Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The-Night-Circus-banner

Book Review

The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern


Overview


Rarely does a jacket cover description of a novel fail so mightily to represent said novel like The Night Circus. It was almost as if the cover writer skimmed through bits and pieces and took a wild stab in the dark. This novel does have a competition of sorts between two illusionists set in a circus that eventually involves a love story, though none of this really does the book justice. The Night Circus is a fantasy novel that explores themes about methods of learning and teaching, fandom, mortality, imagination, and, yes, love. The novel is a whimsical journey of sight and smell set mainly in a wonderfully imagined circus, with real magic coaxing the attractions to life

The full video review is below along with my in depth analysis of the book.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Wheel of Time: A Complete Series Review

wot-covers

A Complete Series Review of

Robert Jordan’s: The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time is one of the best-selling fantasy novel series of all time. It introduced a wealth of fresh new ideas into the fantasy genre and expanded on others in truly creative ways. However, if one delves into reviews of the series it will not take long to discover it also has a fairly large number of detractors. This series review will go into four positive and four negative aspects of the novels to highlight some of the reasons why it is almost equally touted as the best and the worst of the fantasy genre.

Below is both my video and full written analysis.


Con: Change in Thematic Scope


Pacing is one of the major criticisms of The Wheel of Time and the origin of this problem can arguably be traced back to the shift in thematic scope around the fifth book. It must be stated that for some readers, or even perhaps the majority, what will be argued here can be construed as one of the strengths of the series. Still, this shift brought with it a dramatic expansion in theme and much slower pacing that has sparked considerable criticism.

It is obvious from the outset of the first novel that Robert Jordan was heavily influenced by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (as well as Arthurian legend to a smaller extent), and Jordan himself admitted as much before his untimely passing. As such, the first three novels in the series were quest driven journeys with titles that informed readers of the end goal. For example, The Eye of the World began with introducing the main cast of characters, who soon discover that the Eye of the World is in peril, and the end of the book has them fighting to defend it. The same in many ways can be said of the two novels that follow (The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn). The titles themselves tell you the quest, and the characters accomplish it, in one way or another, by books end. By the time the fourth novel comes around the thematic scope begins to shift away from self-contained prophecy fulfilling journeys toward a much grander exploration of all the minutia involved in rallying a discordant land toward facing off with a world ending threat.

This shift in scope was welcomed by most readers, as many wanted to see grander themes addressed in fantasy, and they also craved a deeper dive into the masterfully crafted world Jordan devised. However, there are many that felt exactly the opposite. Many readers got into the series specifically for the quest driven journeys and cared nothing for the catty politicking involved in rallying a land of increasingly dishonest and generally unsavory people. Nor did some readers appreciate the reality that this grand scope also brought with a much slower narrative pace, an increase in books ending with little to no plot development, or that many characters or themes would be completely abandoned for whole books.

The first three books in the series are excellent, arguably 8.5-10-star books. What complicates matters is that the shift happens four books into the series. Thus, the readers who did not care for the shift in thematic scope justifiably feel betrayed in many respects, but now they are invested. Once you are that deep into a series and it starts to shift, many feel their only recourse it to rage. It could also be argued that this series, by changing thematic scope, effectively accomplished the opposite of the Harry Potter series. When Harry Potter shifted to darker, more adult themes in the third book many feel that it broadened its potential audience while only alienating a select few. The Wheel of Time, on the other hand, may have effectively narrowed its audience around the fifth book by broadening its thematic scope and drastically slowing its narrative pacing.


Pro: Magic System


Magic is a staple of the fantasy genre, though many authors struggle with presenting the means, method, and basic rules of their magic systems with any kind of consistency. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is the great exception to this rule. The magic system in The Wheel of Time is very well thought out while being equally complex and easily grasped by the reader. The magic system contains aspects of the overall theme of balance, which will be touched on later, and that balance – whether between men and women, or even between different elemental aspects of the power itself – make for a deeply intriguing magical system with clearly defined limitations.

Each magic user, or channeler, in this series has a varied level of strength in the power, as well as varied skill in different uses of the power. For example, not all channelers can heal and some can only channel to accomplish one specific spell (or weave). Furthermore, there is a difference in what each life element (fire, earth, air, water, and spirit) does to channeling, and men and women have different levels of strength in each element. As all powerful as this may make the channelers seem however, they still require a guardian, or warder, because all it takes is an arrow in the back to fell them. Thus, their magic is not so incredible as to make them impervious to danger.

