Friday, March 30, 2007

Monster Blood Tattoo!

So, I bought Monster Blood Tattoo by D.M. Cornish, some months ago, and started it, then sat it down, and books got piled up on top of it, and it kinda vanished from my mind that I hadn't gotten back to it. Then, a few days ago, someone sent me an email mentioning the book, and it suddenly flashed upon me that I should finish it, and so I dug it out, and did so.

It's terrific.

Sieur Cornish avoids all the traps that Madama Wynne Jones rails against in A Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Though the book takes place in a constructed world, this world is *not* quasi-medieval, and people are not eating stew every night, and horses do not reproduce via pollination. There's magic, and foundlings, and monsters, and all the other expectations of a good fantasy novel, all set in a quasi-eighteenth century world. More Sharpe's Rifles than Lord of the Rings. Which is all to the good. Clearly Sieur Cornish has spent many years world building and it shows--all the details are there, and many of them are quite clever. Clever enough that I was moaning that I hadn't thought of some of them myself!

If Sieur Cornish is accused of making words up by any librarians lurking out there, I think the charge would be sustained, but he does provide definitions for all his vocabulary, so that didn't detract from the story one bit. If the book had any fault at all, it was perhaps that the protagonist, a foundling named Rossamund Bookchild (who is not a girl) was a bit passive in his actions, but then, he was a foundling set out into the wild world alone for the first time, so one could hardly expect him to become Sieur Action Boy over-night. No doubt future volumes will find young Master Bookchild gaining traction.

In addition to being a skilled writer, Sieur Cornish is also a skilled artist and draughtsman, and I was madly jealous of the gorgeous maps and illustrations included. Alas that I have no skill that way myself, but I certainly admire those who do and I envy the writer who can draw his characters so that they appear *exactly* as he sees them. No interceding illustrators adding their own interpretation.

Being particularly sensitive to inadvertent spoiling, I shall not describe to the plot of Monster Blood Tattoo save to note that it follows the trope of the hero's journey, a path we've all been down before, and yet which Sieur Cornish, through an extremely vivid imagination, imbues with novel details and new terrain, a hero's journey through a world we have not visited before.

Now that you've read Flora Segunda five times, I'm sure you are looking for something new. Monster Blood Tattoo awaits--dig in. I think you'll agree its very very good.


Unknown said...

I have, in fact, read Flora Segunda three times. This one sounds delectable too. I'll order it next month. Thanks for the recommendation.

Paul Witcover said...

I received a review copy of this and gave it to my nephew -- sounds like I should've kept it for myself!!