Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dance, Magic, Dance!

What movie is the post title referring to?

(Answer to come later in the post.)

I stayed up into the wee hours reading Realm Immortal: King of the Unblessed by Michelle M. Pillow. This is a dark fantasy romance set partially in a Medieval type England, and partially in an "Otherworld" populated by Elves, Faeries, Goblins and other folkloric creatures. Lady Juliana of Bellemare has always had a very active imagination, preferring stories of magic and mystery to the life of duty that awaits her as a noblewoman. On the eve of her marriage to a much older neighbor, Juliana asks somebody, anybody, to give her one adventure. Unbeknownst to her, Merrick, the King of the Unblessed (it's like the kingdom of mischief, bad luck and stuff that ruins your day) has become fascinated by Juliana, and has already planned on making her his. So he decides to give Juliana her adventure, ensure she doesn't marry the old guy and trick her into going to his palace, where he will keep her. So he goes to Juliana, and tells her he has kidnapped the village children. In order to save them, Juliana must journey to the palace of the King of the Unblessed and ask him a simple question. Horrified and fascinated by Merrick (not knowing his true identity), Juliana sets off.

First off, I am a monkey's uncle if Ms. Pillow did not get her inspiration for this book from the movie Labyrinth. Does anyone remember this movie? A teenage Jennifer Connelly plays a girl with her head in the clouds, who wishes for something to happen to her little brother. The Goblin King (David Bowie with big hair) listens to her plea and steals baby boy. The Connelly character, Sarah, must solve the Labyrinth in 13 hours or her brother will be turned into a Goblin. Musical numbers (including the catchy "Dance, Magic, Dance) and slightly creepy Jim Henson creatures abound.

This is not a carbon copy (I'd call it a homage), but there are definite parallels. Like Jareth/Bowie, Merrick rules over the Goblins. Neither king understands why the heroine is so angry with them, when they are only giving them what they want. Each want to rule over the heroine, and gain power from her fear. As for Juliana/Sarah, their "adventure" is really a journey of leaving childhood fancies behind, and realizing that things are not always black and white and not always what they seem.

I should admit that I adore Labyrinth. It is a wonderful, surreal movie, and I can't wait until H-Bomb and the Destroyer are old enough to watch it with me. As a twelve year old watching this movie, I wished that Jennifer Connelly had stayed with David Bowie and been his Goblin Queen. Icky as that may be, it may explain why I liked this book so much. Merrick was a great dark, tormented hero. He wanted Juliana, but he couldn't quite understand her, and despaired of her ever understanding him. Plus, why would she want to stay in his dark kingdom and share the burden of being disliked. Juliana was annoying at times, but overall I liked her. I also liked and was intrigued by the secondary characters like her brothers, Lord Kalen (Merrick's ally), Lucien, the Demon King, and the Faery Queen Tania.

Ms. Pillow's writing was very smooth and assured. I found the setting and world to be very vividly described. Sometimes the language had a bit of that stilted "Methinks" and "Whilst" thing going on , not a personal favorite, but then it would go away (in "reality" vs. "the Otherworld", I think). The sex scenes were well written, nothing more extreme than found in most mainstream romance. I found the ending to be a little perky compared to the rest of the work, but there are two sequels, so we'll have to see if Merrick gets all sweet. All in all, this was a compelling grownup fairy tale and lots of fun: B+. If you like, say, Kinley MacGregor's Lords of Avalon series, or if like me, you think they miss the mark, give this one a go. I'm going to buy the next two installments now, because I want to see what happens next. And I think I'm going to email Ms. Pillow about Labyrinth thing. I'm so curious.


Mailyn said...

The reference to Labyrinth is making me want to get this. LOL.

Jeni Q said...

Sarah was an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Dev - the new website is FABULOUS! i love it.

Devon said...

Mailyn--you might like this. I emailed the author, but didn't hear back, but I swear there are Labryrinth parallels. The world is not as developed as a straight up fantasy, but I thought it struck a good balance between compelling fantasy and compelling romance. Good to see you, BTW :)

Jeni Q--because she didn't stay with David Bowie? I thought the same myself as a preteen. Welcome, BTW.

Hanrahan--thanks! now that I've done it once I may do it again someday.

Holly said...

I love Labyrinth. Actually, I just Netflixed it. I can't wait to see it again.

I'm curious about this book, too, now. Thanks for the pimp.

oh, and I belong to the Michelle Pillow yahoo group and she seems pretty cool. Just FYI.

Devon said...

I was looking for it myself, Holly. I'm in the middle of the second installment, and if she keeps up like this I think I'll be spending a lot on Ms. Pillow's work.

Kris said...

Labyrinth was one of my favorite movies when i was a pre-teen. I had such a crush on David Bowie, til I found out that wasn't his real hair. I loved the last scene with him in the white outfit. I don't think I had ever seen a guy in such tight clothing before that, it was fascinating to me.

Devon said...

I heard back from the author, and she said she loved Labyrinth and the story's a nod to it, but the focus of the series is different, which you can see as the books progress.

Ms. Pillow also recommended her Tribes of the Vampire series, for dark fantasy fans.