Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Knights in Tarnished Armor, by Kate Paulk

I frequently save short stories and novellas to read /review until night time. They are a most lovely way to drift off into sleep; at least, that's usually the case with the writers I have chosen.
However, circumstances conspired against me with this weekend. Friday night and Saturday night were spent in fitful moments of sleeplessness. My physical activity level was significantly greater on Friday and Saturday, but I think what threw off the most was my Friday blog post, Meditations on Good Friday. That one reached deep into my heart and made me listen to the sound of life, so precious, and so uncontrollable. I've noticed that when I'm in in one of these deeply inward seasons, my reflections continue into sleep time, and it's not very restful.

Now, all of that sounds like serious stuff, and it is true that the subject matter I was considering was quite serious. However, once I had messed up my sleep pattern for the second day in a row, I traveled quickly from the sublime to the ridiculous.

I'd read a sentence or a paragraph, and then lapse into a dream state, with the characters and narrative from Kate's story making an easy transition over into my dream story. I don't know if Kate's story telling technique in this book (the story is told through letters written between the characters) makes these moments of sleep-writing particularly easy or not; maybe it was just the perfect amount of fatigue and reflection on my part. What I do know is that I had to read her work FOUR TIMES before my giggles were coming in at the right places for the right reasons. The first two times I read the book, my eyes would close, and I would insert a story about a young man using a row boat to gather wool in order to stuff a dragon skin, and there was a scene in which the wind came up suddenly, and all the wool was blown out of his boat, and others gathered to help him pick up the wet wool, and through this simple act of helping, peace was restored to the kingdom.Then my eyes would creep open, and I would look to find my place, and couldn't find it (because my place existed only in my head) and then I would read a few more lines, fall asleep, and then my brother in law Chuck was teaching guitar to the knights in an effort to build character in them.
Sometime yesterday, I finally caught up on my sleep, and realized what I had done. FORTUNATELY!!!! there is a semi-involved process I must go through to publish my reviews on my blog and on Amazon, and that may be all that saved us from a review about the Knights Who Used Brasso To Clean Their Armor and Then Learned to Cook Pies and Cakes.
Kate's book is MUCH, much better than that. As mentioned, it's in the epistolary form, and a comment in the author bio makes me wonder if these are Dracula's grandparents, but there is no internal evidence I can find that would make me believe this is the case. Of course, one who has studied the Dracula Canon may very well recognize names and places, but I didn't, even after I went back and scanned a review of Bram Stoker's book.
Kate's book is set in a Fairytale land, with Fairytale rules. Those rules seem to be repressive and random to the young knights and ladies in training, so they tend to disregard them. This produces as nasty a set of shallow-minded weasels and minks as you could wish for, which is particularly unfortunate, as non-fairytale consequences are beginning to bring the kingdom to it's knees.
In a well written farcical story, disaster is remedied by adding in ever more fantastic solutions, and we MUST rejoice at the appearance of the War Nuns, of the Sisterhood of the Broken Sword, under the able leadership of the Abbess Bahl-Bah-Rehka, a recent exile from the land of Mah Cho. Edith Friesner, your Chicks in Chain Mail are alive and well, and kicking butt as needed, but FORTUNATELY, they also hold the keys to....nope, not gonna go there. Read it for yourself!
A last note, which I should have addressed earlier: In the fairytale kingdom, prominent individuals take on the roles found in famous fairy tales. Therefore, a quite charming and gracious Francine, who actually is one of the most significant agents in the novella, aspires to take on the role of Evil Sorceress, and plans to marry Phillip, who will be designated the Black Knight. They won't EVER be nasty people, though, any more than the actress who plays Barbie at Disneyland is truly a heartless $$%^& who will cut you off at the knees and leave you bleeding in the dirt. (Umm... I KNOW the actress who played Barbie in 1992 was NOT heartless; she took extra time to talk with my daughter, who was three years old and was temporarily overcome with the heat. No reason to believe that has changed. So there.)

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