Blind Servitude: A Haiku Review of a Modern Day Fable (plus an Author Interview!)

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It’s Mad Martha with you today with a special treat! I have a sweet little indie title for your perusing pleasure, made all the sweeter for its having an Australian author (yippee!).  Stay tuned after my review to meet David Chattaway and find out the inspiration behind this engaging little tale.

Blind Servitude by David Chattaway follows the story of Eli, a young boy who, along with his family, has lived his whole life in an underground mine, toiling for an unseen overlord.  When Eli accidentally discovers a secret passage that may lead to freedom (or certain death!) he is excited to tell his family.  But at the same time Eli is uncovering the mine’s secrets, a siren is sounding elsewhere in the mine – a siren indicating that his mother will never be returning from her work shift.  When Eli’s brother and sister are abducted in the regular “harvest”, Eli is more determined than ever to get his father to listen to his plan to find the secret tunnel and see if it leads to escape.  Along the way, Eli will have to dodge the guards, particularly the sadistic “Savage”, evade the creepy “Shadow” lady and rely on his father, blind old Jeri and his mysterious, silent friend Peta in order to risk everything for a slim chance at freedom.

blind servitude

Dwelling in darkness

cage bars built from despair

Will hope find a way?

Blind Servitude is a reasonably short story that has a definite feel of the old-time fable about it.  Eli, the young boy at the centre of the story, is the unlikely hero, shifted from the complacency of his everyday life collecting and repairing tools for the workers by a desire for something more, something adventurous.  He alone has the courage to believe that his mother and siblings may not yet be lost to death, after his discovery of a tunnel that shouldn’t exist, given what the mine-dwellers have always been told.

The story unfolds fairly slowly, given the short length of the book, and this isn’t an action-packed adventure story by any means, despite the fact that there’s climbing and breaking and entering and pursuit by malevolent creatures all bound up in this small package.  Instead the suspense builds slowly, all the time reflecting Eli’s personal growth as he faces challenges that cause him to question everything he has ever known and chases after a slim hope that there could be something better awaiting all the mine-dwellers provided they are prepared to risk letting go of their unhappy, but predictable lives.

The characters aren’t particlarly developed as individuals, but each plays a significant role in Eli’s journey, particularly the guard whom Eli calls the Savage.  The Savage is almost the personification of the mine-dwellers’ misery, subjugating the people  through violence and threats in order to uphold a system that is unjust and ultimately unproductive for all but those at the top of the chain.

Overall this is an ethereal tale that will have you reflecting on the power of hope and the playing-off between risk and reward.

David Chattaway has kindly offered two readers (Australian residents ony) the chance to win a print copy of Blind Servitude.  To enter, simply click on the rafflecopter link below where you’ll find Ts & Cs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Now it’s time to meet the generous and talented creator of this tale! Welcome, David, to the Shelf!

 

Blind Servitude is a thoroughly thought-provoking tome! Where did the inspiration for the book come from?

I wanted to write a story which was uplifting and had a positive message. It started as a very short story, focusing on a family’s desperation to escape an underground prison. Initially the story was far more science fiction with Aliens being the prison guards. As I began typing the story evolved and changed and I was left with a tale of a boys journey from darkness to light.
A lot of the characters seem to be flawed in one way or another – was this important to you when creating them and how does it impact on the way the story unfolds?
 
The story is about hope and overcoming adversity, but the characters are real and their situation is somewhat hopeless, especially at the beginning. I wanted the reader to relate to Eli, understanding the reasons that drive him to continue but also appreciating that he is challenging the nature of the world he had lived in.
Why did you choose Eli as your protagonist? Was it essential that he be young in order to accomplish his quest?
 
The story is dedicated to my Godson Eli and it was written for younger readers so I wanted to make the protagonist be young. One of the important aspects to this story is Eli convincing his father to believe his reasoning for escape and I felt that trusting someone young, especially when you’re almost blind and surrounded by danger was a message in itself. Eli represents the child in all of us, the innocent and trusting part which believes everything will be okay, that no matter how dark your life is that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Who is the perfect reader for Blind Servitude and is there a particular message you’d like them to take away from the story?
 
