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Sunday, September 18, 2011

REVIEW AND AUTHOR INTERVIEW: THE WAKING GROVE BY E.S. LARK


Title: The Waking Grove                    Author: E.S. Lark
Pub. Date: Sept. 2011                          Format: Ebook
Source: from author for review
The Waking Grove
As a dryad and the last of her kind, Melina’s desire to protect the Waking Grove overpowers her dreams of ever falling in love or raising a family. But when a mysterious blossom—an unborn dryad—appears at the base of her tree, the dedication Melina feels toward her people shifts.
The druids who raised Melina warn that the blossom growing under the Great Tree is her replacement. Being the closest thing to family she’s ever had, Melina struggles to protect her daughter and those taking refuge within her Grove. But as the blossom grows, her lifeforce and ability to keep the Waking Grove hidden from outsiders wanes. Threatened by humans moving in from the south, the timing couldn’t be any worse. Melina can regain her strength and bring peace back to the Waking Grove by destroying the blossom, but doing so may mean extinguishing her race and taking the life of something she values more than life itself—the family she’s never had.
 When I first read the synopsis for The Waking Grove I just knew that I had to read it.  And I’m so glad that I did because I found a truly enchanting and beautiful fantasy story.

The novel takes place in the Waking Grove, a lush, lovely forest protected by the dryad Melina. The Waking Grove is also home to druids and elves. This protected and thriving forest is being encroached upon by its most dangerous threat-humans. Melina’s desire to protect her Grove and the people in it has always been her driving force, until the day the blossom appears and she is told that it is her unborn child. Melina struggles with her dedication and duty to her Grove and people and the growing and overwhelming desire to protect her child at all costs. And as the humans move closer to the Grove, Melina, and her friends-elves Maro and Azriel, the druids Talakar and Danae, and the mysterious Kithric, are forced to make hard choices and uncover buried truths as well.

The world that Lark has created in this book is absolutely spellbinding. Once I began reading, I couldn’t stop and the ending was bittersweet, simply because I wasn’t ready to step out of the magical Grove and back into our world. With The Waking Grove, Lark has accomplished something that I have always believed determined the difference between a good fantasy and a great fantasy- she’s created a fantasy world that feels incredibly real. Although her world is filled with dryads, druids, elves, talking animals, conscious trees, and magic, it’s easy to believe and imagine oneself simply stumbling upon the Waking Grove and being welcomed and embraced by its inhabitants. Furthermore, Lark has created a world that readers will wish they could happen upon and be swept away into.

The characters in this novel are also wonderful, and for reasons beyond their fantasy aspects.  The elf siblings Maro and Azriel have a very loving, deep relationship that really gives the book heart. Maro is a strong, fierce, feisty and independent female character who is easy to root for and connect with, while Azriel adds a very funny, lightheartedness to the story. Kithric is the mysterious, yet brave and caring male character that adds a bit of swoon worthiness to the mix. I found myself as intrigued by him as Maro is, and he is both enrapturing and frustrating in the most delicious way.

Then there’s Melina, who is such a beautifully crafted character. The fantasy aspects of her character- her magic, her appearance, her connection with her Grove- are captivating by themselves, but it’s really her emotional journey and struggles throughout the book that kept me enthralled. As a dryad, Melina is bound to one tree for life and it is her duty to protect her Grove and those who reside there. She is not allowed to fall in love nor have children of her own. Melina’s dedication to her Grove and her people, her love for Talakar, her love for and deep desire to keep her child, and the truths she discovers about herself make for a very emotionally charged story. There are moments of such heartache and sadness in this book that I had me in tears, but there’s such an honest beauty to these moments too that is so powerful and moving.

Although this is a fantasy book, at its core, it’s about love; family; friendship; and sacrifice.  But the fantasy elements are stunning and grand as well. In The Waking Grove, Lark has created a lovely and layered story that is entertaining, captivating, and touching. I loved this book and I think you will too.

 My Rating
5 out of 5 Cupcakes
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Interview With Author E.S. Lark

If you were to describe The Waking Grove in a tweet, using only 140 characters, how would you describe it?

Melina, dryad of the grove, finds herself conflicted when a mysterious blossom, her child, appears at the base of her tree.

 Where did the inspiration or idea for The Waking Grove come from?

This question’s a little hard to answer. I wrote the very first version of The Waking Grove back in 2001/2002. I was commuting to my college classes and spent 45 minutes in the car each morning as well as in the afternoon. Back then, this is where all of my ideas came from. If I was stuck on a plot point, I usually worked it out on the way to school.

The original’s very different from what you got to read and didn’t have nearly as many characters in it. I actually had Melina pipe songs on a reed to her trees to make them grown, to sing to the wind and heal her friends. Melina also had her own language.

I decided to rewrite it last year as I always loved Melina, but felt I never gave her enough room to grow as a character. 