The series also introduced a vast number of magic amplifying artifacts that varied in strength and purpose. This adds another level of depth to this system in that simply finding an artifact does not increase the users magic ability in a blanket way, but that each has its own specific purpose and the user must know not only what the purpose is, but also what aspect of the power need be utilized to make the object do what it is meant to. Failing to know either of these and attempting to use the object usually ended in death or being cut off from the power permanently. This makes for an incredibly intricate system with well establish checks and balances. The magic system in The Wheel of Time is quite possibly the best in the fantasy genre, and it can easily be recognized from many novels that come after it how this system is used throughout the genre and beyond as a benchmark of greatness to be drawn from.


Con: Portrayal of Women


The portrayal of women in The Wheel of Time has been the cause of quite a bit of commentary both for and against the series. For some it is argued that the series, first published in 1990, was groundbreaking in presenting so many “strong female characters” who champion the series as often, if not more so, than the male characters. There is an interesting statistical analysis of the series that can be found HERE which points out how perspective wise women dominated the series as often, if not more so, than men as the series progressed. However, there is another contingent that sees Robert Jordan’s portrayal of women as all too often catty, condescending, and arrogant without cause. This may be caused by two factors: first, that the series seemed to take the brash, arrogant bravado of the stereotypical hero and implant it into nearly all female characters in the series, and second, that the series mistakes the idea of ‘being strong’ as a character with being overbearing.

What makes this more difficult is that the series often told readers how incredibly wise or crafty these women were, only to show them making arrogant mistake after mistake. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Aes Sedai, the main group of female channelers. At the close of the fourth book there is a break in this sect of magic users that lasts well into the 13th book. Up until this point the Aes Sedai were portrayed in the narrative as serene women with the expansive knowledge of one who had lived an incredibly long life – some well past the century mark. Once this rift happens their entire storyline could be summed up as nine books worth of catty political backbiting. These women, and the drama surrounding them, is the worst kind of soap opera trash. Nearly everyone is two-faced in one form or another, they all jump to the first available conclusion, and they rarely even entertain the idea that they could be making a mistake – regardless of how many times this is consecutively proved wrong.

If this were limited to the channelers, one may be able to accept this as a factor brought on by having incredible power. One could almost understand that. However, most female characters in the Wheel of Time behave this way. In nearly every book you can find instances of women learning some new fact or power and then immediately lording it over others or making wild assumptions that lead them right back into nearly getting themselves killed. Then there is the tendency of women in this series to belittle a man so thoroughly that the man somehow realizes he loves said woman. This is toxic and a poor way to present romance in a novel. Finally, they also spend incredible amounts of time finding the fault in anything someone says, but even more so when a male character says it. To be fair, there is a deep seeded trust issue between men and women due to the breaking in this series, but this does not justify every word coming out a man’s mouth being summarily ignored while basically calling the man an idiot. Does this happen in real life at times with some women? Of course. However, the women who treat other human beings this way are not the type one wants to read about.

Someone once said that Robert Jordan learned how to write women’s interaction by watching a gathering of housewives at a women-only party. Whether or not this is true, one can see where this story arose from. All too often in this series the female characters, in an attempt to be a strong character, come off as arrogant and patronizing to the point of being unsympathetic. One almost wishes the bad things that befall them if only to temper their pride.


Pro: Theme of Balance


Robert Jordan drew from several eastern philosophies in creating the world of The Wheel of Time. The wheel itself comes from the Hindu belief in time as an ever-turning wheel, and the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai is easily recognized as the Yin and Yang of ancient Chinese philosophy. In both ideologies, balance plays a primary role and Jordan attempted to capture that essence in his novels. Using this as a basis worked wonders for creating tension as well as harmony within the story. Just as in the dualism of Yin/Yang, the two opposing forces collide and contradict, but that contradiction can create complimentary relationships as they interact. Reading these novels with an understanding of this philosophy, particularly in how the Aes Sedai interact with the Asha’man, one begins to see a wealth of meaning hidden within the crafting of the story.

The tension between men and women, particularly channelers, takes on a different meaning in some instances when one sees their contradictory forces clashing to create a form of stability. Male channelers in this series are represented by black, or the Yang, and their eventual place of power is named the Black Tower to represent this. Female channelers are then represented by a white symbol and their place of power is the White Tower. Yang in Chinese philosophy is meant to represent the ‘active’ half and even, at times, ‘disorder’, while Yin is ‘receptive’ and ‘orderly’. In the way Jordan describes use of the power this can easily be seen where Saidar is surrendered to and Saidin must be forcefully taken hold of. There are a wealth of references to this philosophy and how it is meant to create balance peppered throughout the novels that helps it create a stabilizing theme of a universe out of balance and struggling to regain it. Robert Jordan was masterfully creative in incorporating these concepts into his work and presenting them in a way that was faithfully representative of their origins while also adding interesting elements that fit his own narrative.

