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The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor

Sean Wright. Crowswing Books. 5.99
150p. ISBN: 0-9544374-4-6


book coverLia-Va is seven feet tall with skin as "black as ebony, her teeth whiter than the Elders of Elriad's Citadel." She kills her father, thereby inheriting the throne of the Island of Wisblakia, and is an addict enslaved to "roots" (which are regurgitated upon someone's death and contain the memories of the events leading up to the person's demise.) Abandoning her duties, Lia-Va is quickly off on a quest to solve "a Runeroot puzzle" accompanied only by Islan, a scrawny unprepossessing mute with a colossal two-headed axe, as her "back-eyes." She's bloodthirsty, offensive, nasty, and a bit raunchy: the tough nihilistic anti-hero we adore if male but seldom encounter as a female. Wright's prose is pedestrian but his furious pace, ample imagination, and audacious twists make up for it. Other flaws, however, are not so easily ignored. The book's success is limited by detracting details that could easily have been fixed. Mentions of heroin, weed, and crack -- when other addictive substances have exotic names or an etymologically sound label (like "rum") or are, like the roots themselves, exotic -- stick out. References to May [sic] West, rugby, empty plastic milk cartons, Fagin, and the like are even more painful. The same sloppiness is apparent (although a lack of space negates further discussion here) in important plot elements and in Lia-Va's quest. In his Introduction, Wright hopes his book will extend the borders of speculative fiction and defeat stereotype. Adequate editorial guidance for Wright's energetic talent might well have produced such a book. (A good editor might have convinced Wright to drop that Introduction, too, as well as parts of his Afterword.) The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor has the potential to be a truly magical achievement but, as published, is an interesting disappointment awaiting revision. -- Paula Guran (Originally published in Fantasy #2, Spring 2006)