The book is suitable for both young readers and the young at heart…
– Trust your instincts and believe in good prevailing. Seek the truth and never give up! That is the message of this book.
If you had to sum the book up in one sentence, how would you describe it?
 
Blind Servitude is the tale of a young boy’s journey to find his courage in a world where fear is used as a weapon and love is the only light.
Have you got any works in progress that we should watch out for and do you plan to feature gargoyles in any of your future writings?
 
I’ve completed the first draft of a paranormal fantasy novel named Mal’akh. It’s a story about Angels and Demons, good versus evil… it will be book one of a trilogy I have planned.

 

So there you have it.  You can find Blind Servitude on Goodreads here and for those whose literary appetite has been whetted, Bruce will be featuring another of David’s books on the blog in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.
Until we meet again, may the light of hope never be blown out,

Mad Martha

 

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Surprised by Joy (and a feathered fowl): The Duck and The Darklings…

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Welcome literary wayfarers! I have something special for you today.  Once every so often, a picture book comes along that is as visually appealing as it is moving, as lyrical in prose as it is engaging in content.  The Duck and the Darklings is just such a book.  The book is the product of another successful and inspiring collaboration between Glenda Millard (who I have mentioned on the blog before, here) and Stephen Michael King, and as soon as I heard about it, I put it on my “must buy that soon” radar.  Thanks to the delightful cake-eating competition-purveyors at Allen & Unwin however, I was lucky enough to win a copy, sparking my admiration for the book and the post that you are now skimming reading with great care and attention.

the duck and the darklings

Peterboy and his grandfather live among the Darklings in a hole in the ground in the land of Dark, below the ruined world above.  Peterboy longs to bring some light to his grandfather’s life and in his search he finds Idaduck.  He brings the broken duck to his grandfather and together they set about healing the creature.  When Idaduck is ready to leave them, the Darklings shine the lights from their candle-hats to show her the way and in doing so, discover that Idaduck has brought them something they needed more than anything – hope in the power of healing.

The themes in this book are familiar to fans of Millard’s work – hope, caring for others and finding joy in tiny, ordinary moments – but she has certainly outdone herself this time in creating a story dependent on so much fantasy world-building in such a small package.  This book feels like an epic fantasy condensed onto a post-it note, with peaks and lulls, hope, sadness and inevitability perfectly paced across 32 pages.  The prose is exquisitely lyrical, with a natural rhythm that provides the dreamlike quality underpinning the story.  King’s illustrations provide the visual realisation of Millard’s words and his familiar style perfectly conveys the gloominess of the Darklings’ underground home and the curiousity and hopefulness of Peterboy.  Rather than saying too much more about it, I’ll give you some examples:

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He has also inspired Mad Martha to start crocheting a hat like Peterboy’s.  Maybe without the candle though, despite it’s undisputed usefulness.

If you can get your paws, claws or hands on a copy of this book, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.  For my money, I think it’s one of those rare treasures that will do more for the adults reading it than the mini-fleshlings – but I’m sure they’ll love it just as much.

Until next time,

Bruce

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ARC Haiku Review: Hope is a Ferris Wheel…

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small fryGood sweaty morning to you all! I’m particularly excited today because I am unleashing upon you all my first submission for the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge 2014!  If you don’t know what this is, you should immediately click on the delightful button directly to the right of this sentence and inform yourself. We’ll wait. Go on.

Right then! I am submitting Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera in category 5 – something that comes in pairs.  Can’t guess why? It’s WHEELS! Wheels generally come in pairs when attached to an axle.  And just so you know, I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!

