Saturday, April 02, 2011

Book Review - Of Blood and Honey (A Book of the Fey and The Fallen) by Stina Leicht

  • Of Blood and Honey
  • Stina Leicht
  • Night Shade Books
  • Urban/Historic Fantasy
  • 296 pages
  • Trade paperback edition
  • (ARC ePub ebook from Night Shade Books Editor In Chief)
  • Cover art by Min Yum
  • ISBN: 978-1597802130


     Inference and subtlety, in my opinion, has become somewhat of a lost art in literature. While this talent hasn’t disappeared entirely and some writers continue to maintain the proficiency of suggestive narrative I’ve noticed a decline in its use. What surprised me then was the skill in which Stina Leicht, a first time novelist, uses the ability of suggestion and nuance in her debut urban fantasy Of Blood and Honey. The literary foreplay leading up to the violent, traumatic sexual assault of the main character, Liam, for instance, is handled with a great deal of subtlety – more the fodder for our imaginations and more effective than a straight telling of the incident which, by the way, never happens. And the first time Liam unwittingly allows the otherworld beast inside him to escape we are shown more than told of that transformation. Because of the competence employed utilizing the art of supposition Ms. Leicht makes us a better audience. We are allowed to use our imagination to fill in the subtle nooks and crannies that remain unwritten but which are obviously present.      

      Of course, Of Blood and Honey is not a perfect urban fantasy but, then again, none really are*. What I feel missing from this tale was the intricately woven account connecting the Fey and human worlds. In truth, and perhaps in defense of this omission, I was under the distinct impression during reading - and here again is the subtleness of inference at play - that the Fey would become more prevalent in later books. Additional works would certainly offer the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of Fey and meld it with that of the commonplace home of humanity. On this point only time (and the publication of additional volumes in the series) will tell but the author would do well to bring the compelling world of Bran and Redcap** to the forefront in at least one subsequent story. I also found a number of very dark moments scattered throughout this novel which may offend some readers. I, on the other hand, felt that those sobering flashes provided a certain “punch” and the “hard edge” moments made it more emotional, therefore more enjoyable to me. And giving a novel sentiment and mood is what every writer strives for, or should. While the unimaginative and angry step-father cliché has been overdone those scenes were crafted skillfully enough that I could appreciate the struggle between the love and duty suffered by Liam’s mother and the emotional tug-of-war she endured. Fortunately, the step-father character is only found in a few scenes for abbreviated stretches of time.     

       Some of Ms. Leicht’s strengths are simply a result of blood, sweat, and hard work. The time period and politics of 1970’s Ireland and the clash between the Irish Republican Army and the British Army has been meticulously researched and she reveals to us the enviable ability to construct entire worlds in just a few short but concise paragraphs. Mingling Irish folklore and the mundane and then throwing a mystery into the mix is a stroke of genius. Every one of her characters are elaborate and intricate, even those that are flawed, secondary, or cliché and she reveals surprises in delightfully proportioned servings. The worlds she’s created are foreboding and rough and magical and dark and we are fortunate to be able to visit there, if only for a short while. The Fey and The Fallen is a series I’ll be following closely. If you enjoy finely crafted fantasy then you should too.

4 ½ out of 5 stars

Additional Reading:

Author site

SF Reviews.Net review

Fantasy Book Critic Review

The Big Idea: Stina Leicht

Author’s LiveJournal site

(P.S. While you’re visiting Leicht’s LiveJournal site be sure to click on the link HOW TO STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST (AND 9 OTHER THINGS NOBODY TOLD ME – Pay special attention to “#10 Creativity is Subtraction” then read my first paragraph above again. ‘Nuf said.)

* Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren comes very close to perfect and I’d rally behind just about any of Emma Bull’s urban fantasies or Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books, but I digress.

** More on Redcap

*** More on the Fae

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