It’s been a while since I got a chance to look on the internet and see what folks are saying about my books (always a daunting prospect, made even more so by spending a few months unplugged from your career).
But I actually found some lovely things. Like this “author rave” by a librarian at Wyoming Seminary College (which is not in Wyoming, but in the Wyoming Valley area of PA, and where my family is from). In fact, I’m pretty sure my cousin graduated from this school. The librarian discovered my story in ZvU and went on to read the full length series, and is now tackling the SSG books. Thanks! And hey, I go home to the valley all the time, so if your library is ever looking for a speaker, let me know!
There are also a lot of blog reviews, like this one from Emily a.k.a. WillowRaven at Red House Books:
Wow. This book blew me away! I don’t know why I waited so long to read it. I think I was a little worried about corrupting my love of unicorns with Diana’s version of blood thirsty killers. My unicorns have always been gentle and magical. The unicorns of Rampant – magical? Yeah. Gentle? Hells no! And you know what? I think I like them better that way 🙂
What I really liked about Rampant was the fact that the story doesn’t rely on the novelty of the killer unicorns to make it work. The plot is awesome, the characters are well developed and really likable, and the setting was amazing.
So even if you discount the awesomeness that evil unicorns present, the story itself was one of the best I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved Astrid and I so saw myself walking the halls of that ancient cloister.
I cannot stress the fact enough how utterly brilliant this book is. Astrid has made it to my top 3 most kick-ass heroines. I love that there finally is a girl in a YA novel that doesn’t hide behind her crush at every sight of danger. She is truly self sufficient, and actually has to protect her crush from being hurt. I adore that she isn’t dependant. It annoys me that almost all female characters seem to be nothing without their male counterparts.
…This is one of those books you come across that you think is so great you can’t stop talking about it. As you might tell from the abundance of quotes from this book, I obviously can’t get enough of it. While I’m reviewing, I’m skimming through the pages again, looking for great passages. It makes me want to reread the whole book. While I just finished! *sighs*
There’s also this one from Bookish Blather:
OMG, you guys. You guys, why didn’t anyone tell me that books about killer unicorns are FREAKING AWESOME?!
I don’t know exactly why I decided to skip on Rampant the first time around. I think I was focusing more on the “unicorn” rather than the “killer” part of the description, plus I’m just generally prejudiced against fantasy. Then I read Peterfreund’s contribution to Zombies vs. Unicorns and was intrigued…
What excited me the most about these two books is just how darn feminist they are. Seriously, these are some of the most feminist books I’ve read since The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks. Throughout both books there are positive depictions of young women’s sexuality, and then especially in Ascendant there’s discussions about women (even those who weren’t unicorn hunters) who defied traditional notions of femininity to follow their passions in science and medicine. And then yes, there’s the idea of a secret group of women who are all that stands between humanity and the unicorn scourge. Women with big swords = awesome.
(In passing, I’m excited to see how many people are discovering my series based upon my short stories. I know writers say that short stories are one way to introduce readers to your work, but darn if it isn’t true!)
Read Sam Read, a teen book blogger with a really pretty blog header, has this to say about Ascendant:
I think there are some books that affect me in such a way that I can’t do my standard bullet point reviews. The last book I finished, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly was one of those and Ascendant definitely is. I think there’s something in the rawness of these books that I can’t make bullets about what I liked; I can ramble in paragraphs about it, however.
Ascendant took me a little too long to finish, but not for lack of interest. I’m glad I took it slow, because I could savor it. And even though it wasn’t as fast-paced and exciting as Rampant was, with the whole, “Will she do it with Giovanni?” thing, I think it was definitely better for it. It was more mature. And you can definitely see the change in Astrid from the beginning of the book until the end. It wasn’t some kind of dumb character development that I didn’t believe – I really, really believed it. It was done so well.
I have to be honest with you guys. I worried a lot about some of the choices I made in writing Ascendant the way I did. It’s not easy. It’s not tidy. I think that’s why people are so interested in news about a sequel. And not everyone was happy with those choices — there are definitely readers out there who are really angry about what happens in Ascendant, or angry with me as a writer, or what have you. But all I can do as a writer is be honest. Be honest to the needs of the story, the needs of the characters, etc. I like happy endings as much as the next person. I like it when the good guys win and the bad guys lose — but it isn’t what always happens. It especially isn’t what always happens when it’s not easy to tell who the good guys and the bad guys are. Is Isabeau a good guy or a bad guy? Opinions are split on this. Is it a useful classification? I think Isabeau does have Astrid’s best interests at heart.
Here’s another question: Is Astrid a good guy or a bad guy? In the middle of the book? In the end? What do you think Bucephalus would say?
(Maybe I should make a reader questionnaire. I’m really curious about some of these things.)
And I’m okay with these questions, especially since I designed the book to prompt them. I didn’t want it to be all neat and tidy. I didn’t want people to go, “Oh, unicorn magic is a good thing, Astrid’s figured it out, everything is hunky dory.” If so, there’d be no point to writing a second book at all. I wanted all the assumptions from the first book turned on their heads. (Again, if they weren’t there’d be no point to a third book.) Ah, third book. Someday!
I guess some of these questions will be easier to parse when the series concludes, which I promise you guys, it will. I just don’t know when yet.
Which leads me to my next point. I stumbled across a conversation on the internet (no link, sorry) taking me to task for “irresponsibly” writing a second book in an imagined trilogy without being under contract for more. To which I can only shrug. Things happen — and sometimes they don’t happen as you expect — and rarely do they happen in the order and with the timing that the internet concludes without knowing any of the particulars.
I’ve got friends who actually were under contracts for series, and the series were canceled halfway through. I’ve got other friends who’ve written well-beloved series that were never meant to me series at all. I’ve got friends whose first books in their series are being held hostage by unscrupulous or unfortunate publishers. It’s not always in a writer’s control to say this book will come out next and as quickly as a potential reader wants it to. And the potential reader can thumb his nose at the writer and go, “Well, phooey, I don’t want to read your stupid book anyway.” There’s risk on both sides.
The only thing I can do as a writer is keep writing (or start writing, AHEM Miss Longest Maternity Leave Ever), keep writing the best and most appropriate story I can based on the information I have at the time of writing, and finding ways to get my books into you, the reader’s, hands.
Okay, I’m off for the day. Rio needs walking, baby needs… well, EVERYTHING… and I need to finish wrapping Christmas presents.
Take care! Stay warm!