Review: For the King

For the King
For the King by Catherine Delors

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short Version: Started off a little slow, but the suspense kept building as the book went on, and the numerous plot twists ultimately made the book worth a read.

Longer Version: For the King started off a little slow, but the setting – Napoleonic France – was so interesting, I wanted to keep reading anyway – and I ended up being glad that I did.

This book is, basically, a mystery. The main character, Roch Miquel, is a young police inspector who has to race against the clock to figure out who is behind an assassination plot on Napoleon…because Miquel’s father is a suspect, and might be shipped overseas to do hard labor if his name isn’t cleared. I don’t read mysteries too often, but the stakes were just so high, I was invested in Miquel’s search for the would-be assassins, because I completely believed his motivation and desperation.

Not only are the stakes high in this book, but there are twists and turns galore, which made things that much more suspenseful. Normally I’m pretty good at picking up on twists, but I didn’t see a single one of them coming in For the King. And these twists seemed completely natural, too, not just plot twists for the sake of plot twists. I actually might have to reread this book so that I can try to pick up on some of the clues.

If you like high stakes, suspense, and mysteries, all in a historical setting rich with detail, I think this is your book.

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On becoming a morning person.

I’ve been getting up every day at 5:30 for work, and something completely terrible is happening as a result: I’m turning into a morning person.

It’s Saturday morning. I think I actually woke up at 5 or 5:30, but I finally got out of bed at 6. And…I’m actually sort of okay with it. My apartment is so quiet right now, I don’t have to fight anyone else for the coffee or the bathroom. I have time to sit and leisurely enjoy my coffee and my book before I have to go to my weekend job. It’s actually pretty nice, not being in a hurry.

Theoretically I should also be able to get some writing done, now that I’m not falling asleep (seriously, I fell asleep last night while catching up on last week’s episodes of Colbert – how is that even possible?), and I probably will in a little bit after I’ve checked my email and checked out some more of your blogs. I’ve got a short story in progress that’s a sort of companion piece to SHARDS. You see, there’s this whole reincarnation plot that I keep forgetting to mention in all of my summaries everywhere, so this story is a little bit of the backstory to that, me trying to get inside one of the characters’ heads a little bit more since we only really get one side of the story in SHARDS. (Plus, it’s fun to write from different perspectives every once in awhile!)

Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish that today, and then I can return my focus back to my SHARDS revision! Which isn’t really progressing, with the whole being busy thing. I’m outlining the book right now so I can see the different threads and where they all are, where I have holes that I need to fill in, or where I might shift things, or cut things altogether. Thinking about this doesn’t actually make me want to cry anymore. It’s reading my writing in the early chapters that makes me want to cry. This story was written over the course of two years, and I like to think that my writing got better over time…but I guess I’ll have to see. Apparently I had a tendency to, ahem, misplace my modifiers. ALL THE MODIFIERS ALL OVER THE PLACE. Now that I’m teaching writing, this mostly just makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.

I’m also toying with some ideas for more writing posts. We’re doing a short story unit in writing right now, so we’re talking about all sorts of things with the students – characterization, setting, conflict, plot, POV, verb tense…I might try to write up posts about some of these topics in the coming weeks.

Ooh, there’s another thing about mornings. I feel so much more productive now that I’ve got all that extra time before my day really gets going! Because if I wait until after my day is over to try to get anything done…it doesn’t work because I’m tired and my brain is fried. But right now, I’m still fresh! (And well-caffeinated. Can’t forget about that!)

Morning people, I’m sorry I hated on you for so long…but I still suggest waiting until I’ve had at least one cup of coffee before you try to talk my ear off.

Currently Listening To: David Guetta feat. Fergie & LMFAO – “Gettin’ Over You”

Currently Reading: Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase

Setting as Time

A few weeks ago, I talked about how I develop setting by drawing upon familiar places in order to give a touch of the familiar to fantasy settings. At the end of that post, I mentioned that I also draw a lot of my settings from history, but didn’t go into it since the post was already long enough as it was. So, today I’m going to revisit setting and talk about how I use time to develop setting. (Just as a side note, I’m talking in terms of fantasy here, since this is what I have experience with. I’ll leave historical fiction up to the historical fiction writers – mad respect for all of you!)

I start by having a time period in mind that I’m interested in. For SHARDS OF MEMORY, I started off in the Middle Ages with the Wars of the Roses in mind. But…then it sort of morphed, because when I started writing, I quickly discovered that Calanthe’s world actually had a much more Victorian flavor. (And don’t even get me started on dragging the Renaissance into all of this, too. The Malleas and Orions are powerful merchant families. This was inspired by my favorite historical family, the Medici.)

Anyway. I use my time period as a starting point in my world building – it’s something I have so I can start to visualize what sort of world my characters might inhabit, and then I start to build around it, picking and choosing which details I might want to use – for example, clothing, architecture, social structure, etc. It’s really, really hard to just make everything up as you go along, which is what I tried to do back in middle school when I first started writing. It’s just way easier to have that blueprint.

I also do a lot of blending with historical periods – none of the fantasy stories I write is purely Victorian or purely medieval or whatever. There are just too many good ones to stick with just one, you know? The way I see it, history is a giant buffet, and I just pick and choose what I like from each one when I’m trying to craft my setting.

Some ideas for things you could draw from history if you’re not sure where to begin:
Clothing
Architecture
Religion
Class System
Dances
Political System
Art
Music
Transportation
Technology

I could probably keep this list going for days. But the point is, if you’re stuck on developing a realistic setting in your fantasy story, you might not even have to look further than our own world’s history.

Friday Five #16

1. I’m still alive! I survived my first week of student teaching. I’m completely fried right now and will be crawling into bed to catch up on all of my TV shows from this week soon (since they’re all on after my bedtime), but I’m also ridiculously happy. I’m loving it. All week I’ve been working with students on essays and a writing assignment for their reading class, and seeing how much closer the ones who were struggling are to getting it is the best feeling ever. I’m so proud of them!

2. I went to the Tour de Nerdfighteria on Monday night in Seattle. And…I actually felt old. I mean, this isn’t something that happens very often (I’m so used to being the youngest person in the room…), but at least half the audience were teenagers. Very, very enthusiastic teenagers. Enthusiastic teenagers who asked super smart questions most of the adults in the audience had probably never even considered, and who sang along to totally nerdy songs about things like Harry Potter and science, and who deserve way more credit than most adults give them.

I didn’t actually stick around for the signing, since Katelynne and I were in one of the last groups, and we both had to get up ridiculously early for work, and had an hour and a half drive to make back up to Bellingham. But just being in the same room as John Green, listening to him talking about his book, was amazing. (Hank was great, too, don’t get me wrong, but I was definitely mostly there for John.)

Also, we were sitting at the very back, so we didn’t have a good view. But I did get a picture of the van on the way out:

3. So. I think if you’ve stuck around long enough, you’ll know I’m not a morning person. At all. As Katelynne likes to say, “Mornings exist so I can sleep through them.” Which is why, the first morning I woke up at 5:30 am for work, I seriously started questioning some of my life choices. But I think seeing things like this just might be enough to convert me:

4. So, for 12/12/12 last month, I read Outlander. This month, my pick is A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. It’s about time I’m getting around to reading it. That’s all I have to say right now.

5. While I’m very disappointed the 49ers shot themselves in the foot and failed to make it to the Super Bowl (oh, THAT GAME), I’m still excited about the Super Bowl on Sunday, if only so I can root against the Patriots. Down with the Pats!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Currently Listening To: Smash Mouth – “All Star”
Currently Reading: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin