Monday, August 1, 2011

Jabberwocky by Daniel Coleman

Summary (courtesy of Smashwords):   “One, two! One, two! and through and through the vorpal blade went snicker-snack!” Blood pounded in Tjaden’s ears as he breathed in the acrid odor, and his sword didn’t falter. Not after the convoluted road that had led him to set out alone to find and slay the manxome Jabberwocky. But the secrets he’d learned about the Jabberwocky’s sorrowful past made it a sour victory.

How different would the situation be if the girl he loved wasn’t at risk? Why didn’t anyone tell him the dark secrets surrounding the Tumtum tree?

Jabberwocky, a short novel by Daniel Coleman, is the untold story behind Lewis Carroll’s beloved poem. Meet the characters and creatures that inhabit the world long before Alice ever fell down the rabbit’s hole.

While staying true to every detail of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, Jabberwocky provides twists that will keep you turning pages. You might know how it ends, but you won’t believe how it happens.

And here's what I thought:  This is Daniel Coleman's first story set in Wonderland.   You might have already read my review of Hatter, which I read first.   I enjoyed this story just as much as Hatter, although it was completely different.

Compared to Hatter, where there are two character paralleling each other throughout the story, this book focuses mainly on one character, Tjaden.  He's a talented and brave young man, determined to prove that he can be taken into the Elite Guard.  It almost seems like his dreams won't be realized this year when, already injured by a fight with  a bandersnatch, he loses a critical fighting match.  However, the Elite seek him out, taking Tjaden and his best friend, Ollie, to train towards becoming members of the guard.

Woven throughout this story is Tjaden's love for Elora, a young woman from his town.  His encounter with the bandersnatch actually came about because of her, and she accompanies him and Ollie to Palassiren (a larger city), so that she can recount his bravery in the fight with the bandersnatch.   All seems like it is going well, and Tjaden is settling into his new life as a trainee ---- until he receives news that Elora has been taken by a jabberworky, a fearsome beast.   Determined to save her, he asks one of the Elite, Captain Darieus, to train him to slay the jabberwocky.    Darieus agrees, providing him with training and knowledge, but it seems like he might have some kind of hidden motive in sending Tjaden to rescue Elora.

And, of course, Darieus does --- and all becomes revealed throughout the story.   There's adventure, intrigue, and even some love (and a bit of heartbreak).   There's a smooth, even flow to this story, and plenty of Wonderland in it (we meet more creatures, like borogroves, for example).   Something I found interesting in this book, and in Hatter, was that the description of the fighting, whether it is with staff or sword, seem very accurate.   I don't know about the author's own experiences, but from the way he writes, it seems he is familiar with both.  I've encountered this before in writing (Tim Powers' The Drawing of the Dark is one example -- Tim Powers has fencing experience, which really comes through in his writing).   I liked that there were these realistic elements in the story, in addition to the more fantastical elements --- it made for a good balance.    

Even though I read the books in reverse order, it didn't matter too much --- other than the fact that we meet Chism, one of the main characters from Hatter, in this story.   Tjaden encounters him when he meets the other recruits.    I thought both of these stories were interesting, and really good reads --- and I would welcome another story set in Wonderland.  
First sentences: Misha and Teia stood on the outskirts of the wabe, peering into the crowd of townspeople gathered to witness their Sixteenery. Each held a new red ribbon with gold tips, to be tied in their hair until their wedding days.

Thoughts on the cover:   I really love the typeface, and the cover art is subtle, but perfectly suits the story.


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