Solemn Chanting Press
Hearts entangling in the bedroom, egos clashing with shadows, magical clans feuding for honor–enter new worlds where the contemporary ideas of class, race, and sexuality are explored through romance, fantasy, and mystery. SOLEMN CHANTING PRESS is the literary fantasy imprint of Enchanted Cipher.
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Reading is supposed to be good for you.
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Smashwords book reviews by Solemn Chanting Press
- Jesika's Angel
on July 12, 2013
[Disclosure: This author asked me to provide a honest review his work. He was made aware that a negative review was possible, but I did enjoy the work.]
Jesika's Angel is more an exploration on themes than a blockbuster. The smaller moments like Jesika picking weeds and being bullied are ripe with subtext, the politics of being an individual in a collective, a society. The work subtly and with grace raises questions about identity, how individuals regard themselves as autonomous even though history plays an inescapable part in shaping who we are.
The book starts with Jacenia firmly declaring her role as a narrator. She affirms herself as author and hence authority. She clearly makes statements of cultural value as to who "storytellers" are and why stories are told. She may even perhaps be too earnest in repeatedly declaring her objectivity. For a close reader, how storytelling works and its nature becomes fundamental as a world of personal and larger political narratives, small every day people and larger forces, begin to weave together.
Jacenia encourages the reader to study her story, and it is up to a reader why she chose such a mode in the first place. She assumes its power. And by the end any doubt is laid to rest. Jacenia may be regarded as unlikeable for knowing the value of her chronicle, but it's important nevertheless. Her assumption that being forthright as opposed to likeable makes her a case study in her own way. She wants to impress the importance of her tale, but in turn makes herself open to study. Who is she? Can she back up her warnings? This breakthrough of voice and character sets the reader up for the kind of work they are going to read where small moments resonate with meaning.
In line with narrative, this work, even though sci-fi could make an interesting comparative studies to works like Huck Finn. Toby, the mentally slow laborer, is essential to a town's prosperity, much like a slave. Meanwhile, Jesika, a young soul, a member of the majority, is generally good natured even if in need of a lesson or two. However, the power of fiction and the aesthetic of sci-fi arise to make this world not just an obvious mirror of our own, but its own fully realized entity. In a reverse, Toby is light skinned with light features, while Jesika is described as having dark features and light brown skin.
Also, the town understands its dependence on Toby and appreciates what he has done. The town may be more utopian oriented, idyllic and good natured as embodied by Jesika and her family, but this does not simplify Toby's and the town's relationship. Instead of clear cut good and bad guys, there is complexity. The people who value him can't also help but question his existence. He has proven valuable; but he is still a mystery. He lives amongst them; yet he's different. Can a town depending on a stranger truly love him?
The novel goes further than most in dismantling the stereotype of the "dumb laborer." Toby's nature is not as two-dimensional as it appears. The nature of his nature is like ours, a bundling of layers that at times seems appropriately contradictory.
Ultimately though, Jesika's Angel is an exploration on the cyclic nature of peace and violence, where violence is also cyclic within itself, contrasting to the more stable nature of peace. But how stable can peace be when the seeds of violence are just waiting to sprout? How can peace reign when it's just a microcosm in a vacuum of chaotic politics? Can people find their own corner of the universe to just be?
In the end, the dynamics between laborer and town, "The Help" and his employer, give way to something new...those of savior and the wannabe saved. To some the end may be cliche, but I found it more poignant and classic. As happens throughout this work, very rich and detailed language conjures a web of symbols that weave a somber layering of themes. The writing is of a somber quality, fable-like. The ideas settle into the reader, they're not drilled into them like a lot of today's ham-fisted stories. I think there may be some risk in accessibility at times, especially for readers breezing through details or not willing to give the work a close reading.
Overall, Jesika's Angel is a great read for a quiet sunny morning with a cup of tea. If you appreciate fine detailing and can read the deeper meaning of small moments, then this book is a palette cleanser, a refreshing course after filling up on bombastic more hyped fare. However, I subtracted a star because at times the exploration of daily life and backstory exposition made things a bit too slow. Ultimately this work is enjoyable without pandering for attention. The writer has a vision and it is up to the reader to give themselves over to the experience.