Saturday, April 09, 2005

Now reading: Nectar from a Stone by Jane Guill

I’m about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying Jane Guill’s debut novel, Nectar from a Stone (S&S Touchstone, $15), particularly the witty dialogue by Sir Nicholas, the murdering villain whose reliance on portents and signs borders on the nutty (and makes him unpredictable and very interesting).



This novel is Guill’s first, and it reminds me of two of my favorite historical romances – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (billed, like Guill, as a mainstream fiction writer by her publisher, but adored by many romance readers) and The Shattered Rose, by Jo Beverley (a medieval romance that is my favorite Beverley book, and sadly out of print). Like both these writers, Guill inhabits the world she writes about; you get a sense that you are in medieval England and Wales, not just reading about it. The characters hold beliefs and act in ways that are very different from our own, but totally congruent with their setting. I think trying to be authentic is a courageous act for a writer of historical fiction; you run the risk of alienating contemporary readers by introducing ideas and acts that are unfamiliar and even unfathomable in modern America.

One pet peeve (and it relates to the publisher, not the author):

The back copy gives away too much information. I’m already on chapter 27 and I still haven’t covered everything that’s disclosed in the back cover. I really, really hate that. Even though I am not one of those people who is usually bothered by spoilers, it does really annoy me when the flap/back copy 1) doesn’t reflect the content of the book (not the case here); or 2) gives away too much. It seems disrespectful of the publisher – not enough care for the writer’s narrative and the reader’s pleasure in figuring it out.

For more info (to tide you over until my next Nectar from a Stone post!):

NECTAR FROM A STONE is a wonderful novel for the reader who enjoys a credible medieval world. It immerses us in not only the minutiae of day to day life, but the larger stage of history between Wales, England and the world. Around these elements, Elise and Gwydion’s world gradually grows in complexity until we can almost sense the air of Wales, the smells of good food, bodies only washed once a year, and in the background, the faint bitter taint of fear and death from the Great Mortality.

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