Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Aspiring writer ascends

Aspiring, Part 1 of the Siblings' Tale (Elisabeth and Edvard Book 1)Aspiring, Part 1 of the Siblings' Tale by Astrid V.J. /// My rating: 5 of 5 stars /// The title of this handsome fantasy, Aspiring, resonates in my mind with a similar word, Ascending. The story the author presents concerns the aspirations of a young woman to come into her own by acquiring a certain socially-mandated age and by surviving numerous adverse circumstances. But, as I pointed out in my first sentence, this is not merely a question of her aspirations; ascension, too, plays a dominant role as the plot unfolds, for, beyond her aspirations, she must ascend to a level of worthiness befitting a possible future as consort to the Crown Prince. She must ascend in the world of magic to become a powerful practitioner of these arcane arts for the forces of good. In summation, it is a given that her real challenge, beyond surviving, beyond learning, beyond winning the love of her chosen one, is to save her world from the forces of evil that are gathering strength around the main characters. Elisabeth’s real journey is to go far beyond what she originally aspired to attain and to take on the task of ascending to a station she never imagined as a younger person.

The storytelling challenge, as I see it (and as it must be by necessity in fantasy tales), is to create a polished, finished world that is unique but simple, both beautiful and ugly, but always believable. One of the tropes here is that the female characters appear to possess supernatural abilities, while the men are, for the most part, garden-variety movers-and-shakers. They run the gamut from the Prince (sweet, loyal, just) to Elisabeth’s father (self-centered, mean-spirited, evil and stupid). Between those extremes stands her even-tempered, playful brother, Edvard, who I believe is destined to play a large role in the next two volumes. I believe the author rose to the challenge of world-building admirably.

When you are no longer in the category of “Young Adult,” which I am not (happily or sadly, I can’t decide), the greatest enjoyment to be derived from a book like this, is observing how artfully the author can carry something like this off, and—when it is done as well as this—marveling at the skill brought to the writing desk. Thankfully, all my admiration for what the author does here distracted me from feeling old.

It’s not really meant for review, but I have to mention (consider this a postscript) that Astrid V. J. acknowledges, on the last pages of her book, all of the persons who helped her and made this book possible. This is a breathtaking list. I don’t believe I’ve ever known that many people in my life, which I suppose is why I write—just to invent more people to fill space up. I love that she has not forgotten those who helped her in her journey and made such an enjoyable book a fantasy reality. As a first time novelist, Astrid V.J. has—until recently—been what is called an “aspiring writer.” It’s clear to me, as it surely will be to other readers, that her “aspiring” phase is now behind her. As a full-fledged writer, she has spread her wings, “ascended,” and “arrived.”

Obviously: recommended!


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