Both the wheel and Yin/Yang concepts are also primarily focused on balance, and this story uses this theme as a foundation throughout. For each weave of the True Source/One Power (the magic of Wheel of Time) there must be a counterbalance. Furthermore, it become increasingly obvious as the novel goes on that the process of removing men who could channel from the equation severely weakened the world and had essentially thrown it out of balance without those doing it fully realizing the consequences of their actions. Finally, the ultimate resolution of the books also taps into this theme to investigate in a new way what ‘evil’ represents for human nature, and ultimately dealt with the idea of the ‘adversary’ in a unique manner that was impressively faithful to the theme of balance.


Con: Repetition


Many of the main characters in The Wheel of Time, and quite of the few of the tertiaries, have notable idiosyncrasies. That in and of itself is not damning. What is, however, is the incredible frequency that readers are forced to read about the same action or description being detailed ad nauseum for fourteen books. Whether it is the dice rattling in Mat Cauthon’s head, or the various emotional scents that Perrin Aybara picks out, or the slime like characteristic of Saidin when Rand tries to grab hold of it, this series has a virtual plethora of banal descriptive repetition. Though perhaps the most notable tick is Nyaneve’s sadistic self-castigating tendency to yank violently at her own hair when she is angry. However, this only covers some of the primary characters. There is also the knuckling of mustaches, fingering of blades, bonds carrying emotions, people being described as something completely with “… down to their toenails”, and the ever-incessant fussing with clothing – skirt smoothing or shawl adjusting. The amount of repetition brings many readers to a point where they can sense the repetition coming and will voluntarily skip over entire paragraphs in the book to avoid it. In many ways it begins to feel like Robert Jordan did not know how to pause and let a moment simply lie without filling it somehow. Sadly, he then tended to fill it with the same things over and over, which become very tedious to read.

Beyond character idiosyncrasies, there is also the case of excessively addressing women’s breasts throughout this series. Sadly, this is not unusual in the fantasy genre, but the incredible frequency in which breasts are the first point of focus in describing clothing – particularly in a series that loves redundant and unnecessary detail when dealing with clothing – makes this to stand out. Furthermore, the breasts are usually described as ample or impressive, bursting forth from the clothing in some manner. So, the series pushed forth the idea of strong female characters, yet still tended to hypersexualize them. While it is possible to have both, it felt incongruous in many ways. Then there is the ceremony to become the Amyrlin Seat, the highest seat amongst the female channelers, where a room full of women must bare their breasts to prove they are women, two women have to lay their heads on the bare breasts of another to complete a ceremony to become sisters, and an entire race of seafarers take their tops off (women included) when out to sea. Though perhaps the most egregious case of unnecessary repetition regarding breasts is that every time a woman crosses her arms it must be pointed out that this is accomplished, of course, but crossing them under her breasts. One can safely assume readers have no need of this added detail. All it truly adds to the series is an increase of the word “breasts” by no less than thirty occurrences per book. Time and again the writing returns to this part of the female anatomy to a point where it almost feels a fetish of the writer, and it grows tiresome.

One final repetitive element in the series is the archaic and almost juvenile methods used to enforce rules or to punish wrongdoing. Often this was accomplished by spanking, birching, paddling, or smacking someone with a shoe or sandal. When one takes into consideration that Robert Jordan was a professed country boy from South Carolina who grew up in the 60’ and 70’s, this can almost be understood. Nevertheless, one would assume that a magic wielding race of women with members near a century old and with seemingly limitless knowledge could devise a more effective method of breaking someone than putting them over their knee and spanking them. While being spanked is humiliating, and part of reprograming someone is to humiliate them, this simply comes off as a juvenile tactic that these women should not have fallen to. Further, in a latter book when Mat takes a grown woman over his knee and spanks her mercilessly, it comes off far more ridiculous in a perverted way rather than a comical one. He’s a twenty-year-old man spanking a woman at least twice his age. If one simply pictures a twenty-year-old man spanking a forty or fifty-year-old woman, regardless of what her face looks like, it can be nothing but disturbing. Perhaps it should be pointed out for those whose minds live in the gutter, as my mother would say, that this scene was not meant to be sexual. In latter books Cadsuane also finally breaks one of the forsaken, a sadist no less, by spanking her in front of other people. This is the straw that breaks her. One would assume people who have given their soul over to evil would all enjoy a bit of spanking, but apparently that is not true in Robert Jordan’s world.


