(betcha now I get a bunch of dental ads in Google)
James Hetley is an old internet acquaintance of mine, who recently joined Facebook. It wasn’t until then that I realized (we’d lost touch) that James Hetley, the author of a book I’d found and absolutely loved on the dollar rack at Dollar General, was my old friend Jim from alt.callahan. I ran right out and grabbed the second book in the series, Dragon’s Teeth, as well as The Winter Oak, which I haven’t read yet.
The book in question was Dragon’s Eye, and it is the first in this series (which I hope he continues). He tells me both books are out of print, but they are still available in stores (I checked), so definitely, pick one of each up if you can find them.
A lot of authors are doing contemporary fantasy these days. Some do it well, some not so well. James Hetley does it amazingly well. Neil Gaiman well (and, well, that’s saying a lot). Jim’s characters are deeply and lovingly drawn. You care about every last one of them, and none are stereotypes. The story weaves several subplots with expert skill, and you find yourself caring about each subplot, even when you get pulled out of your favorite for a chapter or two. And all the subplots weave together flawlessly at the end.Cover of Dragon’s Eye (Stone Fort)
Place is an important character in these books. Jim lives in very rural Maine, and he has made the Maine coastline a living, breathing actor in the book. Two (make that three) families with intertwined lives form the center of the story, and Hetley makes their heritages as much a part of the story as the characters themselves.
The families consist of the Haskells, a matriarchal family of witches, the Morgans, an (apparently) patriarchal family of selkies who make their livings as, uh, privateers (yeah, that’s it), and the Rowleys, people bound to the power of the earth, who had almost lost their heritage and were beginning to regain it. Their heritages are, repectively Naskeag Indian, Welsh, and “we’re pretty sure they’re Welsh, but there’s something else going on too”.
I’m not giving you any spoilers about the plot of Dragon’s Teeth except that it flows organically from the natures of the characters and all makes perfect sense. I have rarely seen such well written, character driven plot.
You’ll love Dragon’s Teeth, if you love fantasy. You’ll probably love it even if you don’t love fantasy. I’m finding myself with “out of words error” trying to describe how good these books are, because they really are different, and in the way that different is better. I’ve rarely cared so much about so many characters in a book, and I’ve rarely felt so satisfied in the way they develop.
It’s a crime and a shame that these books are out of print (update: now they’r available as ebooks, so click on the links above) . The only excuse is lack of marketing, because they are absolutely amazing. So beg, borrow, or steal a copy, and get your review on, and make sure that publishers know that James Hetley is an author they need to get on their “A” list, pronto.
— And that’s not Maureen the friend saying that, that’s Maureen the totally book obsessed fantasy geek saying that.
- Subtle reminder (jhetley.livejournal.com)
- Book Review: “Dragon Flight” (thecheapreader.wordpress.com)
- A name for every voice: an interview with Gillian Philip (vulpeslibris.wordpress.com)