I will be away from civilization for a while, so I have scheduled a few posts to go up while I'm gone. Please feel free to leave comments, but just know that I probably won't be able to read or respond for a while. So, please don't feel like your comments are being ignored-I will be super excited to read them when I finally get to them!
Foundling (Monster Blood Tattoo, Book One) by D.M. Cornish-The Dark reviewed this book and its sequel, Lamplighter, back in January, and I was intrigued. This isn't quite up my alley as far as normal reading material, but it sounded original and entertaining. I don't think I was quite as enamored with it as The Dark, but I did like it enough that I will probably pick up the next volume. To be fair, The Dark is a monster, and it's probably exciting to be a monster and find books with other monsters in them-there don't seem to be that many of them out there these days. It's always nice when you can relate to something in a book.
As you may have guessed, the story takes place in a land that is inhabited by people as well as monsters. Monsters are generally not well regarded, and even though not all monsters are bad, anybody who is a monster sympathizer had better keep those feelings to himself. Rossamünd is a foundling, an orphan, who has grown up hearing exciting tales about people who have done battle with monsters and lived to tell about it. Of course, every child thinks how exciting it would be to live such a life while most adults know that the best thing to do is to keep your head down and hope you never come face to face with such a creature.
After seeing many of his childhood companions grow up and leave the orphanage for work with outside employers, Rossamünd is finally hired as a lamplighter. This seems like a terribly boring job, and he's a bit disappointed, but he takes it in stride and his guardians at the orphanage make sure that he is sent out into the world with the best preparations they can give him, including potions for dealing with monsters. Rossamünd leaves the orphanage to report for duty, but things don't go quite as planned and he is off on an adventure, finding himself in unexpected situations with unexpected companions. Oh, and there are monsters along the way!
One thing that I liked about this book was the fact that Rossamünd was an honest child. It seems like so many characters, especially children, get caught up in telling lies. Usually it's not due to any ill intent-they get scared or confused and try to figure out the right thing to say-but it always complicates things, and, for me, it's frustrating to watch. It's not that Rossamünd's perfect-he does consider not telling the truth on several occasions, but usually he can't think of anything else to say, so he just says what's true. And it's fine! Things work out for him. The truth doesn't cause everyone to hate him and the world doesn't end and life goes on. He is also compassionate, intelligent and someone who can get things done. I think if you're a parent and looking for a young literary hero for your child, you could do a lot worse than Rossamünd.
Like any good story imaginative enough to include monsters and magical potions, this book has a language of its own, not enough to make reading difficult, but a few words that exist only in the world of monster blood tattoos. Each chapter begins with a definition, and there is a 100-plus-page Explicarium ("Being a Glossary of Terms & Explanations Including Appendices") at the back of the book. Some of my favorite definitions:
sthenicon (noun) a simple wooden box with leather straps and buckles that fasten it to the wearer's head, covering the mouth, nose and eyes. Inside it are various small organs--folded up nasal membranes and complicated bundles of optic nerves--that let the wearer smell tiny, hidden or far-off smells, and see into shadows, in the dark or a great distance away. Used mostly by leers; if a sthenicon is worn for too long, the organs within can grow up into the wearer's nose. If this happens, removing it can be difficult and very painful.
Cool, right? I mean, kind of gross, but cool. And what, you might be wondering, is a leer?
Leers are a creepy lot trained in seeing small and otherwise missed detail, remembering faces, following scents and trails, spying, shadowing and all such prying arts and the use of the sthenicon and olfactologue. They soak their eyes over a period of months in special potives collectively called washes or opthasaums, which irreparably change the colors of the eyes and permanently alter the abilities of their sight.
threwd (noun) threwd is the sensation of watchfulness and awareness of the land or waters about you. Though no one is certain, the most popular theory is that the land itself is strangely sentient, intelligent and aware, and resents the intrusions and misuses of humankind. Paltry threwd, the mildest kind, can make a person feel uneasy, as if under unfriendly observation. The worst kind of threwd--pernicious threwd--can drive a person completely mad with unfounded terrors and dark paranoias.
I have to say, I think I'm actually more enthusiastic about this book now, after having written about it, than I was when I started this review. What do you think? Is this something you would normally read? If not, is it something you would consider?