The Hidden Face by S. C. Flynn

The Hidden FaceThe Hidden Face

by S.C. Flynn
Series: Fifth Unmasking, #1

Kindle Edition, 350 pg.
The Hive, 2017

Read: November 14 – 15, 2017


There’s so much of the world-building, the overall mythology and political structure of this book that drives the plot and is given in bits and pieces to the reader, that I’m having a hard time knowing how talk about it without taking away anything from your experience in reading the book.

Essentially, you’ve got Dayraven, returning to the Emperor’s court from being a political hostage for 15 years — he’s pretty smart, a better than average fighter, and the son of a legendarily great warrior. He’s been returned to the court at a pivotal time, and he’s also supposed to be meeting his former teacher for reasons he doesn’t understand, but seem possibly more important.

One of those reasons is to be teamed up with Sunniva, a woman making her way through the world disguised as a man to make it easier for her to move freely as she searches for her missing father. I really liked her — from her memories of a childhood where she’d get bored playing the way the other kids wanted to, so she’d make up her own stories of battle and gallantry, to her dealing with her phobias, to her grit, determination, and compassion. She’s not much clearer on why she’s been teamed up with Dayraven, but jumps in with both feet, certain that it’s the right thing to do.

They have puzzles to solve, clues to piece together — which lead to fights with mercenaries, legendary criminals, a conspiracy or two, and others, while they’re trying to piece together more of the clues which should point the way to the Fifth Unmasking. Don’t worry, you’ll find out what that means as you read the book. On the one hand, none of this story is new to you — you’ve read all these elements before. But the way that Flynn has assembled them, and the way he executes them are pretty novel and are interestingly entertaining.

When we first meet the Emperor, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel about him — whether he was supposed to be funny, if I was supposed to pity him, or something else entirely. If you react similarly, hang in there, and you’ll learn that both reactions are wrong — and you’ll likely end up really liking the Emperor.
There’s a very Sméagol-y character, a few clearly villain-ish characters, and a pretty cool mercenary to round out the cast. All in all, especially by the time we get to the end of the novel and we understand them all pretty clearly, are as strong a collection that you can ask for.

Flynn does do something that it bugs me so much when Fantasy authors do — he uses words/names/ from English/our world to mean something alien in their world. FOr example, the kingdom of Faustia results in the adjective “Faustian.” Which is used a lot, and each time I had to remind myself that he didn’t mean anything like what is usually meant. It’s pretty distracting. Particularly in the opening chapters there’s a sentence or two of dialogue that made me roll my eyes. But it’s not something that detracts too much from the story or, really, makes up that much of the dialogue. My most significant area of criticism is the way that Flynn unspools the mythology for the reader — I think he could have done it a little faster and clearer to get the reader on board with the theology/government of this world. Is it possible that I was being particularly dense this day? Yes. Is it possible that other readers will pick up on things a lot better than I did? Yes. But I don’t think so — I think it was Flynn trying to avoid an info-dump and to dole out the information to the reader at his pace. Which I absolutely endorse, I just think he could have done it a smidge faster.

I’m not sure, but I can’t think of many fantasy novels that I’ve read lately that are as short as The Hidden Face. This isn’t a selling point or a word of warning, I’m just saying this is short, and fast paced. Flynn crams a lot of story into this book and does it well. You don’t feel rushed, or that he’s cutting corners — you don’t get the impression he’s doing anything other than telling his story until you stop and think of everything that happens in 350 pages, a good deal of it is what I expected in book 3. I’m not sure how he pulls that off, honestly.

This is a strong, fast and gripping fantasy novel. I cannot wait for the sequel — it’s pretty clear where it’ll start, but I’m not really sure what to expect the story to do after that, and that really appeals to me. The Hidden Face, isn’t perfect, but it’s good — you should give it a try.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion, for which I’m grateful, but not so grateful that it colored my thinking.

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4 Stars

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Children of the Different by S.C. Flynn

I wanted to nail this one, and I don’t think I did — just so I’m clear — you want to read this. Any of your kids over 13 (and maybe some under) will likely enjoy this. Don’t be put off by the labels attached: “Post-apocalyptic,” “YA,” or whatever — this is a good story about kids in the nearish future.