Hope is a Ferris Wheel follows a school year in the life of ten year old Star Mackie, who has recently moved to a new town and is finding it difficult to make friends.  This, she suspects, is due to a number of factors – her attractive blue “layered cut” that the other kids call a mullet, her classmates’ inexplicable dislike of trailer parks as a place of residence, and the fact that she is new and a bit different.  Star begins a quest to make friends by starting a club and after a few false starts – The Trailer Park Club not attracting the level of interest she initially expected – the Emily Dickinson poetry club opens some new doors for Star as well as giving her a few new headaches.  Add to this the ongoing drama of living with a busy single mother and a creative, yet misunderstood older sister and Star’s life is all getting a bit complicated.  And we haven’t even mentioned her mission to finally meet her dad.

hope is a ferris wheel

Round and round Star goes

Where she stops nobody knows

Least of all herself!

This book is a real little charmer.  It’s aimed at a middle grade audience and reminded me in some ways of the old Judy Blume books, with a heavy emphasis on a young kid just beginning to emerge into a more grown up world and having to navigate a way through strange new problems.  Star is a very likeable narrator with a refreshing naivete regarding the big bad world.  The child characters in the book are nicely fleshed out and although they have some stereotypical aspects – there’s Denny, the grumpy, protective older brother, and Eddie the tough kid – those aspects never make up the whole of the character.

One of the big drawcards for this book for we shelf-sitters was the theme of poetry running through the book.  Star falls in love with an Emily Dickinson poem about hope after a lesson from their teacher, and later finds out that Eddie, the tough guy, happens to be a dab hand at poetry too.  The poetry club forms a great backdrop for the kids to come out of their shells and find common ground in an otherwise shaky social situation.

There are a few adultish themes running through the book, mainly related to Star’s older sister, but nothing that a reasonably mature middle-grade audience couldn’t handle.  Overall, this was a quick, memorable read and one that approaches the beginnings of growing up in a fun and engaging way.  Hope is a Ferris Wheel is due for publication in early March.

So now I’m off to link up to the Small Fry Safari – even if you’re not signed up, hop on over as there are already some eager safari beavers who have submitted some entries!  Hi ho, Safari, AWAY!

Until next time,

Bruce

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Read-it-if: Pathways to Illumination….

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Afternoon me hearties! Today I bring to you something a little bit different – poetry! No, not my own or Mad Matha’s spectacular efforts of poetic brilliance, but those of Christy Birmingham in her compact yet emotional, autobiographical tome Pathways to Illumination.  Initially, Mad Martha and I discussed doing a haiku review given the poetical content of the book, but quite frankly, Ms Birmingham’s work is of a far greater quality than our own, so we decided to defer to a higher talent when we see it and go with the Read-it-if instead.

Pathways to Illumination is a collection of poems relating Birmingham’s journey through a toxic relationship and out the other side.  The poems explore the various stages of moving through a relationship breakdown, and address domestic violence, control in relationships, emotional turmoil, depression and self-harm before moving on to the more hopeful outcomes including finding support and beginning again with a more healthy and positive outlook.  The poems are structured to be read sequentially, so that the book almost takes on the design of a verse novel, allowing the reader to experience the author’s journey and engage with her process of healing.

pathways to illumination

Read it if:

* you like a bit of poetry but don’t like random collections of poems on disjointed topics

* you’ve ever hitched your star to a wagon that looked fancy at the time…but who’s hard wooden seats gave you splinters, who’s hard wooden wheels ran over your toes, and who ultimately hooked up with another, more tawdry looking wagon despite promises to the contrary

* you have unabashedly adopted Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” as your personal theme song

* you can’t go past an author who, in her own words, “inhales personal growth and exhales a passion for every new day”

While we shelf denizens do our fair share of composing (slightly dodgy) poetry, admittedly, we don’t read a lot of it.  Mainly because poetry, like a classic novel, can be a bit daunting and intimidating. Or overly pretentious.  Thankfully, those labels do not apply to the poems in this book.  Rather, if you pick up Pathways to Illumination you will find poems that contain striking imagery, relatable content and honest emotion in a very readable format.  Best of all, one will be left with a sense of hope and optimism to speed one on one’s way.

If you are interested in grabbing a copy of the book, you can do so here.  And if you want to connect with Christy herself, you can check out her blog at www.poeticparfait.com

And just for kicks, here’s Ms Gaynor herself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBR2G-iI3-I

Until next time,

Bruce

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