Friday, July 03, 2009

Midwinter; Matthew Sturges

Somehow this year I ended up with two books written by authors who are primarily visual storytellers. This novel was written by a DC Comics writer trying his hand at novel writing. The other being Alan Campbell's Scar Face, reviewed here. Oddly enough both novels feature floating cities! Midwinter was published by Pyr this past March in QP format. It was faced-out on a shelf in my local bookstore & the cover completely caught my attention. No, it wasn't the oh so phallic sword in the male elf's hand. For me the image is atmospheric I suppose: ruins, snow, an armed woman whose pose suggests strength yet vulnerability. So I read the first chapter & that was enough. I was hooked.

Mr. Sturges' version of Faerie has different worlds (of which the reader's reality is but one) stitched together similar in feel to Patricia McKillip's Solstice Wood. These worlds felt 'stitched together' partly as a function of their existence and partly due to their inhabitants' efforts. From the Faerie side at least, they are aware of each others' existence although Faeries are obviously superior! Titania and Mab each rule different Faerie kingdoms originating from a father's inability to refuse a son's request even knowing the consequences of acceding to the son's request.

Midwinter is a classic quest plot. Mauritaine, a loyal, formerly highly placed soldier in the Queen's military is imprisoned. Purane Es, his enemy, succeeded Mauritaine and arrives at the prison with orders to embark upon a top secret, deniable quest for his Queen. It goes without saying this is a nearly impossible quest for an unknown object. Mauritaine must build a little band of adventurers and bring this object back to Titania within strict time requirements. The reward? Depends on the person involved, but for Mauritaine means a pardon.

Who are the band members? Mauritaine is the leader, wrongly imprisoned due to political vengeance stemming from his rival Purane Es'overhwelming ambition and lack of morality. Members of Mauritaine's team include: Perrin Alt, imprisoned because of his mother's belief in the wrong faith; Brian Satterly, a human theoretical physicist caught in Faerie while looking for his niece; Raieve, an ambassador from the country of Avalon seeking help to keep her country unified; Honeywell (proper name: Geluna Eled) Mauritaine's loyal lieutenant who followed him into prison and Grey Mave, the prison guard who lost his job due to Mauritaine. Together this merry band of former prison misfits embarks on what could be either their last adventure while alive or the adventure that could lead to the biggest payoff of their lives.

I have to say that the object of the quest wasn't what I expected. I loved the curse the gypsy girl put on Perrin Alt & his subsequent actions. The storyline was standard quest fare and the characterization is a little flat, but to me Midwinter is surprisingly visual and unique enough that the twists kept me interested. I have to be honest and say that I'm unlikely to buy another one of these in QP size unless it's considerably fleshed out. There isn't cliffhanger at the end, but there is certainly potential for further storyline and character development in future novels. Mr. Sturges' blog implies that he is still working for DC Comics, and while I certainly hope that is so, I also hope he finds enough time to write more in this world.

Image found on B&N

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