Transformation, Secrets, and a World in Flux

A review of Julie Czerneda’s A Turn of Light (Daw, 2013).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Art for A Turn of Light by Matt Stawicki

Cover Art for A Turn of Light by Matt Stawicki

Julie Czerneda’s A Turn of Light is a transformative text on multiple levels. It is about Jenn Nalynn, a girl on the cusp of womanhood who is confronted with her own changing nature and the need to understand her own place and what has shaped her into who she is. Not only is her situation changing, but her understanding of herself has shifted and she is left with questions about where she has come from and what has shaped her, and what she is becoming. She is coming to realise that her world is shaped in secrets, things kept from her, and truths that are buried seemingly for her own protection. But, innocence can be dangerous, secrets can cause pain, and not-knowing often means actions taken in ignorance that can be harmful because they lack an understanding of the context in which they occur.

Jenn is in a place of magic, Marrowdell, a place that she has grown up with and seen as normal because it is the world that has shaped who she is. But, it is a place where people eat toad eggs, where toads guard houses, where trees move of their own volition, where water appears when needed, and where dragons play in the meadows invisible in the light but revealed in their majesty as the world turns to twilight. Only through a stranger’s eyes, by hearing about what wonders surround him, does Jenn see that the place she lives in is not “normal”, that it is wondrous. As a truth-seer, Bannan sees more than others – he sees that roads run as silver, that the house toads wear armour, that moths are able to write down what they observe. He sees what Jenn is incapable of seeing, notices what she doesn’t notice.

Jenn is met with the need to understand herself and her place in her world better, to see truths that have been hidden from her for her own protection. She is changing, and with those changes, she grows in connection to her home of Marrowdell (a place which she cannot leave without death to herself and the landscape) and also in her own magical ability. Yet, without being taught about her magic, with it constantly being buried and kept secret from her, she acts out of ignorance, causes damage to the people, places, and things around her. Cushioned in a world that doesn’t want her to experience hurt, she hurts others by accident. When power and ignorance are paired, damage is bound to happen.

Jenn, desiring companionship, transforms her childhood friend, Wisp, a creature who plays with magic, invisible, and ever-present, into a human being. He loses his dragon nature, trapped within a man’s shape and limited by it. He becomes something different, changed against his will by Jenn’s wish. Wisp has become Wyll, a stranger to Marrowdell, and a source of interest and fascination to a village that is accustomed to knowing everyone. He questions things, challenges ideas that are entrenched, and provides a foil for human actions, showing that what is assumed to be natural is only natural for human beings.

Photo of Julie Czerneda by Roger Czerneda

Photo of Julie Czerneda by Roger Czerneda

Czerneda creates a world in which everything and everyone is in flux, challenging and questioning themselves and the nature of the world around them while trying to uncover mysteries that have been left hidden in the desire to protect secrets. She reveals that worlds are always steeped in the mysterious and that everyone is always searching for their place in the world while only knowing a fraction of it, of themselves, and of those around them. There is a danger in ignorance, and a need to learn and reveal even painful truths to others to prevent harm.

To discover more about Julie Czerneda and her current projects, visit her website at http://www.czerneda.com/ . To discover more about A Turn of Light, visit http://www.czerneda.com/fantasy/turn.html .

When Death is Better Than Continuing Fear

Ian Rogers Author Photo, courtesy of the author.

A review of Ian Rogers’ Black Eyed Kids (Burning Effigy Press, 2011)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Featuring one of Ian Rogers’ creepiest monsters from the Black Lands yet, Black Eyed Kids is definitely a book to evoke lingering chills that won’t leave your spine alone. The creepy effect of this book is multifaceted. Rogers presents the most terrifying monster of all – fear itself. Intangible, inescapable, immaterial; fear is impossible to fight against. Rogers creates a set of monsters that inspire irresistible fear that is so strong that those exposed to it invite their own death as an escape from the eternal darkness – invite the object that inspires their terror into their homes and asks it to take them into the oblivion of death (the only escape). Worse, the monsters who evoke that fear just by their presence, through some metaphysical act, take the appearance of children… and their only defining feature of difference is their black eyes.

Good horror takes the familiar and makes it strange and embodies lingering fears, and this is certainly horror of the best kind. Rogers takes the image of innocence in our society, the child, and makes it something that evokes horror. He takes us into a realm of fear where even the most innocuous and normal thing can be an object of utter difference. And, he knows enough about fear to present his audience with the idea that sometimes people would rather die than live in continuing, ever-present fear. Fear of things is scary, but Fear itself is a terror that cannot be escaped from.

In a society that desires its own innocence, where adults are reading teen fiction as a voyage back into the realm of nostalgia to a perceived better time that predated the horrors of adulthood, Rogers complicates things by corrupting that image of youth, by inverting it and projecting it as an embodiment innocence despoiled.

The third book in the Felix Renn series, this one is perhaps the most terrifying of all, and one in which the author reveals that the true monster… is the author himself. He is the object that inspires our terror. I was able to get this book signed by Mr. Rogers and he added an extra level of terror by signing it with the words “Watch out for the BEKs”, making sure that I didn’t sleep for a week after reading it and paid attention to the eyes of any little people around me.

To read more about Ian Rogers and explore his works, visit his website at http://www.ian-rogers.com/ . For more about Ian Rogers’ Felix Renn Series, visit http://theblacklands.com/ . This November, several of Ian Rogers’ Felix Renn tales are being gathered into the volume SuperNOIRtural Tales by Burning Effigy Press – check it out and pre-order at http://www.burningeffigy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=101:coming-nov-2012-ian-rogers-supernoirtural-tales&catid=1:latest-news