Saturday, March 28, 2009

Opinions Unsolicited: The Wild Hunt

I finally got around to reading The Tarot Café: The Wild Hunt, which was written by Chandra over at Dreaming in Red.
I say ‘finally’ only because, although the book was released in January, due to a mix-up at the local comic shoppe where I tried to pre-order it I wasn’t able to get my own copy until earlier this week. And I had to get that copy from Chapter’s. I wasn’t going to wait a day past St. Patrick’s day for the comic store to get it in though. Chandra was having a signing, and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to be there to get my book signed.

As it turns out, I also got a book signed for a friend who couldn’t make it. And I’m regretting my lack of funds, because I should have gotten a copy for the Mummabear too. It’s too bad I’m not friends with the author and don’t know how to get a hold of her or anything.

Yeah, sometimes I’m not so good at fibbing.

The book is geared for the YA crowd, and I was really pleased with the plot mechanics. I haven’t read the graphic novel series that the novel is based on, although several discussions with Chandra helped me form an impression of the world. Which I liked. But I was uncertain as to how she was going to translate that to novel format.

I mean, it’s called The Tarot Café for a reason, right? We have a café, in which Tarot cards are read. And I know that the reader is just that, a reader. An awesome reader, but I didn’t expect that she was going to read the cards and then decide to embark on an adventure with the querent. That’s just not what a reader does. A reader interprets the cards and offers advice, and maybe provides some ideas of where to seek further help if there is help needed*. So I was left anticipating how the story would play out.

I only considered the mechanics of the plot as I was reading the novel because it was honestly something that I had actively been curious about before I had read it. I don’t usually read books with the intention of working out how the story will be told, I promise you. When I made it to the fourth chapter or so and realized that the bulk of the novel truly was going to be about the Tarot reading and how it related to the querent, well, I was excited. It means that as each card is drawn in the Celtic Cross spread, we get to go down a little memory-lane trip with Bryn. [Bryn is the querent** I keep mentioning, thought that might be worth eventually mentioning….] Since I was excited about it, I felt it was worth mentioning first [although it got mentioned second… oops].

I suppose I could talk about the story itself, instead of how it was put together.
The truth is, this story is a little out of my usual genre. I like the paranormal, this is true, but I’m not usually one for romance. And considering this was romance geared towards a younger audience, I mostly found myself feeling my age. The writing itself is wonderful – vivid and bright, even though the story is dark; I was always able to see in my mind’s eye what had been written upon the page. The story is interesting and new—I appreciate a non-typical ending [especially in young adult fiction] and the emotions were all ones I could identify with given the situation. But in the end, I felt the same as Belus did about the whole affair. Where there was talk of soul-mates and a love that had to go on at any cost, I kept thinking that vision of love is sweet but terribly naïve and unrealistic. And then I felt like a jaded old fogey. I understand this is a tale aimed at people considerably younger than myself; people that [hopefully] haven’t had the ill-fortune of having those idealistic views of romance and love dulled and chipped by the reality of life.
Had I been in Bryn’s shoes, I can see myself easily making the same mistakes she had. Unintentionally hurting someone with poorly considered words is something that almost everyone wrestles with having done. The choice she makes in the end… I can see why she did it, feeling the way she did. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

My favourite parts of the story overall have to do with the subtle things that were going on in the background. Jack’s muse, for instance—we get his name once, from Bryn’s lips, in one of the flashbacks. And when he shows up later, it is not at all in a capacity that you would expect. Belial is a character that is mentioned less than a handful*** of times, and never met. But his presence is heavy and dark, and even more so once we are able to consider the reasons his name appears. I want to know what that deal is all about. [See what I did there? Double meaning, for the win!] That little mystery I want to see unfold.

I haven’t even discussed Pamela, or Andrew [I like Andrew, he was cheerful and sweet with a dark sad filling; he’s huggable], or any other number of characters. It’s getting late, and I’m getting tired. The only thing I can think of right now is: Luned? Where did you get that name from? I kept mistaking it for words to do with the moon. You know, the way lunatic has to do with the moon. And sometimes I’d read it as lured, and man that made for weird sentences. Also, I find myself pronouncing the last syllable ‘éd’ and have no idea if that was right. I know Chandra puts a lot of thought into the names that she chooses, so I’m really curious about this one.

I would have liked to see more of Jack, but I understand how that would have skewed the narrative. I just felt like I didn’t know very much about him, other than he was a painter, Bryn loved him intensely, and he was missing. It would have been nice to have a little more sense of him as person and not simply the man of Bryn’s unfettered affection. I also kept hoping that Cora’s sudden departure was going to play into the plot more. I was very intrigued by the comparisons drawn between her and Pamela.

I really enjoyed reading The Wild Hunt, I started this morning on the bus to work and finished a few hours after I made it home. I have to confess I was confused at first because the first page didn’t seem like a normal first page to me—the first line wasn’t indented, there was no chapter number or graphic, and it seemed to start midsentence.

On my lunch break I realised that the table of contents had simply stuck to the first page and I started on page two. Go me.

But anyway, it’s an interesting tale told well, it leaves me wanting to read more stories [and it is written in such a way to leave the door open for more stories]. If I weren’t so broke I’d even consider reading The Tarot Café graphic novels to see how many of the questions I have are answered there. But I’d rather see Chandra get the opportunity to write more of them.

At the back of the novel there is a bonus comic by the artist/author of The Tarot Café comics. Considering it’s in The Tarot Café novel as extra content you’d think that it might have something to do with The Tarot Café.

It doesn’t.

The artwork is pretty. That’s about the only nice thing I have to say about it. It’s got nothing to do with the characters or the word I’ve just invested my imagination in. It has a twist in the middle that didn’t feel like a twist so much as being blindsided with Bad Story™. By the time I finished it I was making exasperated sounds and consciously putting the book down gently so as not to harm the novel that my friend had graciously signed for me. My dislike of that short comic is why I’d need to consider whether to buy the graphic novels or not.

Read the novel, but ignore the comic at the end. I am so happy I read it first, and therefore got it out of the way.

This ‘little’ commentary I thought I was going to write turned into 1,675 words. Yeowch.

*I work with an astrologer/tarot reader at one of my day jobs, so my ideas about the profession might be too based in reality to apply to a series of fiction that is planted in the realm of paranormal romance, but these things need to be said to understand the position that I’m coming from. The reader’s [in this case, the reader of the book, not the reader of the cards] personal knowledge and proximity to the subject matter is of course going to colour their expectations as well as their curiosities and enjoyment.

** Querent is a person asking a question, and the commonly used term for the subject of a Tarot reading. Since this is a novel about a Tarot reading, I’m using querent rather than protagonist as it seems a little more in keeping with the nature of the book. Also, because as much as this is Bryn’s story (she’s the one with the choices to make and the journey to embark on) I feel strange calling her the protagonist. Don’t ask me why, I’m not sure how to answer that yet, but I thought this was another tidbit that warranted being eventually mentioned as well.

*** I don’t really know how many times a name would fit in my hands, but you get the idea.


Chandra Rooney said...

We'll get together and I'll answer the questions in person. :)

Sarah K said...