James A. Hetley

Books: Fantasy

The Summer Country (2002)

The Summer Country (2002)

The SUmmer CountryThe deciding factor for buying this book was the fact that there was a blurb by Chares de Lint on the cover. Since I love his writing, I was curious as to what he would like enough to blurb.

Maureen Pierce isn't quite right. That's what her family thinks, and it's what she herself thinks. Walking home from her job as a convenience store clerk one night, she discovers that maybe it's not all in her head.

This is a very dark book--not in tone but in subject matter. Rape, child abuse, death, it's all in here. However, they don't come across as horror for the sake of horror, but as a sampling of the awfulness that exists in the world, and sometimes fall upon the head of people who don't deserve it. Although the events are no harsher than some that occur in many of Charles de Lint's stories, they seemed far more brutal here. The ugliness is far more out in the open.

It wasn't overwhelming, this ugliness and horror, but there was a good deal of it.

But despite her flaws and problems, Maureen is a compelling character, and I quickly found myself caring about what happened to her, and wondering how she was going to get herself out of the mess she got herself into. Her plight and fate are what keep the story moving, and kept me turning the pages so quickly.

What I liked best about the story, however, was the nature of the Summer Country. It's a land very much like the faerie realm of old folktales and ballads--duplicitous, dangerous, and not to be trusted. The faerie isn't the land of Cinderella's fairy godmother, but instead of the Wicked Queen, and the big bad wolf and the fairy godmother that curses Sleeping Beauty. These are creatures not to be trifled with, and certainly nothing you should ever turn your back on.

I did like very much how James Hetley woke Maureen's psychiatric history into the story, and how her past and her phobias and her fears controlled how she acted and reacted.

This is a very interesting book. I could have done without quite so much darkness, and I don't think that he got the relationship between the two sisters quite right--there was something just a little bit off about it. There was also one place where a time jump was confusing and not as well done as it could have been. I understand that the nature of time changes in faerie, however, the nature of time does not change in the world as we know it, and he could have been more clear about how much time has passed from the start, instead of several pages into the chapter.

But with all that it was a pretty good book, and well worth reading. Although I am not sure whether I want to read another book about Maureen (Hasn't she gone through enough already? How much physical and emotional damage can one small woman take? Not to mention that this story makes the bad guy of a sequel quite obvious) I'm interested in reading more of his writing.

Rating: 7/10