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It would not be fully truthful to say that the author was challenged to write a genre-bending mystery after losing an argument with ducks about the inevitability of violence. But it wouldn’t be fully false either.
O'Brien, a somewhat optimistic rurally-raised resident of a US city infamous for its violence and hopelessness, decided to test a theory. After inventing a country devoted entirely to fairness and peace, she added characters that had to abide by the framework of their culture. They were given horrors that plague real people and were allowed to respond as they saw fit. They had only to be true to their culture, retain essential elements of modern humanity, and be charming when not dealing with threats that could potentially end the world as they knew it.
After four books, they felt they had fully addressed the most essential questions of suffering, violence, love, and happiness, and still retain their sense of humor. And did they? That’s for you and the ducks to decide. The books have earned a Rat of Approval I'm Okay award, of which the author is prodigiously proud.
And why aren't there four books listed here on Smashwords? There will be soon. They're undergoing formatting and revision tweaks and will be released in the coming months, along with a free guide to the Sanctuary world and its cast of characters. In fact, those who list any of their books in their Smashwords library can get a coupon for another in the series simply by contacting the author and asking for one.
on March 15, 2014 :
Surviving Sanctuary, which begins a series of four books, is at heart an exploration of what propels us to love, to hate, to forgive, and to murder. At turns a mystery, a fantasy, a story of friendship, and a very offbeat rom-com (a love quadrangle, anyone?), it hits upon almost everything that could cause controversy. Fortunately, it’s done in a way that’s balanced, reasonably fair, unpartisan, and even humorous.
Set in a fictional country, but otherwise in the here and now, issues that generally lead to arguments everywhere else make an appearance along the way in the narrative, from gender identity and equality, faith and reason, the rights of the individual vs the group, the extent of ownership, capital punishment and self-defense. The author doesn’t try to convince us to accept a particular point of view, however. In fact it’s just the opposite. The issues are seen from the perspective of several different, but likeable characters in circumstances that are so removed from our own that we can’t take the stands we normally would on them. Then the story goes on and we set it all aside to pull out enough clues from a past tragedy to prevent an even bigger one that sadly seems to be inevitable. It still manages to end on a very hopeful and satisfying note.
This is highly recommended for those who like a book that takes time to develop characters and their motivations, particularly in life or death situations. There is much dialog so it often reads fast despite the length, though readers who aren’t as concerned with a character’s inner conflict or setting description might want to skip ahead on the parts that don’t interest them as much. The book actually comprises two narratives decades apart that alternate by chapters until they merge halfway through. It’s probably not the best choice for those who’d find it difficult to hold onto foreshadowing and clues from one plot line while those of another are being described. Otherwise, a very good and unique read.
(This is the review I did on Goodreads for the edition prior to this one. I bought this edition because I liked the new cover design by Kat of Aeternum Designs, and to see if anything much had changed from the version I read. The answer to that is no, according to the author. She said she corrected a few typos that other readers had noticed, and simply wanted a Kindle version available, so republished it here. She's very approachable, by the way, especially on her goodreads page.)
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)