Pro: The “Adversary”


While the Wheel of Time began with the story of a world being consumed by “the shadow” and our heroes setting off in preparation for a battle against the dark one to save it, how ‘evil’ is ultimately portrayed in this book is perhaps one of the better representations of this theme in fantasy. All too often the ultimate evil has little ambition beyond destroying everything for the sake of destruction. The fault for this can easily be laid at the feet of the age old tale of ‘creator’ versus ‘destroyer’ where an omnipotent yet ambivalent creator leaves his creation to fend for itself while a seemingly equally powerful destroyer is trapped in the creation with the inhabitants and is bent on ripping the creation to shreds to spite the creator. One need look no further than the Holy Bible, the best-selling book throughout all human history, to see where his story originated.

However, Robert Jordan’s “adversary” was ultimately different when the time came to finally confront it. The series attempted to address what ‘evil’ means in the overall balance of human nature. Therefore, this was more than a battle of good guys versus bad guys. This was a story of how and why this evil was able to rise, what caused it to ebb previously, and why it cannot simply be disposed of. In many ways this series also attempted to frame evil in a manner consistent with human history: all eyes turn toward the representation of the ultimate evil, but in truth it is the evil festering in the man standing next to you that presents the greatest danger. The ‘big bad’ often blinds us to who and what we are really fighting. In this, The Wheel of Time put a great twist on a tired trope.


Con: Overabundance of Characters


According to THIS Wikipedia entry, Wheel of Time has 2,782 named characters. Even for a fourteen-book series, that is an incredible number of characters. Thus, one of the problems in the series is uneven character development. Even primary characters are abandoned for entire books. However, the greater issue is progression of the vast number of tertiary characters.

Some characters introduced in the opening half of the series are shelved for large swaths of time only to be re-introduced later, making it difficult to reengage with the characters motivations. Gawyn Trakand is an excellent example of this. He plays a solid tertiary role in the first several books, but from book seven to eleven you read next to nothing about him. He then reemerges in book 12 and readers are expected to feel invested in his motivations. However, when an author disregards a character for that long it says something about his importance both to the author and to the narrative.

Non-primary character arcs also suffer from this abundance. Some arcs are far too long only to be dealt with haphazardly, while others are neglected for long swaths despite their potential. With so many characters fighting for page time there are several arcs that could have been flushed out and made into a larger plot only to be put on the back burner to bring in new characters. This series thus seemed to suffer from ‘new shiny’ syndrome, opting to flood the narrative with more and more characters without finishing what they started, or to kill off more interesting characters to replace them with banal new characters in an attempt to liven things up. At times this worked, but more often it did not.


Pro: Power Creep


All too often in fantasy writing characters go from being a talentless nobody at the outset of the first story to being an all-powerful, unstoppable force in the span of a single book. However, The Wheel of Time is one of the great outliers and is perhaps the standard bearer in how a power creep can be done well. The main characters begin the series with massive potential, but fully realizing that potential takes all fourteen books. This allows them to avoid, for the most part, the pitfall many other fantasy series fall into of adding stronger and stronger adversaries to up the ante, which necessitates the heroes power to continue escalating to a point of becoming ridiculous and repetitive. The Two Rivers Gang (Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Nyaneve) slowly gain in experience, confidence, and power as each book moves along. This is done so well that each step in their progression feels natural with the movement of the story, rather than a spike in power just to address the current situation. Furthermore, the power progression falls in line with the character progression, synchronizing the narrative in a positive way.


CONCLUSION


The Wheel of Time was a ground-breaking series for the fantasy genre. The masterfully imagined magic system, thematic portrayal of balance, steady power creep, and the subversion of the standard adversary trope are but a few of the areas where this series shines. However, the thematic shift around the fifth book that slowed the pacing, the portrayal of women in an arguably antagonistic manner, overuse of repetition, and excess of named characters represent some of the points that detractors of the series have rightfully pointed out as weaknesses. Ultimately this series has quite a lot to offer fans of high fantasy, but it must be entered into with the understanding that the quality is inconsistent. Further, that the pacing and thematic scope of the series will shift in a way that some will not appreciate. In sum, while The Wheel of Time has rightfully earned its high place in the annals of the fantasy genre in many ways, it has equally earned a large number of reproofs making it a series with nearly as much downside as up.