Children of the Different Children of the Different

by S.C. Flynn
Kindle Edition, 316 pg.
The Hive, 2016

Read: September 12 – 13, 2016

I’m going to get this quotation wrong, so remember it’s just a paraphrase: William Gibson’s early works were said to be set “Fifteen minutes into our future” — they’re futuristic SF, but only barely. Using that as a basis, I think you’d be safe saying that this book is set 20 minutes into our future — when Gibson’s cyberpunk present falls apart. Yes, it’s technically post-apocalyptic, but so is The Sword of Shannara, but that doesn’t mean you can walk in with any idea of what its’ going to be like. Think of this as a fantasy world very much like our own (but with cooler accents) — but where almost nothing works and teenagers are threats to their own health and safety, but also to pretty much the entire world’s health and safety.

We meet the twins Arika and Narrah just as Arika is beginning her time in the Changeland. Which is a stressful time for everyone in her life — but her brother Narrah does something quite out of the ordinary, he takes advantage of their inherent psychic link and enters the Changeland with her. By doing so, they set down on a path that could change the world forever. Not that they knew this. These aren’t a couple of Promised Children, Children of Destiny or whatever — they’re just a couple of kids in the right place and the right time to become the Children of Destiny. Arika’s the strongest character, the best fleshed out and it’s her reactions to everything that inform the readers’. Not to discount anyone else, but it’s her fears, her hopes, her determination that set things in motion (even Narrah will defer to her). Before I leave Arika — her friend, who I see as a combination of Luna Lovegood and Sybill Trelawney, but far less chatty — is such a great character. She’d have been easy to use wrongly, but Flynn gets is just right. She’s very likely my favorite part of the whole book.

While in her Changeland, Arika finds an enemy and Narrah finds a potential ally. Both show up later when Arika returns the favor and comes to Narrah’s rescue in his Changeland. It’s really kind of hard to describe, read it yourself. His is radically different and more hazardous — as are the conditions he finds himself in. I don’t want to get into the story beyond that, but let me just say that nothing in the story worked out the way I expected, and I’m so glad for it. The novel ended in such a way as to be initially dissatisfying, but with just a little thought, it was perfect — you don’t want more than you’re given, really — it seems like you do, but after a little time and thought, you get why he doesn’t the way he ended it the way he does, and actually end up pretty satisfied with the whole novel.

Oh yeah, there’s this great part that turns out to be a description of Echolocation. That was cool — I know I was wearing a big grin for a few paragraphs once I figured out that’s what was going on. That’s just an aside and your results my vary, but I really dug that scene. Almost as nifty are Narrah’s new abilities, and I’ll just leave it at that.

Flynn gives us clear, well-defined, and distinct characters here. I can’t say that I got too emotionally attached to any of them — but I was very curious about all of them. I imagined more of what life was like for the twins and their friends growing up in their circumstances, what made the various people who left their settlement do so, and just what might happen after the book ends. At the end of the day, these are people you want to see succeed, even if you don’t have that big emotional bond with them.

Once you get your bearings (which took a little longer for me than it should’ve, I think I had an off day), you can really get into this world and get an idea how things function (or don’t) on the Australian continent — and you can guess what’s going on in the rest of the world, too. Between the powers, the hard life and the machinations of the leaders — there’s plenty going on to keep you turning the pages — some is exciting, some is rich in imagery, some is tense and all is entertaining.

A heckuva debut novel — I can’t look forward to more enough.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my participation in the Book Tour and my honest post.

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4 Stars

A Few Quick Questions With…S. C. Flynn

You’ve maybe seen him here and there in the feedback for various and sundry posts, I know I have. S. C. Flynn’s been all over this blog — and I appreciate it. Thankfully, his book was good enough that I didn’t have to feel awkward (because it’s all about me, right?) Here’s a lil’ Q&A that S.C. and I did this week. I didn’t actually ask him more questions than usual — he edited my questions to make the answers better.

