachia. No one knows for sure where they came from or how they got here, although DNA evidence has gone a long way toward solving the “where” question. I thought, “what if they were a secret race of faeries hiding from history and minding their own business?” So I created my own isolated society, the Tufa.

2. Who are the main characters in the story?

The protagonist is Bronwyn Hyatt, a twenty-year-old Iraq War vet who was injured in combat and rescued on live TV. Now she’s back home in the mountains among her people, the Tufa, confronting both her recovery and all the issues that led her to leave home in the first place. There’s also a ghost waiting to talk to her, omens of death that seem to be targeting her mother, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend lurking around.

Craig Chess is a newly-graduated Methodist minister trying, in his easy-going way, to make some inroads in the Tufa community. When he meets Bronwyn, unexpected sparks fly. Don Swayback is a part-Tufa reporter who’s lost enthusiasm for his job, marriage, and pretty much everything else; his assignment to get an exclusive interview with Bronwyn causes him to reconnect with his Tufa heritage.

The antagonists include Bronwyn’s old boyfriend Dwayne Gitterman, a devilish old man named Rockhouse, and brutal state trooper Bob Pafford.

3. You grew up in the Tennessee area, how did your childhood determine the setting of the story?

Since two of the three major inspirations came from Appalachia, I couldn’t imagine setting it anywhere else. The beauty, mystery and magic of the Smoky Mountain setting seemed so appropriate that I kept it, and the rhythms of Southern speech are second nature to me. And while the issues that the characters face are universal, they’re expressed in a uniquely Southern way.

4. What special research was involved in creating the story line?

I listened to a lot of music, the real old stuff that was sung in the mountains for generations before anyone ever thought to write it down: “Shady Grove,” “Barbara Allen,” and so on. I also listened to the music being made in that area today, because it’s a thriving tradition. I read about musicians, and how they felt about music and what it meant in their lives. I researched faery folklore and discovered that they were far from the harmless little sprites we think of today. And I thought a lot about how “family” and “religion” are defined in the South, and how they affect every aspect of life.

5. You describe your book genre as “gravel-road fantasy”. Can you provide additional information surrounding the genre?

It’s “urban fantasy” in a rural setting. In UF, the magical elements appear in the mundane world of cars, skyscrapers and crowded nightclubs. In my book the setting is still modern, but it involves tractors, small-town convenience stores and barn dances.

6. The main character, Browyn, is a strong, attractive heroine. Did you rely upon an actual person to develop the character and why?

Her ordeal was inspired by the experiences of Jessica Lynch at the beginning of the Gulf War. But the character herself is entirely drawn from scratch. I wanted her to be someone who had endured a lot, but never let herself be a victim; as a teenage hellraiser she’d been nicknamed “The Bronwynator,” and deep down that’s who she remains. Now she faces a bunch of decisions she tried to avoid, and must figure out a way to be true both to her people, and herself.

7. Do you have a website where our readers can learn more?

www.alexbledsoe.com. The site includes my blog and information on my other novels.

I’m also on:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Alex-Bledsoe/176299128296
Twitter: @AlexBledsoe
Google+: http://plus.google.com/108152096052245851555/about

8. Who do you think would enjoy The Hum and the Shiver and why?

It’s “urban fantasy,” but in the country instead of the city. So if you can conceive of a world where Charles de Lint and Rick Bragg co-exist, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Anyone who ponders what faeries would be like if they lived among us, understands the magic found in songs and music, and/or likes stories of people trying to do the right thing in a situation where “the right thing” isn’t always clear, will enjoy it.

9. What is the reception you’ve gotten to the book so far?

The pre-publication reviews have been excellent; Publishers Weekly even called it a “masterpiece of world-building.” But more importantly, I’ve gotten e-mails from readers who received advance copies and who explained, in detail, how much the book meant to them. I’ve never gotten that kind of response before.

10. How can our readers purchase your book?

It will be available in all the usual online and brick-and-mortar locations, and for all the popular e-readers. There will also be an unabridged audio version.

A big thank you goes out to Alex himself and Babs at PR by the Book for permission to reprint this Q&A. And be sure to check out my review of The Hum and the Shiver for my take on the book, but I strongly encourage you to find and read this amazing story!

–Fitz

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