Lucy Sussex has written a very short review of Heart of the Mirage for The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, appearing yesterday (Sunday). I am tickled pink to be in The Age and to have a writer as talented as Lucy say nice things! The review ended with: For those jaded with genre fantasy, Larke provides fare that is fresh, strange and intriguing.
There have been some interesting comments added to my last blog entry on the difficulties of language of a period, and Gillian had some words of wisdom over on her blog. I liked the comment Karen (author of Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology) made about some things being invisible, no matter what world you are writing about - cows and horses are fine, but the moment you mention something like kangaroos, you're doomed. You've made the place Australia, and nothing is going budge the reader out of that slot.
I think this is one reason why fantasy seems sometimes to be so much the same in setting: oak trees are fine ("invisible") and so are wolves and generic bears and wild boars and the north being colder than the south. None of those things grates on the reader. Include kangaroos or armadilloes or giraffes and all of a sudden you are no longer in a land called "Cavalaria" or "M'grith". Have your hero fight a battle with a savage tiger during a hunt, and you've got to be in India. Have your heroine watch the toucans in the tree outside her castle and you'll have your reader shaking their heads in despair. You have placed them somewhere real and not at all fantastical in the way they expected.
The challenge is to provide a setting that is different, yet doesn't carry a load of baggage with it. The aim must always be not to jerk the reader out of your world and into his/her own.