Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Battle of the 2012 Books, Bracket Eight, Second Round :: A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer vs. Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan

Our fourth and final match in the second round of Bracket Eight of the Battle of the 2012 Books has A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer doing battle with Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan. The winner will be the book I (Aaron) most want to continue reading after 50 pages.

A Pretty Mouth: Lazy Fascist Press, October 2012, 227 pages, cover art by Matthew Revert. A Pretty Mouth is a novella collected with four related stories, all of which place Lovecraftian creatures in a slightly odd context. A Pretty Mouth defeated Destiny's Flower by Linda Harley to advance to the second round, on the strength of its opening story "A Spotted Trouble at Dolor-on-the-Downs."

The second 25-page section of A Pretty Mouth contains the story "The Hour of the Tortoise," in which a 19th Century author of erotic fiction named Chelone returns to Calipash Manor, the estate where she lived as a child and home of the mysterious Calipash family, whose history A Pretty Mouth chronicles. When the elderly Lord Calipash sees Chelone, he screams at her and promptly drops dead. And then the really weird stuff starts to happen.

Blood and Feathers: Solaris, August 2012, 364 pages, cover art by Pye Parr. Blood and Feathers is British author Lou Morgan's first novel, followed by the sequel, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion. She has also written a YA novel, Sleepless. Blood and Feathers defeated Grim by Joseph Spencer to advance to the second round.

In the opening 25 pages of Blood and Feathers, our protagonist Alice saw her father murdered and met two old friends of her late mother, who revealed themselves to be angels. In the second 25 pages, she learns about the angels and their adversaries, the Fallen. She promptly meets one of the Fallen, who takes the form of a creepy statue (or maybe she stumbled onto the set of Doctor Who?). Soon after, Alice finds herself standing in a pool of fire, a newly discovered talent of hers that means she is very important to the conflict between angels and Fallen.

The Battle: This battle pits urban fantasy with religious imagery against tongue-in-cheek Lovecraftian fantasy. These are each the author's first book, yet both narratives are effective, with the authors carrying off their chosen styles with aplomb. To pick a winner, I'm going to have to get nit-picky . . .

Blood and Feathers strikes me as a solid example of urban fantasy, with some nice images such as Alice looking down to find herself standing in a pool of fire. If you're a regular reader of urban fantasy, I think you'll enjoy it. On the other hand, if you're not a fan of the subgenre, I'm not sure there's much here to interest you.

In contrast, to me "The Hour of the Tortoise" transcends the Lovecraftian style. To start with, the voice of Tanzer's saucy narrator Chelone is witty and distinctive. She offers some amusing commentary about repressed Victorian society. She encounters an intriguing, at times erotic, mystery that's spun out nicely in such a short piece. And when Chelone gets into trouble and tries to send her editor a plea for help, Tanzer trusts her readers to spot the message hidden within the story's narrative.

"The Hour of the Tortoise" is a cleverly written piece that does not require the reader to be a fan of Victorian-era Lovecraftian fiction to appreciate it. It leaves me wanting to read further into A Pretty Mouth.

THE WINNER: A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer

A Pretty Mouth advances to the semifinals to take on Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines.

To see the whole bracket, click here.

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