Tuesday, July 13, 2021

"The Cruelest Mercy"

Natalie Mae is an ex-programmer, a dark chocolate enthusiast, and an author of young adult novels. She has also been a freelance editor and a Pitch Wars mentor, and she feels it notable to mention she once held a job where she had to feed spiders. When not writing, she can be found wandering the Colorado wilderness with her family.

Mae applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Cruelest Mercy, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Gold satin drapes the giant four-poster bed instead of blue, and crystal-topped tables for dining gleam outside on the balcony, where practice swords and reading chairs once sat. Gossamer curtains shimmer like fireflies before the windows, an airy gold instead of silver.

I think of the dusty feed room I grew up in, the cot I slept on last night across from Hen. But it’s a little hard to appreciate that all this finery is mine when it feels like I’ve stolen it.

Jet watches me, the hint of a real smile in his eyes. “Now it’s a proper ballroom.”

I step in farther, past a couch with lion’s paws for feet, running my hand over its polished wooden back. Wishing I knew what to say. Wishing I knew how to fix this for him. I’m just starting to turn when a fuzzy head pops out from around the archway to the pool room, and Jade streaks over in a blur of spots.

Human! she squeaks in her sweet voice. Play! Toy?

“You’re here, too!” I scoop her up, though my heart still twists. “Now it’s perfect.”

Jade, like most kittens, is not impressed with this or any displays of affection, and wiggles incessantly. No love. Play! Play!

“All right, all right,” I grumble, setting her down. I scoop a feathered cat toy from the floor and throw it to the other side of the room. Jade tears after it, as fast as an arrow.

Jet watches her go, the afternoon light deepening his coronation tunic to a river blue.

I trace the cactuses carved into the back of the couch. “What can I do to help?”
Page 69 actually works decently well for the book without revealing any major spoilers! There are a number of things happening here, from the descriptions of the lavish new surroundings Zahru now possesses (and how drastically different they are from what she's used to), and also the building tension between her and Prince Jet, who she had just begun to consider in a romantic capacity -- except, as fate would have it, she's now unintentionally usurped his crown. You can see that relationship begin to strain here as Zahru struggles with how to make this right for him. And of course, I love to trail humor through my books no matter how dark they get, and the moment with Jade, Zahru's new kitten, hits on that.

Where this could be deceiving, though, is that this doesn't hint at the darker turn Zahru will take in this book, or how desperate she'll become to pursue what she believes is right in this story. This is a snapshot of a playful scene, but the issues the book will tackle will be much heavier. So readers could assume, if the test is to be believed, that the story will be light or floofy where it often is not. However, combined with the synopsis for the book, this might be the perfect way to see that there will be a balance of lighter moments throughout, which could help the reader decide if this was their kind of book!
Visit Natalie Mae's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Kinder Poison.

Q&A with Natalie Mae.

--Marshal Zeringue