Balticon story: I'm having a loud, happy conversation with Lawrence Schoen in the Lunacon Party Room, and while I'm talking a beautiful woman in a blue dress sweeps into the party, looks right at me and says "I recognize your voice!"
While this kind of thing happens from time to time, it never fails to freak me out. It's also hugely flattering in this case, as I learn that the beautiful woman is also a fine author by the name of Gail Carriger. She listens to Writing Excuses, and this is thrilling to me.
Gail is accompanied on her Balticon party-hop by the dashing and svelte Peter V. Brett. After the introductions and some "so-what-do-YOU-do" I realize that I need to put his upcoming Red Sonja run in my comic hold (can't do it yet, it remains unannounced by Diamond) and that I really, really regret running out of merchandise two days ago. You see, Peter V. Brett has handed me a book -- his debut novel, The Warded Man.
This, by the way, is my favorite thing about attending conventions as a quirky, came-in-through-the-back-door professional. Every so often I get handed fantastic books by brand-new friends.
On to the book review: The day after the party The Warded Man looks like heavier fare than the other book I am carrying onto my return flight. Usually I prefer light reading when I fly, but I decide to take a chance, and two paragraphs in I am hooked.
I'm not going to tell you all about the concept or plot. The synopsis and cover will spoil plenty of things for you without my help. I'm going to tell you that this book delivers the goods described in this episode of Writing Excuses: It makes me stand up and cheer.
Well, not literally. The "Fasten Seat Belts" light is on, and even if it weren't I'm just a hair too tall to stand up without knocking my chrome-dome on the overhead compartment. Ha ha. I said "hair" and I haven't any.
A "stand up and cheer" moment is when somebody does something truly heroic and it stirs the reader with real emotion. What amazes me about The Warded Man is that these moments don't all come in epic battles or life-and-death situations. The very best of them are moments where one person musters up some courage and stands fast to their beliefs, breaks with tradition, or otherwise does something that a small town will remember (and gossip about) forever.
These are the heroic moments of which our own ordinary, everyday lives can be made of. We don't have to fight corespawn demons in the real world, but we DO need to make hard choices. The Warded Man rocked my world because it FIT my world in spite of being a dark fantasy novel completely full of corespawn demons, complicated ward-magic, epic battles, and life-and-death situations which I'm unlikely to ever face.
How good was the book? I dropped around $20.00 the very next day on the sequel, The Desert Spear, which is only available in hardback. I haven't had a chance to open it yet, but Peter V. Brett, you have my attention.
(Gail, I'll be picking up one of your books before WorldCon. Thanks for introducing me to Peter! I think he owes you one.)