Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Moth and Spark"

Elisabeth Anne Leonard has degrees from St. John’s College, the University of Pittsburgh, Kent State University, and the University of California—Hastings College of Law.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Moth and Spark, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Early on in Moth and Spark, one of the main characters, Tam, is described as an “accomplished young woman” with a range of talents, education, and experiences. Applying this metaphor to the novel itself, Moth and Spark might appear to be a lady of accomplishment in one area and not much else if one looks only at page 69.

Page 69 consists of a conversation between two characters that perfectly encapsulates the political situation in the novel:
“What about Tyrekh?” he asked. “Is the Emperor going to leave us on our own?”

“I don’t know. It’s an ugly thing to do. If he does he’ll lose the trust of many of his troops. And his vassals. And he can’t afford that. But his sons are a real threat.”

Corin did not bother to ask why Hadon had not executed or imprisoned them. That would only make the fractures greater.

He said, “Has he communicated with Tyrekh at all? Sent any dragons?”

“None. He’s not selling you out, he’s just pretending Tyrekh doesn’t exist.”

“Why is he watching the north?” he asked. “It is him, isn’t it?”

“Aye. No one else controls the riders, I can assure you of that. I don’t know why he’s sent them there. It’s not a desirable assignment, more a punishment duty, but with no reasons given and no man knowing what will put him in the next rotation....”
This shows the triangle of war that sets the events of the novel in motion: an invasion by a foreign army on one hand and an overlord both turning his back and behaving unpredictably on the other. Corin’s country, Caithen, is caught in the middle. There’s just a hint of dragons.

What page 69 doesn’t show is two of the other major aspects of the novel: magic (!) and a love story (!!). Page 69 is early in the novel (Chapter Four) and Corin has not yet been hit with two big emotional hammers: learning that the dragons have chosen him to break their magical bondage to Hadon and the Empire, and falling in love. All three components – magic, politics, and love – become twisted together later on, when Hadon starts the war to keep Corin from releasing the dragons, and Corin’s lover, Tam, guides him with her visions.

Page 69 is also, alas, one of the more expository, less exciting pages, and a visit with her alone would not incline you to spend more time in her practical company. On page 69, our lady novel is doing her finger exercises on the piano. Other pages in the book have visions, swordfights, dragons, love scenes, fear, sadness, conviction, or wit. Moth and Spark shows herself fluent in several styles of writing, can converse equally about violence and ardor, wears the common fashions of fantasy with her own distinctive touches, and has spent quite a lot of time practicing her worldbuilding needlework. But those would be pages 155, or 222, or 44, or 354, or 201 or....

And did I say that there are dragons?
Visit Anne Leonard's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue