Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Just Reviewed Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s “Night Calls” at SBR

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Folks, today’s review of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS is up over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short) and it’s something special.

You might be wondering why that is.  Well, today is the ninth anniversary of my beloved husband Michael’s death.  It’s not easy for me to do much of anything on days like this, so if I feel strong enough and competent enough and capable enough to review a book, right there — in and of itself — you should realize I feel very strongly about it.

But more to the point, NIGHT CALLS is a heartwarming book that should delight all lovers of fantasy.  It features a strong, capable young woman in Alfreda Sorensson who’s no one’s plaything; unlike the meek and mild female characters in Stephanie Meyer’s conception, Alfreda does for herself, thank you.  And in taking on responsibility slowly, we can see how Alfreda grows and changes and learns . . . all good, all life-affirming, all an excellent message if you need one, but done in such a way that it’s subordinate to the story itself.

To write a novel that’s more than the sum of its parts is very difficult.  Now, I’ve reviewed four of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s novels, and all four have been able to do this to one degree or another, in two different genres, no less — an outstanding record that I’ve rarely seen out of anyone not named Rosemary Edghill.  And best of all, to my mind, is this — NIGHT CALLS is a comfort book in that there’s so much good in it, so much meaning in it, that it’s something that I can see myself turning back to read and re-read many times over the years — just as I’ve done with Rosemary’s TWO OF A KIND and MET BY MOONLIGHT and all her shared work with Mercedes Lackey, not to mention Rosemary’s excellent “Hellflower” series (written as eluki bes shahar) and her three novels in the “Twelve Treasures” series.

That’s the highest praise I can possibly give.

Now, why would I want to write all this on one of the most difficult days of the year?  Well, it’s simple.  Michael and I both loved to read young adult novels.  We found them to be interesting, in the main, because seeing a coming of age story done well is, in and of itself, life-affirming.  If you can do it with some humor and heart — as Patricia C. Wrede did in CALLING ON DRAGONS, say, or as Diana Wynne Jones did in her “Chrestomanci series” — so much the better.

And trust me, Ms. Kimbriel did exactly that in NIGHT CALLS.

It was reading books like Ms. Kimbriel’s that inspired me to start writing ELFY in the first place.  Which is why I’m very glad to be able to read and review her work, even though until this last year I hadn’t a clue it was available.  The good part about that is that I’ve read four of her excellent books this year, and all four of them — the three in her “Chronicles of Nuala” series and NIGHT CALLS — are likely to be on my “best books of 2013” list.

This makes me wonder how many other excellent writers are out there that I don’t yet know about.  (“More writers left to explore?” I say.  “Whee!”)

And it also gives me some hope that my own writing career is not yet dead, even though my health this year has been terrible and I’ve been slow off the mark to get things done despite all the good will in the world due to that.

Anyway, that’s why I reviewed Ms. Kimbriel’s excellent NIGHT CALLS today.  For hope.  For inspiration.  For the belief that despite bad things happening, good people can still win out.

And I think that if you give Ms. Kimbriel’s work a try, you, too, will be favorably impressed.

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