So, last night, I steeled myself to rip through the balance of Dragons of the Valley and finish it in time to dash off a review for Day 3. It’s not that long, and it’s easy reading, but…
Ah, there’s the rub. I didn’t want to. Besides the fact that it would be a disservice to Ms. Paul to give her book a cursory review, I discovered that this is a book that demands to be read slowly, in front of a warm fireplace (or space heater), with a cup of cocoa, herb tea, or other soothing beverage. I don’t know if anybody’s identified “cozy fantasy” as a genre, but if not, then Donita K. Paul may well have invented it. At the very least, this is an exemplar. It’s simply a pleasant, comforting read.
There’s a refreshing guilelessness about the characters. Several of them are endearingly dotty, sort of like the Golden Age Narnians Shasta encounters in The Horse and His Boy, happy souls who seem carefree almost to the point of carelessness because it’s been so long since they’ve had a serious run-in with evil. They do know how to get down to business once they comprehend the situation.
The environs are beautiful and lovingly described. Our heroes and heroines encounter their fair share of peril, but there’s an pervading sense that, even when things seem hopeless, it’s all going to turn out right in the end. God, or “Wulder,” as he’s known in this world, is guiding what happens, even if everybody isn’t quite convinced of His reality. Ms. Paul does a great job of gently and respectfully depicting a variety of characters at different points along the journey of faith we all must travel.
Unlike many other fantasy stories, there’s not an overhanging sense of dread or doom, and no convoluted court intrigue or Machiavellian power politics manipulating events behind the scenes. There’s an enemy to thwart and obstacles to overcome, but it feels like going out on an adventure into the great unknown with old and dear friends–and when was the last time I did that in real life?
Sometimes, that cup of cocoa is exactly what you need.
Next month, we’ll be departing the warm and pleasant realm of fantasy for the decidedly less-cuddly domain of science fiction with Bill Myers’ The God Hater. See you then.
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul