In Conversation: Stone Table Books

Stone Table Books is an imprint of the independent Morningstar Publications. Based in Melbourne with contacts in Adelaide, it is primarily a speculative fiction imprint with a focus on fantasy for all ages. This focus on fantasy goes right to their name, which was inspired by C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The WardrobeTulpa Magazine’s Cameron Lowe spoke with Mark Worthing, one of the founders of Stone Table Books, to find out what it’s like being a small-time publisher in Australia.

Stone Table Books began in 2016, after Mark Worthing was contacted by Morningstar Publications.

“Ben Morton (fellow co-founder) and myself are long-time fantasy and sci-fans,” says Worthing. “We co-taught a course on fantasy and science-fiction literature some years back and also have both published fiction pieces in these genres.”

Right from its inception, Stone Table Books has had an Australian focus. They have primarily remained Australian-focused, to give voice to local indie authors. Beginning from next year, they will begin publishing international authors, particularly from the United States. This is now possible after they recently entered a partnership with an American-based publisher. Despite this overseas expansion, Worthing said, “We will continue to be an Australian-based imprint, seek out Australian talent, and publish our Australian authors using Australian standard spelling and grammar.”

 

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Mark Worthing (left) and Ben Morton (right) at Adelaide Supanova, 2018

 

Beginning a small press in Australia is not easy. Finding and maintaining high-quality authors and cover artists on a tight budget is challenging to say the least. Worthing call their survival in this industry one of their greatest achievements. There are a lot of challenges in this industry, one being that there is little room for error. Cover art, for example, must not contain any errors as it can increase expenses. Another challenge they have faced is being able to get their books stocked in major book stores. This is due to them having to compete with larger publishers, who can print more books and offer lower Recommended Retail Price (RRP).

Even with their challenges, Stone Table Books has continued to attract new readers and authors since its launch. Their position as a small press has allowed them to take risks on many exciting, quirky and risky projects. One of these is Wendy Noble’s Young Adult Beast-Speaker trilogy, which deals with children becoming soldiers. Worthing said that this is a theme some large publishers did not want to touch, but Stone Table Books was eager to take on. He said it was a risky theme, one which is what he looks for in stories.

When asked for advice to give to potential writers to submit their work, Worthing said, “Writers should make sure that what they submit is well-written and well-edited before they send it in, and they should make sure that the story engages the reader from the start.” He says a writer only gets one chance with each publisher and they must do what they can to catch the editor’s attention early on. Not following this or the guidelines, he says, “equates to a missed opportunity.”


For those interested in Stone Table Books, check out the link to their website here. Follow them on Facebook for updates and their latest releases. You can also check out a review of Playing God by Morton Benning here.

Words by Cameron Lowe

Header image: Steampunk Festival 2017

A Novel Idea

A Novel Idea
Fiona McGregor

Giramondo Publishing 2019


Fiona McGregor’s photo-essay ‘A Novel Idea’ is a witty and honest examination of the often thankless and tedious work of writing a novel. From 2007 to 2010, McGregor documented herself and her workspace through photographs.

The reader follows her from her small home office to Estonia and Germany, from a desk in a secluded hut in the wilderness to sneaky photos taken in a library in Berlin. Alongside images of her workspace, and her old hand-me-down computer, McGregor ruminates on her life. Her relationship with her girlfriend, its breakdown, and her struggle to write when builders are working outside her apartment – made all the worse when they accidentally smash a hole through her wall.

She writes about the ways that her novel and life begin to intertwine, through violent dreams and the grief of loss in her life that mirrors a slow and painful death in her novel.

At times the text is raw, exposing the reader to the intimate details of McGregor’s mind and personal life. Other times her reflections are witty, tongue-in-cheek and relatable to anyone who has ever wrestled with a creative project. We see her seek out new places to work, and watch as the same struggle continues no matter where in the world she sets up her computer. Her narration gives the reader insight into the ways in which writing becomes an act of isolation, yet is still affected by the happenings of the outside world.

‘A Novel Idea’ is an interesting look into the writing process as well as a superb piece of life writing. Perhaps a little unusual, but definitely worth a read if you enjoy life writing with an experimental twist.

 

4 stars


Words by Lisandra Linde

The Angel

It would be silent if it weren’t for the echoing hymns, the lingering seminal cries and the whispered prayers of ghosts. It would be silent if it weren’t for his footsteps.