Individual Book Ratings


  1. The Eye of the World: 9/10
  2. The Great Hunt: 5/10
  3. The Dragon Reborn 5/10
  4. The Shadow Rising: 9/10
  5. The Fires of Heaven: 5/10
  6. Lord of Chaos: 4/10
  7. A Crown of Swords: 1/10
  8. The Path of Daggers: 1/10
  9. Winter’s Heart: 2/10
  10. Crossroads of Twilight 1/10
  11. Knife of Dreams: 7/10
  12. The Gathering Storm: 9/10
  13. Towers of Midnight: 8/10
  14. A Memory of Light: 6/10

Series Total: 5.6/10


 

Book Review: Wheel of Time, Book 14: A Memory of Light

WoT14

Overview

A Memory of Light, the final installment in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, was a battle strewn mayhem that attempted to bind together its over numerous plot threads, character arcs, and themes. The final strokes in a great number of these storylines were masterfully done. However, like any narrative this grand in scope, there were far too many targets to hit that it is only natural several skewed far from the mark. Ultimately the novel brought this grand epic to a fairly satisfying ending, though this book felt like a considerable step down from the previous three.

My spoiler free video review is here:

The deep dive SPOILER HEAVY video review is HERE

Continue reading

Book Review: Wheel of Time, Book 13: Towers of Midnight

9780356503943

Wheel of Time, Book 13:

Towers of Midnight

The thirteenth installment in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was an overall excellent book with a great balance of action, exposition, character development and plot progression. This balance has been the bane of many books throughout the middle of this series, but since the eleventh installment it has fully returned to form.

My full video and written analysis can be found below.

Continue reading

Book Review: Wheel of Time, Book 11: Knife of Dreams

Wheel of Time Book 11: Knife of Dreams

51C5V09tJ8L._SY445_QL70_

After several books of scant plot progression and painfully slow pacing, Knife of Dreams is practically a plethora of concluded plotlines. It felt as if all the main threads of the past nearly four books were gathered up in this installment and tied off in short order. Interestingly, this installment was quite a bit longer than the previous four yet was much quicker to get through because nearly each chapter was a fast-paced rush toward some form of completion. Continue reading

Charlotte’s Story ~ A Story from 10 Words

For details regarding the series: A Story from 10 Words, please read my about page, and feel free to contact me with your own 10 words and I will write you a story!

If you would like to read some of the other submissions, please check out the series page!


This week’s submission came from the lovely girlygeekgirl, please stop by and check out her blog when you have time!  She is an extremely prolific writer and has something different and interesting put up for each day of the week!

Her submission details were as follows:

Words: Map, lost, gold, treasure, royal, ancient, flower, sparkle, smile, mystery

Theme: Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Song: “Colourful” by Rocco Deluca and the Burden

This is the story I created from it:

Continue reading

Othersiders: Arts of the Necromancer – Pt.9 (#Fiction Friday)

tethered-spirits-6skm8dsnz

Evelyn sat staring at the book, willing the words to make sense and failing with each passing moment.  Her brow was furrowed in frustration and her tired eyes were red with strain.  She tapped the table with a pencil in a quick, furious rhythm that caused many of the people sitting around her to cast evil glances in her direction, but she neither noticed nor cared.  The book had been a immense puzzle from the moment she opened it and not a single piece had been properly put into place.  Her answers were not coming. 

Finian pulled out a chair, sat down next to Evelyn, and he tried to make himself as small as he could.  He had spent as much time as he could in study hall the last few days, getting miles ahead in his homework for the first time in his life, all in an effort to avoid watching Evelyn bash her head against the proverbial brick wall.  He had found the book for her, but he wished more and more that he had just left the cursed thing in that evil shop with each passing day.  He wanted to remain unnoticed for as long as possible, not wanting to disturb Evelyn’s concentration, but he knew she knew he was there.  He was only really fooling himself, which is what he was best at. Continue reading

Othersiders: Arts of the Necromancer – Pt. 8

*Image courtesy of weekinweird.com*

Evelyn strode into Raith’s Miscellany, Oddities and Curiosity Shoppe with her shoulders back and her eyes straight ahead.  Finian followed behind her with his hands stuffed firmly into the pockets of his jeans, his shoulders hunched and his eyes darting all over the place.  Every step the two friends took along their journey only firmed Evelyn’s resolve while simultaneously chipping away at Finian’s.  Still, as much as he wished to run for the hills, Finian would never abandon Evelyn.  Even if following her was a non stop dance with danger. 

