FictionReview (books or video)

The Summer Country — Dark Fantasy at Its Finest

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Cover of The Summer Country

James Hetley hit the ball out of the park at his first at bat. Here I am, reading the book some nine years later, just realizing it.

The Summer Country, like the rest of Jim’s books, starts in the town of Naskeag Falls, Maine.  In this case, the main character is a young woman named Maureen (hey!  I like that name!) who has the blood of the Old Ones running through her veins.  In this case, Old Ones means fairy folk, not vampires, though in this case, I’m not sure which are more dangerous.

Maureen is a deeply engaging, interesting character with deep flaws and strengths she hasn’t even begun to plumb yet.  We soon meet her older sister, Jo, who is in some ways the polar opposite, and as an older sister, I recognize the relationship between the two well — it’s the classic dynamic of ‘I can be as mean as I want to my sister, but you had better not mess with her’.

The story is set on a classic Hero’s Journey arc, starting in the ‘real world’, and plunging the characters (and two men actually worth being interested in, yay!) into exciting, dangerous situations way over their heads and likely to get them all killed.  In the process, every protagonist in the story grows.  Do you know how rare that is?  The villains, too, are finely drawn and their motives clear as well as complicated.  Hetley didn’t create any ‘throw away characters’ or situations, and tied up every loose end in the book neatly and beautifully.

I can’t get over how beautifully crafted Jim’s work is. The setting is a character in its own right, every word is chosen carefully, each character is unique and interesting even when unsympathetic, and the overall effect is simply magical.

The experience of reading this book was pure joy, to the point that the second I finished it, I went rummaging in my library book for the sequel, The Winter Oak, even though I was behind on my writing and had a ton to do.  But now I’m upset, because I’m halfway through the sequel, and Jim has no more books published.  What’s up with that?

Yes it meets my feminist standards, and my inner 14 year old loved it, too.  It’s just incredibly well written, entertaining fiction.  Find it.  Buy it.   Spread the word.


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