Tag Archives: Maine

Review of Carousel Sun – Book 2 of Archer’s Beach by Sharon Lee

Standard

I loved Carousel Tides, – see my review here – which is the start of this wonderful paranormal series, so as soon as I saw this offering on the shelves, I immediately scooped it up. Would I enjoy it as much as the first book?

carousel sunKate Archer, owner-operator of the vintage wooden carousel, is caught up in the excitement—and is quite possibly the cause of it. Because Kate leads a double life, as carny, and as Guardian of the land. Her recent return to the home she had forsaken has changed the town’s luck—for the better—and energized the trenvay—earth and water spirits who are as much citizens of the Beach as their mundane counterparts. But the town’s new energy isn’t the only change afoot. Joe Nemeier, the local drug lord, whose previous magical consultant was vanquished by Kate, has acquired a new ally—and this one plays with fire.

This book immediately picks up where the first book left off, which means the pace continues. Though if you are expecting to be whirled up into a maelstrom of non-stop action, then you need to simmer down. Lee manages to pull off the really neat trick of giving us a ringside seat into Kate’s daily life without it seeming remotely boring. We get to know what she eats, how she feels about the other residents, how well she sleeps, the weather, what her work routine is… And her feelings about Brogan. As well as gaining a fascinating insight into the struggles of a small tourist town on the Maine coast.

Why do I end up reading this apparently mundane routine in greedy vociferous gulps? Because entwined in Kate’s daily life are shafts of the paranormal activity that flitters just under the surface. It is beautifully done. For my money, no one else writes paranormal fantasy quite like Lee. The closest I can think of is Modesitt’s wonderful series, The Ghosts of Columbia, which is him at his awesome best in my opinion – see my review here.

As she narrates all the normal, everyday stuff happening in her life, the struggle with the darker forces surrounding Archer’s Beach and the political fallout regarding the other realms on the doorstep unfold. Interleaving the everyday in amongst the fantastic so completely produces a lovely fey quality to the Maine landscape.

I’ve never been there, but Lee’s world sings off the page so sharply depicted, I can taste the salt tang and smell the coffee. The consequence is that when things do kick off, there is a real sense of shock. Lee is in complete control of the narrative, so the story comes to satisfactory conclusion, while leaving a couple of plotpoints dangling for the next slice of paranormal oddness to unfold in Archer’s Beach.

Any niggles. Hm – just one… the book isn’t all that long. And I came to the end of it with a real sense of loss. I could have read more of Lee’s magical world – in fact I could have read it all day. And that’s it, really. This is a gem. And if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, go looking for Carousel Tides. This really is a special treat for those of you who like your fiction laced with magic.
10/10

Advertisements

Review of Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee

Standard

I’ve been increasingly impressed at the quality of writing coming out of Baen – so when I noticed this book on the library shelves, I immediately picked it up.

The hidden world lurking in the shadows of coastal Maine outside the tourist season, is where Black Dogs hunt the night and selkies carousel tidestoss unpleasant truths over their shoulders before diving into the next wave. In the center of this, Kate Archer tends and guards one of the spookiest carousels this side of Ray Bradbury and wonders what has happened to her grandmother. The old woman sent her a letter, left papers deeding over the carousel, house and Land (meaning much more than property), and vanished, telling the spirits of the land and sea that she expected to be back before the turning of the year.  Now March has come and gone and Kate must return from self-exile to take up powers and responsibilities she has renounced, or dying will be the least of her problems.

Whether this is magic realism, or contemporary fantasy is a call for someone else – what it definitely isn’t – is a crime/thriller set in a modern city where the protagonist is ranged against vamps/weres while fighting an undeniable physical attraction with said supernatural beasties… In other words – it is different from the general run of modern fantasy – to the extent that I would be very reluctant to park it on a shelf labelled Urban Fantasy.

Kate Archer relinquished her responsibilities to the Land and walked away, believing that it was her duty to do so. She has returned with reluctance, ailing and angry, to find that everything is not as it should be. Right from the start, Lee plunges us into the action in this atmospheric corner of Maine and has us completely identifying with her protagonist as Kate has to confront a range of enemies, some human and some definitely not…

The world is beautifully conveyed with cinematic sharpness without any loss of narrative pace – not an easy thing to pull off. However, it all appears effortless in the capable, talented hands of Lee. From the first page, I realised that I was in for an enjoyable ride in an engrossing world, peopled with a cast of interesting, eccentrically different people. The mention of Ray Bradbury isn’t as random as it might appear – I was reminded of the Great Man in the characterisation and feel of this story – the batwing horse is definitely one I’m going to remember for a while… Lee is clearly thoroughly familiar with this area of Maine, although the actual town of Archers Beach is a conglomeration of a number of similar places. Not only does she know this part of the world – she loves it. That affection resonates throughout the book, giving her writing an extra depth and grounding.

The plot whisks along at just the right pace – not so much that we lose out on the wonderful setting and interesting characters, but providing plenty of impetus to turn the pages… I should have stopped reading and settled down for an early night – but I read on until the small hours to discover what happened. And these days, I don’t do that very often.

This enjoyable gem will linger in the mind for a long time with a grin of pleasure to accompany it – and let’s face it, with the constant bad news crowding our papers and tv screens – anything that can achieve that is worth reading.
10/10