ARE YOU READY? Of course you are, you were born ready for this, right? Right. I should tell you, I’m going to use the books as an opportunity to talk about writing as well as reading and giving the basic storyline. I don’t know much about television and screenwriting, so I don’t say much about it in the TV recaps, but book writing I know a thing or two about (I hope), so I feel more confident pointing out the things I think work and the things I think don’t. By all means, take to the comments section and tell me how wrong I am, so I can argue with you. 😀
All right, Snowflakes, let’s get this book party started!
We’re recapping Forever Knight: A Stirring of Dust by Susan Sizemore.
We open with a prologue, which current industry wonks will tell you NEVER to do. I disagree. Sometimes a prologue can be necessary, but the circumstances for that are terribly limited, and a lot of the time, you can just start with Chapter One. This book? Should just have started with Chapter One, since the prologue takes place in the same time, same city, just with some different – perhaps throwaway? – characters.
A thief has taken a bunch of stuff from “the disc jockey’s” apartment. “Disc jockey”. Hmm. I don’t like it. I think we all know what a DJ is, right? And we especially did so in 1997, even if most of us no longer listen to the radio. It feels…formal. Fussy, even. Which, maybe this narrator is.
Anyway, the thief, while waiting for his fence to open the back door to his shop, recalls that the apartment was too easy to break into, and full of weird shit. The fence opens the shop, and we’re told that the thief works for him, stealing antiques for the old man’s private customers. Tonight, he’s brought two items: a carved box filled with ashes, and a numina, a statue of a Roman household god. Wikipedia tells me that should actually be numen, since it’s just one statue, but 1997 authors didn’t have Wikipedia, so I’ll assume Sizemore did her homework and all she found was the plural.
The thief is creeped out by the ashes in the box, so he turns around and tosses them on…the floor? That seems rude. He turns back to learn about the numen, and neither man is aware that the ashes have not fallen on the floor, but are coalescing in the moonlight into the form of a man.
Behind them, the dust stopped swirling. It hung suspended on the air. It swayed back and forth, as if to music. It pulsed, as if to a heartbeat rhythm. It thinned and stretched and writhed. It changed color….It turned into arms and legs, a torso, and finally a man. … A naked, dark-haired form, with glowing yellow eyes.
I liked this passage because it shows how fantasy writers so often have to deal with weird shit and make it understandable. Sizemore’s writing is not the most poetic, but it is clear and serviceable, and I think she does a good job with this dust-turning-to-vampire bit.
Now, why Lacroix – because obviously “the disc jockey” is Lacroix, I think we can all safely make that assumption – has some vampire’s ashes in a box in his apartment is beyond me. And why didn’t the ashes turn back into a vampire in his apartment? Does it require moonlight – which we’re told is a full moon, “A hunter’s moon”, as the thief calls it? I feel like these are a lot of questions for page 3, but maybe I’ve read too many vampire novels that required ash-scattering and so have too many expectations that the average reader wouldn’t. It’s like how my dad can’t watch movies with helicopters in them – he knows how helicopters work, and he can’t stand the technical inaccuracies. I know too much about vampires, so I’m pretty confused as to how one could stay in ashes in an urn for any length of time.
And, yes, these two are throwaway characters: the dust-vamp drains the antiques dealer and cuts his head off with a convenient sword, then drinks from the thief. He scampers off into the night, leaving the thief to turn – instantly, it appears – and head off on his own quest to feed and find his master.
Which may be why Sizemore and her editors chose a prologue. Conventional wisdom is also to give us the main characters right away – including names in the first line – but I’m not opposed to a meandering start, if it involves information critical to the story. I also don’t like names in the first line – you know, like “Tom Smith thought today would be normal, even when the rabbit talked to him at the mailbox.” It feels…manufactured, I guess? And less like real life, where you see and meet people all day long without immediately knowing their names.
Maybe it’s just because I’m bad with names. I decided one of the deacons at the church where I work was named Phil, and even though I know it’s not his name, I can’t for the life of me remember what it really is.
Anyway. Chapter One!
Nick is listening to Lacroix on the radio, only Sizemore spells it LaCroix, which strikes me as unnecessarily fussy, again. I mean, yes, I think the actual French would be la Croix, and perhaps laCroix, but transliterating that to LaCroix seems…irritating. So I’m just going to stick with my spelling, because I think it’s how the name would be North Americanized. If you’re Quebecois and want to argue, please do.