Although The Waking Grove is a fantasy novel, are there elements in it that come directly from your real life? Are any characters based on real people? Did you put a little bit of yourself into any of your characters?

In the newer version of The Waking Grove, Kithric’s loosely based on my husband for his compassion and mystery.

Can you tell us a bit about the different fantasy beings in The Waking Grove- dryads, elves, druids, familiars?

I’ve always loved the idea of dryads and I think it’s because of how much I enjoy the outdoors. There have always been books about faeries, but I can’t say I’ve ever read a story about a dryad. I’ve read stories with dryads in them, but they were never the main character.

Druids, or shape shifters, have always fascinated me. Not in a werewolf kind of way, but just the idea of having two different lives. My druids have always been of the claw and of the talon, which is kind of funny. I started playing World of Warcraft well after writing my first draft of The Waking Grove. So of course I had to play a druid. Favorite class of all time.

Elves have always been in works of fiction. I admire Maro and her friends not for their long life, but the wisdom they always seem to carry with them. In The Waking Grove, I wanted my elves to have flaws, to mourn and feel hatred. I think in the end, those emotions came through.

Familiars are something I always wanted as a child. I had no brothers or sisters, so I spent most of my time talking to stuffed animals and writing stories about them. Many nights I’d lie awake, wondering what life would be like if my stuffed animals or our dog could talk to me. What would they say?

Was there a particular scene or event in The Waking Grove that you found difficult to write? That you enjoyed writing?

The hardest scene to write was the ending because of how much was going on. There are two scenes I really enjoyed, but one’s a major spoiler, so I won’t share that here. The other favorite scene was when Talakar was in Melina’s tree and they were talking about when she was a child.

You’ve written several books and many more stories I’m sure, and out of all of them is there one that you are most proud of? Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created?

Even though I absolutely love Ava in Trueblood’s Plight, Melina will always have a special place in my heart. She was the first character I wrote about and got it right. She’s been in my head since 2001 and I think of her often. A character I’m most proud of? I still think it’d have to be Melina or Maro.

One of things I love best about books is all the different worlds found within them. I will always hope that every owl I see is carrying my Hogwarts letter and I will knock on the back of every wardrobe looking for Narnia. What fantasy or made up world would you love to be real?

Narnia has always been my dream world. There were times as a child when I envisioned Aslan coming to me. Narnia was also the first book that introduced me to portals. It inspired me to write my first book back in 7th grade.

Flipping through the books that I own, I often find notes or thoughts that I’ve written in the margins while reading. Are you a margin writer/note taker/thought put-er downer when you read?

I went through a phase where I’d read romance novels. I’d read through without marking up the book first, and then I’d go back to highlight and underline the steamy scenes. I did this as a way to help my own writing. Any scene that involves touching or a gentle kiss is inspired by those books and how I remember feeling when reading them.

I have a fascination with villains…blame it on ol’ Willy Shakespeare. Who is your favorite literary villain? Who do you just love to hate?

I know in the end he wasn’t a villain, but I’ve never been happy with Ed from Narnia. Sure, the ice queen’s pretty bad, but for Ed to betray his family, it makes him feel like a darker character to me. Most villains don’t bother me because I know good will overcome evil or just because you don’t learn enough about them.

I’m a self-proclaimed TV and movie junkie, and nothing elicits more excitement and anxiety than learning that a beloved book is going to be adapted to the screen. What is your favorite TV show or movie based on a book? What book would you love to see be turned into a show or movie?

Even though there are plot points they missed, Narnia was very well done. I would say Lord of the Rings, but I saw the movies before I read the books (so that doesn’t really count). As for what I’d love to see on the screen? Either The Black Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey (won’t ever happen, just because of the budget it would require) or Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I know they made Speak into a movie, but I haven’t heard anything about Wintergirls.

If you could sit down with one author (living or dead) who would it be and what would you ask them?

While I’d love to sit with Mercedes Lackey, I’m extremely shy and I bet I’d go all fan girl on her. So I think I’d have to say Piers Anthony. I actually contacted him a few years ago about a book my husband had written and he was kind enough to read it for us. He was encouraging while also telling us it needed work. He’s a wonderful author and very down-to-earth if you ever get to talk with him.

Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and giving us the opportunity to get to know you and your work a little better.

Now for a fun announcement. I'm going to be sitting down with Melina the dryad from The Waking Grove for an exclusive interview and I want YOUR questions for her! For those who get a chance to read the book- and remember it's FREE and awesome- you have the opportunity to ask Melina anything. And for those who haven't read the book, you can still submit a question- perhaps you want to know about the life of a dryad, about life in the Waking Grove, Melina's interests, hopes, dreams, anything at all! 

I'll be accepting questions until Wed. Sept 28, so just leave them in the comments below or email them to me at wordspelunker@gmail.com

And be sure to come back to read what Melina has to say!




1 comment:

Amy said...

Thanks for the great review and interview. I purchased this book a few months ago and I have been meaning to get to it. I really look forward to reading it now.