Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement, and one that I have yet to make. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Noah Murphy’s “A Clear and Feathered Danger,” a fantasy-adventure which I finished reading last night.
Characters: The story features a splendid array of characters familiar to fantasy fans. Noah’s cast includes elves, trolls, goblins, orcs, shape-shifting dragons, and a film-noir detective. These characters frame the novel’s unique centerpiece – a criminal mob of 5-foot-tall talking purple birds that lead their downtrodden population of millions in a deadly rebellion against the status quo.
Plot: The birds are provoking the authorities of New Delta into a brutal crackdown, but with all their impressive armed might, there’s something the authorities don’t know… and it CAN hurt them.
Settings: As exotic as the urban fantasyscape is, Noah keeps it real and internally consistent by supplying gritty details that anchor his flights of imagination into (a) reality.
What I thought could’ve been done better: Noah neglects to give much personal description to some of his more important characters. His main character, Quintanella, a beautiful elven woman gets a little description – green eyes, silver hair, but we’re pretty much left to imagine the rest. Her boss, the detective Alfonso Deegan gets no description except for “small, scruffy human,” a few times in the first chapters. Noah does a good job of defining his characters through their actions and through snappy dialogue. But those are just two legs of a stool that needs three.
Some of his characters get a bit of description. Trogg, the ogre, is 8 feet tall. A female troll named Borga is “a typical female troll, tall, thin, toned and green.” That helps, but with characters who have well-crafted personalities as interesting as Noah has created, I really want a better picture. Many of his characters don’t even get that little bit.
Where he does describe, it works, and makes the characters more three-dimensional.
Noah sometimes has unattributed dialogue in scenes with more than two characters. That can make it difficult to know who said what.
What I thought was good: As I mentioned, Noah presents his audience with an interesting, well-motivated colorful cast of characters (even if some of that color is left up to his readers’ imaginations). He lets them loose in a fantastical, though well-defined fantasy dystopia.
Lack of description is NOT a problem for his setting of New Delta, a city of 1,600 towers each a mile high, ruled by a clique of mega-corporations. Noah describes it vividly, with its power-struggles, politics, corruption and excesses.
He writes well in active voice, and uses plenty of strong, though not inappropriate verbs – the muscles of language.
I mentioned in the previous review that it’s a writer’s job to create trouble for his characters. Noah does that, almost from the first sentence of the book. The book is crammed with action, though it’s action that makes sense, and springs from the foundations of the plot.
The story carries a nice sub-theme about tolerance and the price cultures pay for tolerating inequality. In this case, it’s severe.
His avians, though, are close to a masterstroke; a piece of originality that lifts the novel above other descendants of “Lord of the Rings,” and their dragons, trolls and orcs. Criminals though these birds are, and as inhuman as most of the book’s characters are, Noah still brings a certain sympathy to them. Compassion is one mark of a great writer, imho.
Overall: So who writes a perfect book? I can recommend “A Clear and Feathered Danger” as an action-packed visit to a phantasmagorical urban otherworld that I think actually approaches the strangeness of our own.
Good job, Noah!
Nephilim Genesis of Evil by Renee Pawlish
The Black Witch by Michael Rivers
Happy literary trails!