Raith’s shop gave every indication of being as horrible as Alice King’s home had been, and the place was strange to say the least.  There were marble busts of people with bulging eyes and outstretched tongues — like they were being hung at the moment of creation.  There were rats, spiders, and bats swimming about in glass jars, dead animals that had been stuffed and hung from the walls, glass balls, tarot cards, hundreds of ticking clocks —all set to different times, an entire shelf of left sided clothing: shoes, gloves, socks, and all of it was covered in a thin film of dust.  There was a large section of magic objects and talismans from all over the world, and so much bric a brac was strewn about on the floors and the shelves that it was impossible to focus on any one thing before your eyes became distracted by another thing.  Walking through the shop itself was also a task in careful stepping so as not to knock something over or step on the merchandise.

Evelyn blew past it all without even seeing it.  She wanted to speak with Raith about necromancy.  She had read all she could on the subject, learning that necromancy was a kind of magic and one often associated with communicating with the dead.  In Evelyn’s mind that meant this man knew ways of speaking with people who had passed into another world.  She did not believe in an afterlife, as much as she believed in spirits and ghosts, but reading about necromancy flipped a switch in her mind.  It was not the dead these necromancers were speaking to, but the people who had been taken over to the other side by the spirits, like those that had stolen away her brother and Finian’s family.  Raith had the answers she needed.

Finian peeled off when Evelyn reached the main counter.  She slammed her hand down on the service bell and Finian began browsing, trying to look for all the world like he had not come in with her.  Evelyn’s tendency to go on the attack from the get go made Finian a bit nervous. 

Evelyn made to slam her hand down on the bell again when a tall man with a lean face and angular features reached his thin hand out and grabbed Evelyn by the wrist.

“I heard you the first time, girl,” said the shop keeper in a slow, smooth voice that gave the impression he had sung the words.  The man was of medium height but his presence was enormous.  Staring coldly into Evelyn’s eyes with his white blonde hair hanging down to frame his face, his pale skin and ice blue eyes amplified by his all white suit and his delicate features, she could not help but feel that the man was beautiful in a way that men should not be.  

Finian stood puzzling, how he keeps those clothes as immaculately white as they are in this shop is magic in and of itself.  He tried to fight off the feeling that they had just come face to face with an angel but could not quite get past it. 

“Is there something I can help you with?” the shop keeper asked.

Evelyn did not respond for several moments.  She was lost in the trance of the shop keeper’s beauty and Finian had to cough several times before she was able to shake herself free.

“Yes,” she began, returning to herself in a flash.  “We were sent here by a woman named Alice King.  She said that you could teach us about necromancy.” 

The shop keeper smiled a faint smile and clasped his pale hands before his breast. 

“I am not sure what that is to mean, but I can promise you that I know nothing about necromancy.” 

Finian was ready to take his word for it if it meant getting out of that shop.  He was walking past a row of bottled insects when a scorpion lunged at him from inside its liquid prison. Finian jumped, letting out a high pitched squeak, and fell into a pile of books.  There was several moments of ruckus as Finian broke various objects in an attempt to stay erect, only to fall back into the shelf housing the scorpion. 

The shop keeper’s smile broadened a bit but he never took his piercing eyes off of Evelyn. 

“You are Raith, aren’t you?” Evelyn asked.

“I am,” he said in a low whisper. 

Finian managed to raise himself off the floor and began trying to piece things back together.

“We’re good over here, nothing broken.  Well, nothing of mine broken.  This, uh… hey!  Is this a magic eight ball?” Finian shook it and then read the result, mumbling a string of obscenities under his breath.  Luckily no one was listening to him.

“Then you’re the man I’m looking for.  Alice King told us you wouldn’t want to help.”

“I am afraid I do not know any Alice King,” Raith said, with a slight shrug of his shoulders.

“Yes, you do.  You also know about the arts of the necromancer and you’re going to help us.”

Evelyn placed both hands on the counter and drew her eyebrows down.  The muscles in her arms tensed and she flexed her jaw.  She was not going to be brushed aside. 

Raith licked his lips slowly and then held his hands out in mock surrender.

“I am a seller of odd things, this much is true, and many times I have been mistaken for something I am not.  This Alice King of yours would not be the first to have erred.”

“Hey,” Finian broke in again, “is this a picture of Ozzy Osborne?  Ah, no, that’s Lindsey Lohan.  Sorry.” 

“That is a portrait of Nikola Tesla, my young friend, and can be had for a very reasonable price.”

“Yeah,” Finian said, running his fingers through his rust coloured hair, “I think I might have bought enough already.”

“The broken items are of no consequence.  I can sell them just as easily now as before you entered.” 

Finian cocked an eyebrow at Raith and began looking around him at the mess he had made.  Then he took another look at the rest of the shop and realised that a man who ran a shop like this would probably prefer his items broken up a bit.