He acts as if he is making a choice, running his fingers along the cold, unsaved wood, looking left and right. Eventually, he chooses a pew halfway down the middle row and settles in, just like he does every evening.

He forces himself to remember. Wading into the shallows, colder than the cellars of hell, his skeletal fingers stretch, searching. Into the reminiscent void, he cries out for guidance. There is no answer. The tide tugs his overcoat until the woollen fabric is heavier than lead. And with a guttural sigh, he lets go. The tidal wave of memory drags him under. The flood fills his lungs. This is not holy water with which to cleanse. It is holy water with which to drown.

On the stain-glass windows, there are angels, floating over the Virgin in the sombre evening glow. One is different from the rest. Instead of revering the hallowed infant, her eyes glass the boughs of the Church. The man raises his face to meet her gaze.

In the cherubic creature he sees a likeness to himself. He’d cradled a similar likeness once. Held her hand. Tied her shoes. Told her stories. Watched her feathered soul ascend from the petite casket to be captured on the way to paradise. There she stays. A little angel immortalised in the stained-glass.

 


Words by Laura Benney

As well as studying to become an English teacher, Laura Benney has a passion for writing. In between completing assignments and reading voraciously, she is currently working on several projects, including a novella. Her childhood dream was to become an author.

 

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

‘It’s Too Early’- Poems by David Faber

He

rather liked

the notion

of a superior

order of

mathematical

clergy, but his

Welsh wife

thought the

The Glass Bead Game

a load of pretentious

old twaddle, Nobel

Prize or no

Nobel Prize.

___

 

It’s too early

to give you

red roses on

Valentine’s Day,

although I’ve

dreamt you

know what I’m

about already

courting you,

but soon I’ll be

giving you

flowers randomly

and routinely

like I used to.


Words by David Faber

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

In Conversation with Lucy Moffatt

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of sitting down for an interview with Lucy Moffatt, author of Some Days. Over a cup of coffee, she delved into the process, emotion and the power of female friendship in her memoir. Written as a last conversation with her best friend, Chelsea, who she lost to cancer in 2016, Moffatt explores their friendship, immortalising Chelsea and finding a way to heal from such a devastating loss.

You describe your memoir as “one last long, winding chat with the memory of your best friend.” What was the catalyst for writing it this way?

I initially wrote my first manuscript in the traditional memoir style and it was okay, and I think I could have made something pretty good out of it. I can’t really remember how the idea came to me and at one stage I thought ‘what if I change this?’. Instead of talking about Chelsea, I addressed her directly. About the same time, I felt that I’d like to include her writing in the story. Once I started rewriting it that way, it was like the heart of the story suddenly came to life. I’d been struggling a lot with feeling like ‘oh this is so self-indulgent,’ writing a memoir. Like who cares?

Reframing it as a last conversation with her really brought out what I wanted the book to be. That’s what our friendship was. Especially those last few years when she was really sick, it was just sitting in her bed, with the T.V. on in the background and just chatting all day. It felt really good once I started to evoke that.

Two big concepts that came up in Some Days were regret and vulnerability. Could you talk about that a little bit?

For me vulnerability came first. There was this really clear idea that I could go one of two ways. I could try to run away from the things I was feeling and try to conceal it. Or I could take a deep breath and turn around and face it. And the way I thought I could do that was to try and be vulnerable and be publicly vulnerable. To ask for help and to talk about how I was feeling and more and more I started to feel like that could be the source of my strength. I could make something beautiful out of what I’ve been through.

The regret thing took a lot longer. It took a long time for me to feel like it was okay to say I made a mistake and I regret that. It’s so taboo and even now people are like: ‘oh no, no don’t say that you did what you had to do’, but the outcome was really awful. That was my call, and I made the wrong call and I have to own up to that. That was a chapter I wrote quite late, I don’t think it was until the third draft that I even wrote about regret because it was such a massive hard thing to tackle.

It’s the first time in my life that I could say I was in the wrong, but also be kind to myself about that not haranguing myself about it, not punishing myself for it.

You say in the epilogue that you put “our” story down, and you did this through Chelsea’s blog posts. How important was it for you, to have Chelsea’s own voice in your book?

As soon as I had the idea, [her words] were the thing that made it all hang in the balance. If I couldn’t include Chelsea’s words, then there was no point in writing the memoir.

She was a good writer, it wasn’t that she wanted to be a writer. I like her voice and I know she would have loved to be in print that way. Part of it was being a loyal friend. I also knew it gave an edge and a strength to the book.

