Friday, March 2, 2012

FU Weekly: Reviews and a Prize Draw

Happy Friday everyone! We have a little review prepared for you today, but before we can get to that, we encourage you to have a look at this review of Fantastique Unfettered #4 (Ralewing) over at Sabotage Reviews. Yes, it's a critical review, but we can handle that. It helps us to do better next time. Also, if you feel so inclined, you can vote for the Saboteur Awards 2012.

Oh, wait. There's more. To give back to all those who support Fantastique Unfettered and our authors and artists, we are going to have a PRIZE DRAW! The lucky winner will receive:

- one copy of Sybil's Garage No. 7
- one copy (either signed by both editors or unsigned, your choice) of Niteblade #18, the Special Poetry Edition
- one postcard from Hamelin, depicting the Pied Piper luring the rats through the city's streets

Cool, huh? To enter, all you have to do is donate $5 or more by clicking the Donate button at the top right of this page. The prize draw will close on midnight, March 31, at which time the editor shall write the names/email addresses of all donors on scraps of paper, fold them, and draw one from a hat. We will announce the winner's name here, with their permission. If we are unable to reach the winner, we will repeat the procedure until we either run out of names or can get the winner to confirm.

ETA: Let's up the ante, shall we. The editor herself (that's Alexandra Seidel, in case you aren't that familiar with the zine) has offered to contribute a "special surprise prize [involving copious amounts of creativity]" to this little March-ly goodness. However, we want this to be more fun, and yes, a little competitiveness is fun in our book. To get your hands on the Special Prize, you have to bid for it in the comment section to this post (comments need to be approved before you can see them--we'll do our best to be snappy abut that). We might drop some more hints about the nature of the Special Prize here. We might also, once all the bidding is done, find that we have a little something left for one or two random bidders. Get to it.

And now, The Night Circus, Reviewed.


"The Night Circus" By Erin Morgenstern
Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel

"Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn"*

Every once in a while, the avid reader will find something gleaming among pebbles, something shinier than the rest. A find like that will be kept close to your skin, in a pocket where you can easily reach for it, make sure it is still there and as shining as it always was.

"The Night Circus," Erin Morgenstern's debut novel is one such find. It is a story well told, and mind you, I am not just saying this. What you have in this book is truly great storytelling, you Dear Reader, are taken by the hand and led through the story--not on a straight line, that's true--but Morgenstern knows where she is taking you.

The main story line seems so simple. There are two masters of an art--one formerly the pupil of the other--and through their respective pupils, they plan to resolve the issue of the conflicting approaches they take towards their art. Their pupils of course fall in love with each other, and they don't just break the rules of the game designed to resolve their masters' conflict, no, they fly away from the game's rules entirely, wings spread wide.

It does sound simple, but Morgenstern gives it soul, heart, spirit. The game is played in a circus, the Cirque des RĂªves, the Circus of Dreams, and while this is a public venue, the game must be kept private by both participants. Also, that game is not as direct as you would expect. The circus is the ring, and the weapon of choice is...magic. In this way, a Wishing Tree is created to counter the Ice Garden, there is a Cloud Maze and a Labyrinth, a Pool of Tears and paper animals, moved by nothing more than clockwork gears and magic.

This game of principles draws in more than just the two combatants though, and here is Morgenstern's great strength; her tale is like an epic tapestry with threads of story woven smoothly into one, with threads of myths run effortlessly between them to add this certain extra shimmer. Palpable in all this is her gift of setting. Her circus for example is a black and white wonderland, her characters are vibrant, and the places she creates are made to come alive in the reader's imagination.

Morgenstern's story is a miraculous show. Her writing style is visceral in the sense that it speaks to the reader's mind directly, not in that it has downsized all the creative articulation language has to offer. This in fact made the book most enjoyable for me, the writer Morgenstern who knows to bend the English language to her purpose in a way that makes your eyes flow over. Sure, her prose is lyrical, and some readers may not enjoy this, but I did. To be clear about this, Dear Reader, "The Night Circus" may at times remind you of poetic verse. I wholeheartedly welcome that, but if a style like such as this is not for you, you probably will not find this book as marvelous a thing as I did.

You must also be warned, Dear Reader, that Morgenstern builds on old myths: the wizard who was cheated and became a tree. A raven whose name means thought. Pupils surpassing their masters. The hidden meaning of the Tarot. This warning must be taken seriously, for if you are at all particular to anything mythical, this little book will keep you from sleeping, eating, leaving the house, so seductive is it.

Morgenstern is a true storyteller, and she uses a theatrical approach to tell her tale. Her chapters are short, like scenes in a play. They are told in a non-linear sequence, sometimes with years in between, but the author makes it seem effortless, and all these scenic pieces fit together neatly.

What would a good story be, though, without a proper ending? Well, this ending hit my sweet spot, just so. Sure, I didn't want to leave the enchanting world on these pages, but the ending was so good that I could, and that I was perfectly happy with it without feeling cheated. A perfect circle, if you will.

Dear Reader, I hope I have stimulated your curiosity. If so, I suggest you help yourself to the hardcover edition, because the publisher made an effort to let the packaging match the content here, another thing that I truly appreciated. I won't promise that you'll fall in love with "The Night Circus" as I have, but what I can say is that you will have a unique reading experience:

"The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not."*

*Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus
ISBN 9781846555237
Random House

Fantastique Unfettered is an effort of love. We love bringing fiction, non-fiction and poetry to our readers, and we love to pay our authors. To help us, please consider making a donation (and entering our prize draw if you donate at least $5) by following the Donate button at the top right of this page.

Thank you!