Hilari Bell

I have just finished reading Hilari Bell’s Rogue’s Home, the second book in her Knight and Rogue series. I really, really enjoyed the book–as I have really, really enjoyed just about all of Hilari Bell’s books. (The Farsala Trilogy is probably my favorite, though Goblin Wood and the Knight and Rogue books are also way up there.) I love how Bell creates round, complex characters. There are great shades to them–not all heroic, not all evil. Moral complexity and muddy struggle, to me, are critical to creating a compelling plot-line/character. And she also does a great job of avoiding the easy ending. The characters don’t get what they want. Not that they’re tragic, but they are human–in the midst of great fantasy.

I also love the worlds she creates. For example, in the Knight and Rogue books, she leaves these tantalizing details about what forces govern the world without launching into lots of exposition. She refers to two moons, the Green moon and the Creature moon which seem to be related to some sort of spiritual force/God. The human characters talk about how there is no god watching out for them–that the gods are concerned with growing things and animals. I love the images of a non-human centered universe! But as I said, this isn’t the central idea of the book. It’s the backdrop, subtly appearing in places without being the focus.

The Farsala Trilogy has an equally suggestive setting. There is an invading army that feels Roman and an indigenous population that feels Persian. I’m no historian, though I know there was some military interaction between Persia and Rome. But these feelings really serve to deepen the sense that this story is taking places in a layered world with a history and a culture and a belief system. Again, this is not the central point, but it adds a richness that really enhances the story she tells. And, of course, it’s fantasy so it’s NOT Rome and Persia, but I love the somewhat historical feel of the work.

I tried to do this myself in Watersmeet. There is a whole history, mythology, and culture to Seldara that I hope I have infused into the novel without being heavy handed. It’s a struggle to keep from just nattering on and on about all this cool stuff I’ve invented for this country and it’s folk. Tolkien too was a master and creating worlds with depth, including references to stories that don’t appear in the Lord of the Rings but that give readers the sense that this is a full place. If I can get close to these writers in my own work, I will be thrilled.

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~ by ellenjensenabbott on February 6, 2009.

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