Friday, October 10, 2008

On Wings, Rising by Ann Somerville

TITLE: On Wings, Rising
AUTHOR: Ann Somerville
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 41k)
GENRE: Gay fantasy erotic romance
COST: $4.50

An outcast among his own kind, Dinun spends much of his time hunting and mining for treasures to support himself and his family. When he discovers an injured Angel – a creature that’s almost a myth amongst Dinun’s people – he does the only thing he can and tends to its wounds. He’s surprised to discover the Angel communicates telepathically, and even more so when Moon claims humans have stolen his child, but he agrees to help without pause. Together, they race to save the Angel baby, but Dinun’s feelings for the beautiful Moon might end up complicating things…

For a short novel, there is an impressive amount of world building contained within these pages. The author creates not one world, but two, both original, both incredibly realized with detail that goes far beyond what I normally find in short fantasy. Dinun’s futuristic world blends elements of technology, mythology, and social history to create something new, while the Angel society creates something entirely different than that. There’s extensive vocabulary and social mores as well.

Unfortunately, it’s the vocabulary that trips me up in the beginning. The entire first chapter is densely packed with new terminology, and while some of the meanings are easily extrapolated from context, others are not. It slowed me down dramatically, as I’m not a reader who can skim over words she doesn’t recognize. It took the first couple chapters for that to smooth out for me, but then, something else happened that slowed me back down again. Moon started communicating with Dinun. He does so telepathically, and it’s noted in italics within the text with emotions set off by double colons. Because he is struggling to communicate with Dinun – and true to most cultures’ differences in speech syntax – he thinks in fragments, like this: “We. Sing. Bodies. Birds. Give. When. Child relative. Retrieve. Time of grieving.” ::Sad:: Generally speaking, it’s comprehensible once you get used to the inverted syntax. What tripped me up was the use of periods to separate the words. I think I understand why the author chose this method of communication, but I fear that my method of reading made this more difficult for me than it might be for others. For me, periods are a full stop, so every time I hit Moon’s communications, my reading lost its flow. The stuttering that came in its place kept me from getting immersed into the emotions of the story until I had grown used to the patterns, which took until well over halfway through.

That being said, the writing is tightly written and plotted everywhere else, and characterizations are sharp and realistic. I especially fell in love with Dinun. He’s presented as an outcast in Quarn society, and yet, he’s found a way to deal with it. He’s become a loner, but his status makes him both sensitive to others and strong in character. He’s hugely sympathetic, and while I felt he attached to Moon a little too soon, it was more than understandable considering his lack of contact prior to meeting the Angel. Moon was more enigmatic, probably partially due to my disconnect for half the story, but the other character that leapt off the screen was Jenke. He’s another resident from Dinun’s town, and comes into play the last fourth of the story. I won’t spoil readers by saying why he got to me, but if there was a character I’d follow from this – other than Dinun – he would easily fit the bill.

For fantasy readers, there’s a lot to love in this packed short novel – a plot you can care about, characters to adore, and an introduction to some fascinating cultures.


8/10 – I found the angels’ speech – specifically Moon, since he does the bulk of it – difficult to adjust to, but otherwise tight prose

Hero #1

8/10 – Tender yet strong, befitting his inner character finding a way to coexist with being an outcast

Hero #2

7/10 – More of a mystery until later in the story, though generally likeable

Entertainment value

7/10 – My slow start and slight disjoint from Moon kept me from getting immersed into the story.

World building

9/10 – Thorough beyond belief, the only reason this isn’t perfect is because all the new terminology took me a while to grasp.



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