“Fantasy is dead.”
“No one reads PNR anymore.”
“Sci-Fi is a dying art.”
“All the ‘most important’ fantasy/PNR authors have crossed genres to Contemporary or Lit Fic.”
These are all criticisms I’ve heard in the last year. Whether it was a tweet, an article, or blog post. It’s an all-to-familiar refrain hummed by the literate elite. With the boom of series sensations like Twilight and Harry Potter, and the dearth of mega-moneymakers since, most YA critics consider the genre completely dead–not just YA, but across the span.
Similarly, I’ve read less and less in blogs–specifically book review blogs–about fantasy novels or PNR/UF. I’ve read next to nothing about Fantasy Romance.
However, the increasing sales of these novels, most notably the bidding war recently waged at San Diego Comic Con over the filming rights to Patrick Rothfuss’s beloved novel, In The Name of the Wind stands as a contradistinction to the claims of the dying nerd culture.
These people look like they’re totally ready to write-off the genre.
I tire of these critics who claim the deaths of cultural icons in order to beef up their own numbers. I mean, HOW MANY PEOPLE SAID “CUPCAKES ARE DEAD?” For fucking real, have they ever had a cupcake? THEY’RE AMAZING. Pie is amazing–also not dead. Same with cookies, donuts, fantasy novels, leggings as pants, vampire books, Italian ice,
sex in public places and beards.
There are a few things that were very dead, recently resurrected, that I am voting back into the beyond:
- The Governor of Wisconsin–NO
- Candace Cameron–NO! also, WHY IS SHE ON THE VIEW?! JUST TO FUCK WITH ME?
- flavored body oils–NO. That shit isn’t sanitary! Why are PEOPLE ON FACEBOOK TRYING TO SELL IT TO ME WITH JAMBERRY MANICURES?!
me. all day, every day.
However, in the past few years, a few intrepid readers have sought-out books which take them to places beyond this realm of reality and woe, and into the unknown. A new land of magic and smoke, mages and dragons, smoking parapets and sword-wielding giants. These readers have been richly rewarded. For the first time in decades, these readers have a fresh crop of fantasy authors spinning tales of worlds beyond the stars, which burrow deep into our imagination.
One of my absolute favorite authors in recent years writes in arguably the most forgotten genre, fantasy romance. To be honest, this was never the most popular–or the most successful of sub-genres. PNR, certainly. Urban Fantasy where the MCs get down with the getting down, absolutely. But full-on fantasy romance? A place separated by time and reality? Where magic rules and hearts drive storylines? Not so much.
Grace Draven seems to be as magical as the stories she creates. Her bottomless cauldron of imagination spills forth in each new narrative, potent poultices of soul-searing romance, and adventure the likes of which the reader has never before encountered.
While I can’t review The Brush of Black Wings today–at least not fully, I will give you a little tease after I tell you ALL about Master of Crows.
What would you do to win your freedom? This is the question that sets bondwoman, Martise of Asher, on a dangerous path. In exchange for her freedom, she bargains with her masters, the mage-priests of Conclave, to spy on the renegade sorcerer, Silhara of Neith. The priests want Martise to expose the sorcerer’s treachery and turn him over to Conclave justice. A risky endeavor, but one she accepts without hesitation–until she falls in love with her intended target.
Silhara of Neith, Master of Crows, is a desperate man. The god called Corruption invades his mind, seducing him with promises of limitless power if he will help it gain dominion over the world. Silhara struggles against Corruption’s influence and searches for ways to destroy the god. When Conclave sends Martise as an apprentice to help him, he knows she’s a spy. Now he fights a war on two fronts–against the god who would possess him and the apprentice who would betray him.
Mage and spy search together for a ritual that will annihilate Corruption, but in doing so, they discover secrets about each other that may damn them both. Silhara must decide if his fate, and the fate of nations, is worth the soul of the woman he has come to love, and Martise must choose continued enslavement or freedom at the cost of a man’s life. And love.
First thought? I want to wrap Silhara up in my sheets and comfort him. For…a protracted period of time.
Beyond Silhara’s sexy mage-y goodness? I was absolutely gobsmacked by the explosion of creativity that is splashed across each and every page. The world isn’t as different from our own as some fantasy, but it maintains a level of other throughout the story which creates a baseline for possibility while establishing that world’s status quo.
In the beginning of the novel, the reader is given glimpses of the bleak life that Silhara has lived thus far. They see him struggle with a god set on holding dominion over him. They see him wrestle his own demons from his past by the simple act of defiantly eating breakfast. The reader is also shown the gentleness he hides from the world, and the gratitude he feels for those loyal to him. He’s this amazingly powerful mage, striking fear into the hearts of high priest-like mother fuckers (I think Cumbria actually probably did fuck his mother–just my headcanon–watch out, he’s coming for yours next! BOOM! YOUR MOMMA JOKE!), and here Silhara is, smiling and befriending his avox servant, Gurn! (sorry, had to. forgive me?)
And Martise. Wow. Such a genuine believability to her. The way she intenerates Silhara’s personality by just her wit, her mien, and her voice. She has a courage that runs marrow-deep, and a sense of what’s needed. She is gifted not only with magic, but with such life. Martise’s character calls forth echoes of the great heroines of fantasies past: Lavinia, Mordred, Gwendolyn, Wren Ellesedil. She’s never predictable, but she’s always reliable. A wonderful combination.
The adventure. Fantasy is not fantasy without an adventure, and this story is no exception. It is a rollicking tale of far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells! and a Prince!! Wait…
Sometimes I have a Belle explosion in my brain. Because I actually started writing about the author’s use of latin–I stopped myself. YOU’RE WELCOME. Here’s how to use a fork…
But really, in Master of Crows, Grace Draven takes the reader on a ride through the perils of war, the pain of loss, the struggle with choice, and the ability to love–wrapped up in a net of magic with its knots made of grace capable of every human.
also? The sex is really good. I won’t dwell on it. But it’s really good.
Gonna need a cigarette, and I quit 10 years ago.
Four and a half “not a god’s” stars.
(half star removed for frequent use of my least-favorite Latin word.–GAH! I did it anyway!)
I will tell you this. I TORE through this book. I read it so fast I gave myself a godsdamned migraine. It was EVERYTHING. I liked it more than the original, more than Radiance, more than–GASP–A Discovery of Witches. It’s taken my top spot in fantasy romance.
The Brush of Black Wings is a perfect recrudescence for the genre of Fantasy Romance. It tiptoes the reader through the chaos of magic before flipping them into the abyss of the human–or not so human–soul.
It takes place four years after Master of Crows, and things at Neith seem to be settling down. Until SOME AVOX DECIDED HE NEEDED FANCY MUSHROOMS. Because bitch needs chanterelles, NOT, button.
Then? All hell breaks loose…
Real review on release day!
So, what recipe could possibly compliment such a book? easy.
Dragon Piss. AKA, The Mexican Melon Ball.
In the book, Silhara and Co. drink a liquor they lovingly refer to as “Dragon Piss.” It’s strong and green–tequila and midori! Also, the keep is a freaking orange grove, so, ORANGES.
This little gem of a cocktail was inspired by the book, and by my liquor guy, Jeff at Tops in Bklyn. He had the Midori I needed, and a new to me tequila that I forgot to write down. CRAP. This is why it’s good to know your liquor people. They’ll remember.
Dragon Piss, AKA Mexican Melon Ball
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Ingredients (1 drink)
- 2 oz Midori it’s a low proof liqueur
- 1-1.5 oz GOOD tequila
- 1.5 oz OJ
- melon balls and orange slices rolled in kosher salt.
shake over ice and serve.