YA fantasy romance book review: At The Waters Edge by S. McPherson

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Five star review!

A must read for fans of fantasy, romance and stories such as Harry Potter.

A chance encounter on-line with
S. McPherson late in 2015 led me to read At The Water’s Edge – the first in a series of magical fantasy romance tales aimed at anyone who enjoys YA (young adult) fiction. While romance is not my usual reading genre a well written and well-structured story is always a joy to read. This is not the first romance book I’ve read. Last year, in my quest to discover the secrets of the most famous writers and learn about writing romance, I read The Witness by Nora Roberts.  Widely regarded as the queen of romance she has over 200 titles to her name. The fact that I mention Nora on the same page as S. McPherson should be taken as a hint at the treat in store for those who dive into At The Waters Edge.

The first thing that drew me into this novel on the very first page was the use of first person present tense as we begin to learn about life as Dezaray (the heroine) knows it. It took a little getting used to but soon felt natural. The writing quality is exceptionally fluid and easy to read throughout the whole book.  There are occasions, when relating events from Lexovia’s perspective (more about her in a moment), when the writing changes to third person present tense.  Again, initially a little strange but very effective at distinguishing Dezaray’s and Lexovia’s points of view in the story.

We very quickly get hooked with hints of something magical hovering at the edge of Dezaray’s world before she plunges through a portal into a parallel world of magic, swapping places with her near identical counterpart, Lexovia, in the process. Then Dezaray meets Milo and the most in-depth portrayal of a building romance I have ever read begins. Dezaray is swept away into the dizzying story of love while danger lurks in the background in the form of the evil Vildacruz who count glowing green eyed warlocks and fanged vampires among their number. And here is the rub, Dezaray’s counterpart Lexovia now trapped in our world until the portal reopens is destinated to defeat the Vildacruz with magic Dezaray just does not possess.  Dezaray and Lexovia cannot coexist in the same world for long, to attempt it is fatal. How will Dezaray and Milo ever remain together?

This is the first in the series so we will have to wait for future stories to find the answer to this question. Until then, “hold your breath”.

A note on writers craft

One of the subjects I often write about on this blog is story structure techniques. An approach to designing stories for drama. At The Water’s Edge is written in such a way and carefully edited to produce all the right plot points in just the right places. It would be possible to show a 9 step story structure breakdown for this story just as it would be for the works of J. K. Rowling, Nora Roberts and many other top authors.

Only The Dead – book review

I’ve been busy writing my novel The General’s Legacy novel recently which is now about 75% complete for the first draft. The blog has been a been neglected so time to pay it some attention.
Last week out of the ‘Twittersphere’ this novella came to my attention.  The author M W Duncan had it on free promotion via Amazon so I thought I would grab it and may be read a little of it later to see what it was like.  That plan soon changed, here is my review and this is relevant to story structure discussions.

Enter the Liberian Jungle… (a five star review)

I was planning to read this after finishing another longer novel I’m reading. I thought I’d read just the beginning out of curiosity. A few days later having spent any spare moment I had reading it I’d finished.
There is an immersive writing style at work here which I prize in a writer when I can find it. This writing style along with plenty of interesting events happening all the time (a fast pace plot) quickly drew me in.
You feel like you are in the Liberian jungle with Mark.
It is often the case that an immersive writing style comes coupled with plodding slow plot progression. That is not the case here.
The real treat in this story is the well observed and well-developed characters. It’s all about Mark (sometimes called Mak) a private security operator (an advisor, don’t call him a mercenary) and his relationship with Kyle a journalist in the Liberian jungle during a civil war. Things go bad and they have to escape to civilisation. A simple enough concept done well and infused with human psychology. The story is told in the first person from Mark’s perspective. The way the relationship evolves between the two men as their situation becomes darker is beautifully handled with turning points in the action and their relationship coming at well-timed points in the story. It feels realistic and believable. It is sometimes quite touching without going over the top with sentimentality. Perhaps the presence of violence in the story highlights this further.
From an academic perspective, I am fairly sure I can see a story structure I recognise at work here. The right things are happening in the right phases of the story which are complete with plot points in the right places that keep up the dramatic tension. It is very well done.
M W Duncan has another “post-apocalyptic” novel out “Carrion City” set in Aberdeen Scotland I believe. I’m not normally drawn to this type of novel but after reading Only The Dead I think I need to add it to my “to be read list” for sometime next year.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – book review

Introduction

Here is a book review that I have also posted on amazon.co.uk and goodreads.com.
The reason I have decided to include it here is because this story is structured very much in-line with the nine points presented in earlier blog posts. It is, or at least appears to be, “engineered”.
It is perhaps no surprise that Brandon Sanderson also teaches creative writing. This time, I am not going to outline the nine points because it would spoil the plot.  Instead, I’ll invite fans of fantasy and sci-fi to get themselves a copy and comment here if you think you agree or not, that it follows the nine points.
Personally I found the mid-point either very subtle or missing.  It may be when David stops chasing after Megan and she starts to take more of an interest in him.  This may be the point David’s attitude changes all over, I would need to re-read to be sure.

 

The five-star review

A well-crafted plot with good characterisation from a story engineering perspective with more or less all the right ingredients in the right place. Coupled with Brandon’s vivid imagination, it succeeds in keeping you turning the pages and building dramatic tension. The prologue is a great hook for the story that you can read for free, so if that appeals to you jump on board for the ride.
Written in the first person from the perspective of the eighteen year old David with ambitions to join the Reckoners, a group dedicated to fighting the evil “Epic’s” in possession of a variety of super powers following on from an event known as the “Calamity”. The narrative does feel like it comes from an eighteen year old man with David’s background which naturally places certain limitations on style and content. I quite enjoyed the humour introduced by David’s assessment of his ability to produce fitting metaphors during the telling. Coming from the mind of an eighteen year old character I suppose you do lose a little depth in the telling, but I’m not going to criticise Brandon for that. He’s decided that is how he is telling the tale, in some ways it works better this way as it is logical certain revelations come later in the story when only seen from David’s perspective.
This is an easier faster to consume novel than many heavyweights in the fantasy genre which is what I was in the mood for. I needed a break after reading Tad William’s Dragon Bone Chair before I pick up the sequel to this one. Anyone who has read the Tad Williams’ Memory Sorrow and Thorn series will know it is heavier going and slower moving but ultimately probably more rewarding that a shorter tale like Steelheart. But there is a place on my bookshelf and in my Kindle for both kinds of a novel.
Five stars because I think Brandon succeeded in what he was aiming to do, it was clever enough, with a thought provoking enough theme and a genuine page turner. Falls only a little short of the perhaps mythical perfect book.