Raith turned back to Evelyn to find that she had not moved an inch or taken her eyes off Raith for a moment.  He sighed and reached for the telephone at his side.  He held the receiver end out to her and said in a voice that betrayed the underlying threat.

“I must ask you to leave.  You have come in to my shop seeking wares I do not sell, your friend has destroyed my merchandise, and this line of questioning is beginning to border upon harassment.  If you are unwilling to go I will have no choice but to phone the authorities.”

“You said the broken things didn’t matter!” Evelyn shouted.

“My willingness to forgive your friend’s accident has been altered by your stubbornness.  If you will consent to leave I shall let bygones be bygones.  If you insist on staying I will seek full remuneration.” 

Finian started stumbling about and there was a mad shuffle behind Evelyn.  Raith was denying her just like Alice King told Finian he would.  Evelyn bit her bottom lip and growled deep in her throat.  He had what she needed and he was not going to give it to her.  If Finian had only been able to keep his feet she would still have room to pressure him, but that option was off the table the moment Finian did what he always did, fumble around and mess things up.

He came up behind Evelyn and pulled on her arm. 

“We’ll go, gladly.  So sorry again for everything.  We wish you a wonderful selling venture here and I know now where I will be coming when my dryer eats a sock.”

Finian pried Evelyn from the the counter and she tore her arm from his grasp.  She struck the door hard on their way out and Finian was certain the glass would shatter.  Luckily it held but Finian had to jog to keep up with Evelyn’s furious pace.  Her face was bright red and her mouth was pursed.  Finian had mucked up her chance to learn something from Raith and she was going to blow up at him at any moment.  Finian knew he had to make things right quick if he did not want her to hate him. 

Finian placed his hand on Evelyn’s shoulder and she spun on him with lightning flashing in her eyes.  She could have burned a whole forest down with all the hate radiating off of her.  She shoved her pointer finger in Finian’s face and sucked in a deep breath but was stopped short.  Finian was holding up a book, a really old, worn out book and the title cooled her rage in an instant.  Evelyn stared at the book for a long moment and then laughed.  She shook her head and then crushed Finian to her chest.  Finian tensed and his face flushed.  It was a rare occasion that he earned physical contact. 

“Every time I start to doubt you, you find a way to prove that my first instincts about you were totally right,” Evelyn said into Finian’s ear.  Evelyn’s breath was hot on his neck and the strength of her embrace was incredible.  Finian stood frozen in place, too cowardly to reciprocate the hug and too weak to fight it off.

Evelyn finally pulled away and Finian realised he had been holding his breath.  Looking at the book, Evelyn smiled. 

The History and Practice of Necromancy,” she whispered.  “Finn, you are my hero.” 

“Well, I’d love to say I broke all his crap on purpose, but the truth is I just sort of fell into that book.  Literally.” 

Evelyn’s smile broadened and she clapped Finian on the shoulder. 

“Let’s go see what Raith was hiding from us.” 

All it took was that one sentence to reignite all the nerves in Finian’s stomach.  He was certain that he would be the first teenager to die of ulcers, but how could he say no to Evelyn?  She would step in front of a moving train for him, he was certain of it.  So, whatever the danger, they were in it together. 

At least he told himself that.


The Othersiders is a weekly ongoing series that will be published every Wednesday.  Please look forward to next week’s edition where Finian and Evelyn learn their first bit of necromancy.

Othersiders: Arts of the Necromancer Pt.7

Finian was shouting at three people. 

Well, two people and whatever the thing could be called that continued hurling things in his direction.  He was imploring Evelyn to wake up, demanding Alice King put the lid back on whatever insanity they had cut loose, and cursing the being throwing objects at his head with the force and precision of a professional pitcher.

Alice King for her part was fighting to do what Finian asked, but it was much harder than he presumed.  Her green eyes flashed with electricity and her leathery skin was pulled taunt over her skeleton as she began waving her hand back and forth before her.  Then she closed her eyes and her hair blew back from her shoulders.  The room filled with electricity and the hairs all over Finian’s body began to stand on end. 

Alice King brought her hand to a stop on her throat and she spoke in a deep, grave voice.

“Vishuddha.” 

The tips of her fingers began to glow blue and a painful stillness weighted Finian to the ground.  He tried to stand, to fight the force that threatened to crush him, but it was pointless.

Alice King’s eyes flared open and she spoke again.

“Manipura,” she said, and the blue light that flowed down her hand mixed with yellow.  “Sahasrara.”  As she spoke the last words a violet light erupted from the crown of Alice King’s head.  She took her hand from her throat and drew a triangle in the air, repeating the three words again and a wall of blue light exploded out from the centre of where she had drawn. 

