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Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Jasmyn" by Alex Bell (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)



Official Alex Bell Website
Order "Jasmyn" HERE

INTRODUCTION: One the best debuts from last year was Alex Bell's The Ninth Circle (FBC Review HERE) which made my top five mainstream fantastic novels list and was a personal favorite too. Without knowing more than the title, Ms. Bell' second novel "Jasmyn" became one of my most expected books of 2009 since I really, really loved the style of her debut and I thought that she will only improve as a novelist as time passes.

After reading the novel twice in two days I have to say that the very high expectations I had of "Jasmyn" were not only met but surpassed and this one will be most likely a #1 or co-#1 mainstream fantastic for 2009. It is just a magical book, another fairy tale for adults in the vein of my top 08 book "Memoirs of a Master Forger", but this time with real princesses, knights and faeries.

OVERVIEW: In contemporary England, Jasmyn Gracey, 27 years old is burying her husband Liam. They were childhood friends since age 4, when the albino Jasmyn sent to kindergarten for the first time could not understand why her classmates were shunning her ("Is that girl a ghost, Mummy?"). But then a boy rolled a ball to her and asked "Are you a snow princess?"

Later they were engaged for several years and after a 10 month marriage, Liam died of a sudden cerebral aneurysm. And then at the funeral five black swans fell dead from the sky...

Jasmyn is a a passionate violinist and works as music teacher, while Liam is a writer about supernatural phenomena.

Ben is Liam's older brother. Quiet and reserved to Liam's brashness and daredevil pastimes, and an architect as opposed to Liam's more flamboyant though much less lucrative career, Ben had a bad falling out with Liam around the time of the marriage and he has been living in Germany since.

Jaxon Thorpe is an American photographer and business partner of Liam who has trouble believing in Liam's death, while Lucas is a strange man who seems to follow Jasmyn with ease.

The novel stands at about 300 pages and is narrated by Jasmyn. Taking us on a tour of real-world superb vistas from England to California, to the mountains and castles of Bavaria and several other places that I will leave the reader to discover, "Jasmyn" has a superb ending too.

ANALYSIS: First and foremost "Jasmyn" is another tale of clouded identities, though our narrator is convinced of who she is and has the house, the documents, the pictures and the relatives to prove it as opposed to Gabriel from "The Ninth Circle" whose true identity was a mystery almost to the end. There are some niggling details that do not quite add up, some whispers from her in-laws and from her friends, but they also can be the normal embarrassment of people encountering a truly bereaved widow like her, who cannot imagine how she will live without her life-partner.

Of course that is until the weirdness starts with the swans at the funeral and deepens continually so that she is finally forced to start looking for answers.

Another major difference with "The Ninth Circle" is in the nature of the fantastic which here comes from the fantasy spectrum (swan princesses and knights, faeries) rather than the religious one (St. Michael, Satan and the like). As it behooves that, "Jasmyn" is not as dark as "The Ninth Circle", and while the tension ratchets up and the twists and turns keep changing our understanding of what's what, the ominous foreboding of the author's debut is replaced here with a tale of adventure and discovery. Of course there is tragedy and heartbreak too, but "Jasmyn" is a truly enjoyable and entertaining novel and our heroine is a superbly done character who grows on the reader.

As the other major character of the bookl, Ben's role is only slowly revealed though for the experienced reader it will become clear by mid-novel, clue by clue. But even so there were some twists that managed to surprise me.

As villains we have one that's clearly marked as such from his first encounter with Jasmyn, but the true main villain is also only slowly revealed, though again by mid-book the identity is not in doubt anymore.

The writing style is absolutely great making the book a pleasure to read and a page turner end to end that I could not put down, while the descriptions of the various novel locations are excellent.

Overall "Jasmyn" is a magical novel which is highly, highly recommended, a fairy tale for adults that will enchant and cheer you up in the end. Also in its expanded descriptive range and very smoothly flowing prose, the book shows Ms. Bell's growth as an author and any new book by her is a read asap for me.

5 comments:

suzie said...

I really like this cover!

Thea said...

Liviu, you are freaking me out. You've reviewed almost title for title the same books I've just finished reading, and I completely agree with you. Jasmyn is a stunner of a novel - I absolutely loved it. (And Naamah's Kiss. And Consorts of Heaven. And I'm currently diving into Julian Comstock. Seriously, cue twilight zone music!)

Great review, as usual.

Thea said...

Liviu, you are freaking me out. You've reviewed almost title for title the same books I've just finished reading, and I completely agree with you. Jasmyn is a stunner of a novel - I absolutely loved it. (And Naamah's Kiss. And Consorts of Heaven. And I'm currently diving into Julian Comstock. Seriously, cue twilight zone music!)

Great review, as usual.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words;

I am pretty sure that the next reviews will be different (next week I have New Space Opera 2 (Dozois, Strahan ed), Osiris Ritual (Mann) and Interregnum (Turney)in that order, most likely Mo/Th/Fr or Tu/Th/Fr all done and ready to go.

Next next week I plan By Heresies Distressed (Weber, read not done), Firethorn/Wildfire in one post (Micklem, just finished 1st before Jasmyn and just got 2nd and will be next read) and Retribution Falls (Wooding, read, not done)

Rabid Fox said...

Nice review, but it sounds like I need to track down "Ninth Gate" and read that before I jump into this title.

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