Lee Murray writes:
New Zealand fantasy writers Jan Goldie and JC Hart are enjoying worlds of success in Australia. Not that either writer is a stranger to success: Goldie was a finalist in the 2014 Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon best first book award, and Hart was shortlisted in the 2013 Australian Shadows Awards for her short fiction The Dead Way. Both have made the shortlists of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards more than once, with Hart picking up the coveted trophy in 2011. But lately, interest in Hart’s Shadows nomination together with a flurry of new releases, have created traction for her work across the ditch, while Goldie has come to the notice of Australia’s IFWG Publishing, a boutique small press specialising in quality science fiction and fantasy for soaring imaginations.
“As soon as we read Jan’s novel, we knew we were on to a winner,” says Gerry Huntman, Managing Director of IFWG Publishing. “It has believable, identifiable characters and vivid world building, and the storyline draws readers in from beginning to end.”
Indeed, their latest fantasy offerings ‒ Goldie’s Brave’s Journey, and Hart’s SunTouched ‒ are marvels of world building in which both writers address the universal themes of power, betrayal and family.
In Brave’s Journey, a richly-crafted fantasy adventure for upper middle grade readers, Goldie conjures up a world as fascinating as Narnia, populated with Changels and chatter monkeys, princes and pepper trees, and the ever-present Stinkbuggies. It’s the story of twelve year old Brave, whose Uncle Steadfast drops in to let him know he is heir-apparent to another world. Having enough trouble extricating himself from Riley and his band of school bullies, Brave doesn’t believe a word of it. Meanwhile, in Arvalonia, True Harboursfort is hoping to carve a better future than the one her royalist family plans for her. Thrown into a vortex of confusion, Brave and True have to grow up quickly to have any hope of saving Arvalonia from the false queen, Mallevia…
Goldie sets her characters on a journey through the searing inner heat of the desert, the sticky humidity of the rainforest, and the slow inexorable current of the Sugarcane River, as the pair seek the truth about their pasts.
“I’d always wanted to write a classic fantasy quest where the characters’ inner journeys echo their battles in the outside world,” says Goldie. “As the book progressed I discovered that the magical world I’d created became a character too; threatened by the bad guys, protected by the good guys and ever-changing. The setting plays a huge part in this story.”
Darker and grimmer than Goldie’s novel, Hart’s SunTouched is intended for older teens. A futuristic science fiction fantasy with romantic elements, it’s also populated with ethereal creatures, but in this case they are biophysical rather than magical, although they are equally well-crafted.
SunTouched is the tale of newly pregnant Madea, who’s afflicted by a strange madness caused by prolonged exposure to the planet’s atmosphere. Fearing the Dome authorities will have her Hollowed, reducing her to mindless drone and condemning her baby, she runs away from her life and her lover, becoming a pawn in the spiteful battle raging between the leaders of the Dome community and an underground group of rebels. Both groups have their own agenda, and both demand that Madea conform to their plans. But with the help of some new friends, who are both terrifying and wonderful, and the trust of a small boy, Madea sets out to harness her new skills and save the future of Diamara.
Perhaps the reason that these fantasy writers have burst onto the Australian publishing scene, is their ability to write female characters with uncanny realism. Hart’s, Madea, and Goldie’s True are strong, essential female roles, each loaded with insecurities, the result of the sort of parental baggage that affects teenagers whatever world they hail from. Is it because between them Hart and Goldie have five daughters to draw from, that they are able to depict their female characters so keenly? Or could it be that writing high fantasy provides a vehicle for developing characters they’d like their daughters to aspire to: resourceful, determined, and fiercely loyal. As Hart states: “It’s really important to me that women ‒ young and old ‒ understand that strength isn’t just about being active, about being physically strong, or pretending that everything is okay. True strength comes in many forms, and vulnerability, kindness, love, emotions, are all part of the package.”
Published by IFWG Publishing, Jan Goldie’s Brave’s Journey will be launched in Tauranga’s Incubator at the Historic Village in 17th Avenue on Thursday17 September, at 6pm.
Published by Etherhart, J.C. Hart’s new release, SunTouched, is available in ebook and print formats from Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Sun-Touched-Diamara-Book-1-ebook/dp/B013XT67YW.
LEE MURRAY is a five-time winner of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award. The holder of an Australian Shadows Award for Best Edited Work (with Dan Rabarts) for Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror (Paper Road Press), Lee lives in Wellington with her family.
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