1. Why Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy (I didn’t even know that was a thing)?.
It is rare; I can hardly think of any examples of this sub-genre, and those are a long way from CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT. I suppose post-apocalyptic fantasy is rare because, as I see it, it is a mix of science fiction and fantasy. SF provides the background – in my case, an epidemic that affects the human brain such that by adolescence the second generation of survivors are already in part a new human species with enhanced abilities. Then the fantasy comes in, based on science and a little bit of magic!
I found this a neat way to let my imagination go where it wanted, while still having a plausible basis in our world.
2. Why YA?
I have written various other novels – all fantasy, but very different from this one – and been close to breaking into conventional publishing via professional literary agents over a period of many years. I had never written Young Adult before, though, so it was something new to try, together with the new strategy of quality self-publishing that I am carrying out, with an all-pro support team.
Writing YA has been a really enjoyable challenge. A Young Adult novel must have all the things that any good novel must have: strong plot, well-developed characters and convincing setting. By definition, the writer is limited in how much sex, coarse language and graphic violence can be included in a YA novel. That means that you have to work harder with those basic components I mentioned – plot, characters and setting, in order to achieve your effects you need.
Once I had the basic idea – namely, following the brain disease epidemic that destroyed civilisation, adolescents go into a coma and emerge either with special powers or as dangerous Ferals – the choice of YA was made for me. The logical time for this Changing to occur was at the onset of puberty, so the main characters (twins Arika and Narrah – a girl and a boy) are 13 years old. Arika and Narrah can read and write, but they have always lived in a small, isolated non-industrial settlement, and their language and thoughts are conditioned by their limited knowledge of the world. In CHILDREN, we see everything from the twins’ viewpoint, so the style in which their story is told necessarily had to be simple and clear. That fits perfectly with the Young Adult audience.
3. What was it about this story that made you say — yup, this is the one?
CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT leaped into my mind almost fully formed once I had the basic idea. Of all my novels, CHILDREN was by far the easiest and quickest to write, at least as far as the first draft was concerned.

I am an obsessive reviser, so that was four years ago, during which time there have been long pauses while I was revising other novels, or even – surprisingly enough – taking some time off from revision. Still, the first draft of CHILDREN virtually wrote itself – every day when I needed a scene, it was there ready-made.
I had never written about Australia before, so probably, without realising it, I had a great amount of background knowledge ready to use. My other novels are quasi-historical fantasy and required a lot of research.

I think the main characters really wanted to tell their story, as well.

4. You’ve been doing the SF/F blog thing for a while now — how has that helped you as a novelist??
The style of writing that works on a blog is completely different from what fiction requires, so I see them as two separate skills. As I said before, I have written novels for many years, so my fiction style was probably formed in large part before I started blogging.

Blogging certainly keeps you up with the latest books and what people are saying about them, and the skills of writing blog posts is essential for trying to publicise your fiction. Setting up a blog also brought me out of my corner, where I had been writing for years, and got me into contact with lots of cool people who have helped and encouraged me.

5. What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that?”
Wool by Hugh Howey. A very clever dystopian idea, and also a book that helped to revolutionise the self-publishing industry.
6. Aside from a burning desire to buy copies to give away as gifts, what are you hoping your readers take away from this book?
An optimistic post-apocalyptic story like CHILDREN is an important one to tell, for me. It contains a warning about the dangers of technology, together with hope for what our society could achieve if technology were used for good purposes.

CHILDREN also contains a hopeful message that our very young people can achieve great things. Like the twins, adolescents are not stupid, but just lacking in experience, exposed to dangerous influences and struggling to work out who or what they are turning into. It is up to us to give them the best chance we can and leave them the best world we possibly can./td>

7. What’s next for S. C. Flynn?
There has so far been a fair bit of interest from reviewers in seeing more of the world of CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT. So, one possibility would be to write a sequel.
The alternative would be to publish one of the completed novels I referred to before. Three of those are of publishable quality, in my opinion, having been through years of editing by professional literary agents, as well as my own fanatical revision.For now, I will wait and see what happens with CHILDREN.
Thanks so much for your time, and I hope your launch week meets with a lot of success.

Children of the Different by S. C. Flynn Book Tour

Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Children of the Different. Along with this blurb about the book I’ve got a Q & A with the author, S. C. Flynn and my 2¢ about the book.

Book Details:

Book Title:  Children of the Different by S. C. Flynn
Release date:  September 10, 2016
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
Extract: THE ANTEATER

Book Description:

Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and either emerge with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.

In the great forest of south-western Australia, thirteen year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.

After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia. If they can reach it before time runs out.

Author Info:

SCy-Fy: the blog of S. C. Flynn

https://twitter.com/LaughRiotPress

https://twitter.com/SCyFlynn

S. C. Flynn’s Amazon Page