Sunday, June 10, 2018

Emerald: Of Forest and Stone by Paula Lang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With echoes of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series and The Lord of the Rings, Paula Lang has published her first fantasy novel Emerald: Of Forest and Stone. While the Twilight Saga and The Lord of the Rings has made it to film and also to the top of the best seller list, it is interesting to note that it is younger readers that have made this possible. Why is this so? My theory as a reviewer of adult fiction is that the new and ever-evolving generations of kids have fresh eyes and minds on what they like; they like something new, something netherworld, and surreal stories they can get lost in. Take for example, the Harry Potter Series. Young readers absorbed J K Rowling's literature at a faster rate than has ever been seen before. They all waited patiently for each new book, they all took that quantum leap of faith for her characters, loved wizardry and magic not known to them before, and astounded parents, adults and reviewers alike.
While coming to grips with reviewing Paula Lang's new book, I decided to read some of the "adult" reviews of Meyer's Twilight Saga and surprisingly, though not really, they found them trite, bizarre and hated the 'glittery vampire thing.' However, these novels were a market for the younger reader, the Generation X, and still are a market for the Millennials and Post-Millennials.
Lang's fantasy novel, or should I say, her fan fiction is also meant for that readership. Younger minds can get their head around the myriad of characters all laid out neatly as Preface pages of the book. And on the back blurb we are told that the main protagonist is Layla. Layla has the ability to "shape-shift" and is the only female ever to receive this gift, a duty bestowed on her as part of the Connor pack to protect her people. Similarly, symbolic to Thetis - Greek goddess of the sea who was particularly known as a shape-shifter: when Peleus desired to marry her, she transformed herself into fire, water, a lion, and a serpent in order to escape him. Lang's inclusion of her character Layla who is struggling to find balance and happiness in her life is an interesting juxtaposition to Greek mythology since "Shape-Shifting" is the quest for permanence and stability in a world of seemingly ceaseless destruction and change.
As mentioned previously, this book while reviewed here on Goodreads, should be marketed to teenagers and young adult readers. Especially, those readers who have enjoyed Harry Potter, the Twilight Series and The Lord of the Rings. Readers of science-fiction and fantasy novels often enjoy these other-worlds that do not exist in realism.
I also believe that the market prefers one main protagonist and one main point of view, and I would also argue that this lightweight fiction makes lazy readers of us all. Let us not get into the position of criticising a work for its many characters, it's imagined, surreal worlds of vampires, wolves, wolf ancestor spirits, half-humans, and full humans. Brian Stoker brought us Dracula, Mary Shelley brought us Frankenstein, and Buffy and companions fought an increasing variety of demons, as well as ghosts, werewolves, zombies, and unscrupulous humans.
I admire an author who takes risks. Paula Lang has taken that risk with a work of dense proportions. Self-publishing is not an easy road to take, but often a necessary one for a beginner writer.
Here's a section of writing (among many others) that I found to be excellent!
Chapter 15 - No Balance.
Without stopping to see if her mother was home, Layla ran to the bathroom. Overwhelmed by her anxiety and confusion, she dry retched into the toilet. Everything she had learned and knew of her existence was unravelling.
What was it that made it so hard for her to accept the Ambroses and Natanual? Was it the fear of losing control?
She had been disarmed at Jack’s; she had felt Beatrice’s affection and the humility of Natanual. She wasn’t meant to feel anything from them or for them.
She cleaned herself up and headed to the beach to think.
Sitting looking out at the ocean, she let her tears freely run down her cheeks. She wiped her face dry with her sleeve and looked up at the sky, trying to blink the rest away.
Again, she caught the scent as she wiped her eyes and face. It was the scent of orange blossom; to her dismay, she liked it.
Layla reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out her necklace. Her chest burned, overwhelmed with the disdain she felt for herself and the guilt for indulging in the intoxicating scent that permeated from it.
The necklace also had the smell of citrus, but also of other blended spices, of leather, and of him.
Layla looked more closely at how it had been mended. Natanual had replaced the leather cord. She remembered the tribal necklaces he wore when he first arrived; the cord was the same.
In an action that was totally driven like a drug addict wanting and needing more, she cupped the necklace in her hands and breathed in deeply, drinking in its divine scent.
It smelled dangerous, earthy, human, and beautiful.
Catching herself and disgusted with her actions, Layla didn’t know whether she would vomit again or faint; her head swam with guilt and confusion.
Needing to get home before Shay, Layla jumped down from the log. Reaching the road, she ran herself hard without stopping, trying to burn away her emotion.

In her bedroom, she took a small wooden jewellery box out from her bedside drawer and tipped out the contents.
Still catching her breath, she put the necklace inside instead. Snapping it shut, its smooth and flush closing mechanism locked the scent in tight.
Layla then threw the box angrily away into the back of her wardrobe and out of her thoughts.

Helen Hagemann (c) 2018

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