Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"The Plague Diaries"

Ronlyn Domingue is the internationally published author of The Mercy of Thin Air and the Keeper of Tales Trilogy—The Mapmaker’s War, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, and The Plague Diaries. Her essays and short stories have appeared in New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Shambhala Sun as well as on mindful.org, The Nervous Breakdown, and Salon.com.

Domingue applied the Page 69 Test to The Plague Diaries and reported the following:
In The Plague Diaries, the last book of the Keeper of Tales Trilogy (which can be read in any order), Secret Riven’s fate is to release a plague to end an ancient pestilence. Her mythic call involves an arcane manuscript, a strange symbol, and a 1,000-year-old family legacy.

From page 69:
The hall with its round table and familiar rug had disappeared. Vines covered the walls and most of the doors. Tree trunks reached from floor to ceiling. Boughs of greenery made an impenetrable canopy. Crystal and metal lamps hung above and the lush green carpets below belied the initial illusion. A brown rabbit darted from a grouping of ferns.

Behind my mask, I watched the other guests. They, too, had taken efforts to adorn themselves beyond recognition. Some were so wildly attired I couldn’t tell whether they were men or women, although I determined that was the intent. Most, however, had chosen formal wear exaggerated in design and textiles.

A balding man with a bear muzzle mask wore a brilliant pink long-tailed velvet coat. He spoke with a woman whose bosom burgeoned far past bodily limits, giving shape to the two iridescent beetles that sat upon the striped orange and yellow mushroom that was her skirt. Her hair piled into a tidy nest on her head, out of which peeked a stuffed red squirrel, and the mask across her face was woven into the coiffed strands.

The music reached a crescendo then collapsed into silence. A squeal pierced through the applause. A woman burst from the northeast corner, chased by a laughing man whose cape dragged the floor. From the opposite corner, near the servants’ stair, twelve people carrying trays heaped with food stepped into the hall. They walked gingerly, their bodies below the waist like sheep, with white fleece legs and hoofed feet, which forced them to step on hidden tiptoes. On their heads were hats with sheeps’ ears. The men’s torsos were bare, and the women’s breasts were covered by triangles of fleece held in place by strings.

I followed behind them into the ballroom. The breeze through the open windows couldn’t dissipate the weighty scent I’d encountered in the tunnel. To my right, in the distance, musicians stood on a dais. Below me, braided blue mats padded the floor. Ahead, several tables were heaped with every possible delicacy—meats, cheeses, fish, dried and preserved fruits, breads, pastries, custards. Crystal decanters held the gem hues of liquors and wines. Guests formed a line to the tables, each taking a platter and a goblet to fill.

Everyone spilled into the hall and sat among the trees as if at a picnic. I retreated to the darkest shadow I could find, sipped my punch, and ate until I couldn’t swallow another bite.

In my hidden place, I listened to the music and observed the guests.
Page 69 reflects the book’s style and one of its most important themes.

Told in first person from Secret’s observant perspective, this novel focuses on details. When the attention is on physical ones, the story becomes highly visual, something a reader can picture with clarity. In this scene, Secret attends a masquerade ball hosted by Fewmany, the magnate, at his manor.

The theme of hiding—both physically and emotionally—is strong on this page. Decorations obscure the manor’s familiar surroundings. Guests are masked and costumed so that they cannot be identified. Secret, as usual, doesn’t engage with anyone, choosing instead to watch everything at a distance. Soon enough, especially during the plague, everyone’s true natures will be revealed.
Learn more about the book and author at Ronlyn Domingue's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's War.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker's War.

The Page 69 Test: The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

My Book, The Movie: The Plague Diaries.

--Marshal Zeringue