Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"The Leopard"

K. V. Johansen is the author of Blackdog and numerous works for children, teens, and adults. She has an MA from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, and her lifelong interest in ancient and medieval history and the history of languages has had a great influence on her writing and world building.

Johansen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Leopard, and reported the following:
Opening The Leopard to page 69, the first line my eye fell on was:
“I walked off a cliff once, you know,” Ahjvar told him. “Years ago. Fifty years, maybe. I woke up in the rain. Bruised like I'd rolled down a hill. It was a cliff. It should have smashed every bone in my body. Woke up in the rain and an old man asking, did I have the falling-sickness? The four-day fever? I could hardly walk. He tried to take me home. I told him not to, I told him to leave me, to run away....”
Well, that would definitely make me want to find out more, assuming I wasn’t already committed to buying it just for the cover. What’s going on here? This walking off a cliff thing doesn’t sound accidental, the way he puts it. Warning off the person who tried to help him, that’s a bit ominous. And fifty years ago? I’m intrigued. I’m assuming I’ve read the back cover copy before opening up the book. It begins “Ahjvar, the assassin known as the Leopard, wants only to die, to end the curse that binds him to a life of horror ...” so this random page actually ties in pretty closely to that aspect of the plot. Lower down on page 69, there’s this:
“Hush,” said Ghu. “I'll tie you up, tonight.”

“Devils have mercy.” It was half a groan, half a laugh, but at least it brought him back to some edge of reason. “Ghu, that won't...”

“I'll tie you up,” Ghu said complacently. “And then I'll hit you over the head with something if I have to. We'll be fine.”

“It's no wonder all Sand Cove thinks you're only half there, you know.” But it might, it might be safe. It might get them both to Marakand, where he could hunt the Voice....
The back cover mentions “... the one person he has let close to him in a lifetime of death, a runaway slave named Ghu ...” The interaction between Ahjvar and Ghu shown on this page really interests me in both these characters and the relationship between them. Ahjvar is on the verge of breaking down, barely coherent, and Ghu’s approach to soothing him and calming him down is this? For the record, I should say that though tying up the psychotic madman can get pretty nasty, Ghu never does adopt concussion as a way restraining Ahjvar. It probably wouldn’t work anyhow, and the man has enough problems without adding brain damage. That was likely his idea of a joke, though even Ahj finds it hard to know when Ghu is joking.
Visit K. V. Johansen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue