CSFF Blog Tour Day 2: The Vanishing Sculptor, by Donita K. Paul

sculptorAt first glance, The Vanishing Sculptor is a straightforward adventure-quest story. with a lot of familiar elements. There’s a lost treasure to recover, a journey to undertake, villains to vanquish, and a world-shattering threat hanging over the whole enterprise that must be neutralized. The heroine, Tipper, is a winsome young lady with a lot to learn about the world and herself. She has an assortment of friends to help with her quest–a wizard, a warrior, an artist, a scholar, and a wise advisor. There are also dragons, which are much more than the sluggish housepets they initially appear to be.

That last point is one element of a major theme that characterized the story for me: Appearances Are Deceiving. Just about everybody and everything in this story has some hidden depths or talents that nobody suspects, and sometimes even the individual in question isn’t aware of the full extent of their abilities. Little sculptures hold the fabric of the world together. The absent-minded wizard isn’t quite as random as he appears. The young dragonkeeper is much more than the custodian of an isolated castle. Tipper’s seemingly senile mother has method to her madness, and even Tipper herself has a power she never imagined.

In the course of learning to not take anything at face value, Tipper and her friends, and, incidentally, the reader, begin to see that there are real, powerful, unseen forces that shape their world. Tipper’s people have a kind of agnostic acknowledgement of a supreme being, but it quickly becomes clear that this quest has been orchestrated by a very real Deity, Wulder, who wants to reveal a revolutionary, liberating truth to the entire world. It’s a huge paradigm shift for Tipper and her skeptical advisor, Beccaroon, and they don’t fully embrace it at the end of the book, but the path ahead is clear.

There were a couple of things about the story that didn’t quite connect with me. Ms. Paul has an affinity for long names, and I acknowledge that there’s a lot of preexisting worldbuilding for this universe, and things need to be consistent, but every time I confronted a tongue-twisting name, even one I’d seen before, it interrupted the flow of the story. I felt a bit like Charlie Brown, who, when asked how he handled the Russian names in The Brothers Karamazov, replied that he simply “beeped” over them.

The other thing that tripped me up a little was how characters began stressing how important honesty was to Wulder, even going out of their way to reveal information about their quest to potential enemies because it would be wrong to deceive them, yet when grilled by a town sheriff about a fight in an enemy’s house that resulted in the death of said enemy, they spun a story that sidestepped what actually happened, placing implied blame for the incident on the enemy’s thugs. This yielded a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” resolution in which the sheriff tacitly acknowledged they’d done him a favor by taking out the bad guy.

Ethically speaking, I’ve got a lot more difficulty with lying to an officer of the law than withholding information from someone who intends to do me harm and may pose a threat to the entire world. Not a huge point, perhaps, but I think it’s important to be consistent about these things.

The WaterBrook Press paperback I purchased has beautiful cover art and nice black and white sketches of the three pivotal sculptures inside. Ms. Paul includes a helpful glossary of important people, places, and things, as well as a map of the land of Chiril, where the story is set. A subtitle on the cover declares it “A Fantastic Journey of Discovery for All Ages,” and I think that’s truth in advertising. I enjoyed this story and expect it will appeal to just about anyone who likes fantasy.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at what my fellow-travelers on the Tour are saying about The Vanishing Sculptor. Until then, please pay them a visit on your own:

Donita Paul’s Web site – http://www.donitakpaul.com/
Donita Paul’s blog – http://dragonbloggin.blogspot.com/

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Rachel Briard
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Linda Gilmore
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
John W. Otte
Lyn Perry
Crista Richey
Cheryl Russell
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

12 thoughts on “CSFF Blog Tour Day 2: The Vanishing Sculptor, by Donita K. Paul

  1. I’m reading The Vanishing Sculptor to my daughter. We just finished reading the part with that odd conversation with the sheriff. There was a subtext there that Tipper didn’t get–and we struggled with, too.

    I’m not sure, for that matter, that you got it with the wink, wink, nudge, nudge business, though that’s one possibility.

    How I read it: Jayrus and the sheriff seemed to be having a conversation on two levels. One level was, how likely are these things to be true in your–the sheriff’s–experience (this was for the benefit of the slave-trader/minor crime boss); and on the other level, how are you, the sheriff, going to handle your local problem? We’ve dealt with the big kingpin, but the men he’s left behind are still powerful enough to cause you trouble. They want to force you to arrest and punish us because we hurt their slave-trading/criminal organization. You, as a good law officer are troubled by the role they’re forcing you to play, you’re happy to see them get what’s coming to them, and you want a way out. So here it is…

    It’s maybe a little too complex for this book, but…I thought it worked. I thought it was certainly keeping true to the character of Jayrus, who is clearly a deeper, more intelligent character, and keeping true to the struggles of an honest officer of the law caught in a complex, potentially disastrous situation of being required to enforce the law to punish those who’ve done him/his community a good service by the evildoers who hold power in that community.

    1. Krysti,

      Thanks for visiting! I agree that there was definitely unspoken subtext in the conversation with the sheriff, and I probably went too far calling it “wink, wink,” etc, as that doesn’t accurately reflect the serious nature of the communication happening there. It reminded me a little of the scene at the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, when the sheriff carefully laid out for Atticus Finch the “official” story of how a similarly evil man met his end, while they clearly both knew the truth about what must have happened.

      While Jayrus and company were certainly acting in self-defense and justified in their actions, it still seems odd to me that nobody said a word about fudging the truth in this situation, but took such great pains about being completely honest later. That’s what bugged me–not so much *what* they did in either situation, but that they were inconsistent in applying an ethical standard. Of course, human beings aren’t known for their consistency, even when they’re trying to do the right thing.

  2. Excellent review, Fred. Lots of us have commented about the light tone and the more for kids characters, but you’ve featured the all important theme, which is, of course, ageless and of ultimate importance. How deceptive even a little book can look! 😀


    1. Thanks, Becky. This really felt like the sort of story you could share with the whole family in front of the fireplace on a winter evening, with cocoa and cookies. Nice.

  3. I loved your review, Fred. I honestly scratched my head over the lying thing. Your point is well-taken, but for some reason I didn’t feel guilty. I was about to go back and reread that section to see if I could clarify in my own mind what I was doing on that page. Then I read Krysti’s comment, and there it is.
    Ah well, I missed making it clear to you, and I apologize. I guess that is why writing is really work. We have to labor to deliver the baby so everyone recognizes it is a baby. Now THAT is a weird metaphor.

    1. Oh, no apologies necessary–as the reader, I have to take at least half the responsibility for anything I misunderstand. 🙂

      Sometimes, though, it’s the gray areas that make for the most interesting conversations. In a family setting, those two incidents provide a wonderful opportunity for talking about the importance of truth, and how there might have been aspects of the situation or the characters’ development and growth along the way that changed how they chose to respond. I liked the way we could see an ongoing transformation in Jayrus as he began to assume his role as Paladin.

      Thanks for entering into the discussion, Donita…these tours are so much more fun and illuminating when the authors take an active part.

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