Anyway. He’s talking about the moon, and then Nick’s thinking about the moon, and how much he loves moonlight, and how he’d like to “stand naked and bathe in it”, but Natalie’s on her way over. There’s a lot of narration about how Lacroix is crazyballs and goes on rampages and likes killing, and how Nat and Nick are friends and her scent is familiar and comforting to Nick, etc. Stuff fans of the show know, pretty much.
Again, the writing is serviceable and clear, if not especially beautiful, or unique. I’m sure Sizemore was working under guidelines and conditions, since the book is copyrighted to TriStar Television, but I would have liked to read something from a closer point-of-view than third person omniscient. I think it would have been fun to get someone’s voice, here, instead of simply a show in book form.
And then there’s this:
Tonight, he knew Nat was looking forward to watching a video of a film she hadn’t had time to catch in the theaters.
Guys. Have you ever read a more tortured version of “She’d rented a movie”? Like, I’m pretty sure that in ’97, we were all up on the latest VCR technology. Heck, I remember being able to rent a VCR, too, when I was in college in ’97. We didn’t call them “videos of films”. Like “disc jockey”, this is a weirdly formal circumlocution that makes the novel feel…off, somehow. Too far removed from its subjects, perhaps.
Nick wants to go for a walk in the moonlight, but Nat had to go to three stores to get that movie, and by God, she’s going to eat her Chinese food and watch it. She suggests going for a walk at midnight, and Nick agrees, calling it a “compromise”. Nat was going to say it sounded “romantic”, but that’s not a word they dare utter around each other, so.
Here we head-hop. What that means is that we go from the narration being about Nick’s thoughts and interior monologue to being about Nat’s. This is really only something you can get away with if you’re writing third-person omniscient narration, and even then, I’m not fond of it. There’s a reason we’ve all backed away from third omniscient recently, and I’m reminded of it as I read. There’s quite a distance between the reader and the characters this way, and while it’s convenient for the writer – since we know everything and can then put everything in – it also feels sterile to me. Like I’m being told everything, instead of shown it.
Then again, I feel like a lot of the books I try to read these days tell me everything instead of showing, even when they’re first person, so I don’t know. Maybe it’s just Sizemore’s narration here that leans to the telling instead of showing. And that’s understandable, if she’s trying to bring people who haven’t watched the show to the books. Maybe audiences want to be told, and that’s why I don’t sell any books. 🙁
ANYWAY. They watch Nat’s werewolf movie and scoot closer to each other on the couch, until they’re super-cozy and talking about whether they’re on call that night. (They both are.) All this werewolfing leads Nat to ask Nick if there are other supernatural creatures. He admits he’s seen ghosts, but insists nothing else is real. Nat says they could be, but doesn’t want to fight about it, so they finish the movie.
Nat brings it up again, claiming that Nick didn’t answer her question – “Are there other monsters?” Except he did – he said no. But this time, he says yes – there are other monsters, and she doesn’t want to meet them.
FLASHBACK TIME! Ha, thought you’d get away from it, didn’t you? Not a chance!
Nick, Janette, and Lacroix are getting out of a carriage in the middle of nowhere – a carriage sent by one of Lacroix’s old friends, Prince Radu. If you just thought “HOLY SHIT THIS IS A DRACULA NOVEL”, well, I’m with you. Radu was Vlad’s brother, of course, and is a very Romanian name, so I’m guessing they’re in the land beyond the forest.
Lacroix and Nick bicker about being vampires, as usual. Nick wanted to stay in Paris, to explore the “new” philosophy in its salons. I’m guessing 17th or 18th century, then? Before the revolution, after the Renaissance, yes? Sizemore doesn’t give us any clearer clues about the time of this flashback.
Nick runs off to hunt by himself, and finds a village covered in garlic. So the villagers know about vampires, and he runs off in the other direction to find some food. But he finds a “monster” instead, described thusly:
He was used to the smell of death, but this foulness reminded him of the charnel pits in the days of the Black Death. This was a concentrated rot tainted with evil. …
There was a vein of energy mixed with the stench. … that reminded Nicholas of his own kind, …but worse, somehow. … It was a dead thing walking.
The thing, whatever it is (DRACULA) sees him in the forest, and then we’re back to the present with Natalie. Nick doesn’t want to take that walk anymore, so Nat heads home…and on her way, sees a naked dude with a sword run across an intersection.
She dismisses it as her imagination, even though she thinks she sees glowing eyes and fangs. Because of course she does.
Next week: Chapter Two! More head-hopping! Less surety about Sizemore’s research! See you all then!
Show RitS Post List