The ruckus and insanity of only a few moments before came to an abrupt stop and the objects ceased to fly.  Alice King turned to Finian and he was certain she would kill him where he sat.  He was in the midst of praying internally that witches did not truly boil their victims alive whilst cackling madly about their pretty little dinner morsels when the old woman’s face sagged and she began to shake her head slowly.

“You’ve not idea what you’re getting yourself into, do you?  You know nothing and yet you come barging in here and almost get yourself claimed before you know what is at stake.” 

She crouched down and placed her old hands on Evelyn’s temple.  Alice King began to mumble or chant something softly and Evelyn stirred. 

“Look, Wynona Witchy Pants, I know full well what is at stake here,” Finian lied, “and I would suggest you take your hands off my friend before I have to show you a thing or two about magic.  Think you’re the only one around here that knows about conjuring and whatnot?  Think again.  Now step back before I have to drop the bibbidy bobbidy boom on you.” 

Finian was feeling more panicked than he had been in quite some time.  He was staring some kind of magician or sorceress in the face and praying to all the gods he did not believe in that mind reading was not one of her strong suits.  Turned out it was not, but it did not need to be for her to see right through Finian.

“Boy, save your threats and chest thumping for the young ladies who still have it in them to swoon.  I am too old to be impressed by such things.” 

Finian opened his mouth to speak and the old woman held up a shaking finger to stop him.

“Furthermore, we haven’t the time.  You must take this girl and leave this place.  What I have done will keep the creature back for a while but when it breaks through I need you to be gone.  It will drag you both over and the bounty price will be well more than I can pay.”

“What the hell are you talking about lady!  I don’t understand what you just said!”

Finian had decided to give up all pretext of being in control of the situation.  If she was not in the mood to kill him he needed answers. 

“This is exactly my point, young man.  You don’t have the first clue as to what you’re doing.  Yet, you’ve come this far so I shall tell you what I’ve learned and how I learned it.” 

Finian’s eyes were wide and his palms were drenched in sweat.  He clutched Evelyn’s unconscious hands in his own, shaking them involuntarily, and his heart hung on every word that came from Alice King’s mouth.

“You must seek out Raith and learn the arts, the arts of the necromancer.” 

“Arts of the what? And wraith as in a kind of ghost?  After today I don’t think I want to go hunting any wraiths.”

“No,” Alice King shouted, a vein in her neck bulging forth to accost Finian. “Raith is a man.  You must find him and learn of the triangle.  He can teach you.  He will shun you at first, fein ignorance, but he knows more than he lets on.  He tried to fool me, to trap me as I have trapped the one he sent for me, but his knowledge can be used against him.” 

Finian’s mind was spinning.  There was a man named Raith and he knew about art, that much Finian had down.  He could draw triangles, or knew about triangles, or was a triangle.  All the words and meanings became an explosion of colour in Finian’s mind.  Everything blended with everything else and it left him with nothing but a rainbow of nonsense.

“Where can I find this Raith?”

Alice King smiled like a Jack-o-Lantern, all teeth and wickedness.

“If you are strong enough to find me, you will find him.  Now go!” she shouted, “before the other gets loose and you leave me with three times the trouble I had when this day started.” 

“What am I going to do with her, she’s out like a light?  And what about your son?  What happened to him?” Finian asked, the thought coming back to him as his brain was reeling through all the information he had gathered that day.

All the features of Alice King’s withered face drew together and she snarled. 

“Let me worry about my son, you just worry about yourself, boy.” 


Finian knew in that instant that asking any further about Alice King’s son would lead him to a place he did not want to go.  He turned back to find Evelyn struggling to sit up and prying her now drenched hand from his.  She worked her fingers to get feeling back after Finian had been crushing it and she looked from Finian to Alice King with darting eyes. 

“What happened?” 

“Your boyfriend can explain later, get out.” 

Evelyn made to protest but Alice King proved that she was nowhere near as feeble as she appeared.  She grabbed Evelyn up by her lapels and threw her bodily from the house.  Evelyn stumbled on the front porch steps and Finian came rushing out after her.  The door slammed behind them and Evelyn turned to Finian for answers he did not have.

“What the hell was that, Finian?  What happened in there?”

“I’ll explain later.  We need to get out of here, right now.” 

Finian turned on his heels and bolted from Alice King’s front lawn at a run.  Evelyn caught up to him quickly and the two friends ran the entire way back to the train station. 

forest_spirit_by_narandel-d632zj7