You also touch on some very personal yet common issues such as mental health, the struggle to fit in, and sexuality. How important was it for you to record these difficulties you had growing up?

Initially, when I started writing it, I wasn’t going to write about anything separate from Chelsea. As I was writing I was realising how these other things fed into the grief I was feeling and into my friendship with Chelsea. One of the reasons our trust and our love and our friendship ran so deep was because being with her was like being apart from some of the things I faced growing up. We just accepted one another.

This experience of losing my friend is fairly specific, some people experience this loss, but these other things are quite universal. Lots of people don’t fit in. Lots of people struggle with who they are. Lots of people have difficulty accepting themselves. And if I’m writing about something so vulnerable, that I want to share, why not be vulnerable and use my voice?

You talk about positive female friendship and that it wasn’t until you got into your twenties that you were able to understand and grasp that. How important do you think it is to have these representations of positive female friendship?

Art can represent life as it is and represent life in a way that it can be. I’m speaking for myself here, but I have a tendency to emulate what I saw on screen, or what I read in books. If I was watching Gossip Girl my friendships were very different to what they were supposed to be. I love that quote: you can’t be what you can’t see. I really believe in role models and I really believe in representations of all kinds. Particularly with positive female friendships.

What was the personal transformation you feel you underwent while writing this book?

I think, what really shone out for me once I got towards finishing the book, was that I always wanted to be a writer, and I’d had some quite good ideas over the years but never followed through on them. I thought that was some kind of personal failing on my part like ‘oh you can’t focus’ or ‘you don’t have what it takes’. I think all it was, was that I had all growing up to do. I needed to work out what I have to say and how I want to say it. And to reach a point of self-acceptance where I can comfortably believe that what I have to say is valid and valuable. I think that was the biggest thing, learning how to put [my doubts] to the side and believe in what I’m doing.

Because it’s a memoir, I got to know myself a lot better. There were lots of things I wasn’t going to write about until I realised they’re all interconnected and that was really freeing. All of these things impact me and have impacted me. They are just a part of my journey and that’s important.

Do you have any events coming up that people reading should, know about?

I’m getting to do a podcast, called Just Make the Thing. We’ll be talking books, but really the podcast is about creativity and doing the work. We’re going to talk about how creativity can be a way to cope with grief.

If you could say anything to someone who was about to pick up your book what would you like the say to them?

Firstly, most of the feedback has been to keep tissues handy, because it’s sad. But I don’t just think it’s sad but kind of funny and some parts are neutral.

My big message is really to allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be connected to people. Those two things are wells of strength that are far too often overlooked. That we’re stronger together than alone. Don’t be afraid of those big, scary feelings because they’re a part of it, they’re a part of all of us. It can be a source of strength if you allow it to be.

I want to say to anyone who is terminally ill, or who loves someone who is sick or who has just lost a loved one, or to those people who are struggling with mental health or self-acceptance, that whatever you are feeling is okay! Even the big, terrible emotions are fine and normal, and they do pass. And you are loved! There are so many people who want only to see you happy and at peace. Again, vulnerability and connection give us power and strength.


Words by Georgina Banfield

In Conversation: J R Koop

J R Koop is a fantasy writer from Adelaide whose debut novel, Racing the Sun, was released on April 12 this year. Koop has spent years building up her world and her novel to the completed version we see today. The self-published book is available in paperback or as an ebook on all major ebook retailers. Racing the Sun is a queer throw-back to Sleeping Beauty and a tribute to her fiancé, Salsabil Hafiz, set in a South-Asian inspired land. Tulpa’s Kayla Gaskell had the opportunity to chat with Koop about the book and her writing journey.

Having already spent time shopping her book to traditional publishers, earlier this year Koop decided it was time to self-publish her long-time project, Racing the Sun. A stand alone in her fantasy world of Abrecan, Koop has spent four years developing the novel. From a first draft with a typically Western setting, Racing the Sun has come so far. Koop decided to alter the novel after feedback from Hafiz suggesting Koop make it “more interesting”.

And by interesting, she means diverse. Racing the Sun has a wide spectrum of characters ranging from the blind oracle, Taeng, through to the PTSD and chronic-pain suffering faerie Qadira. With plenty of input from a variety of sources and sensitivity readers, Koop says “a lot of people helped make this book what it is and made sure I’d written in a non-offensive and accurate way.”

Set in a South-Asian inspired land, Koop says that the conflict between the Praitosi Empire and Delorran was reminiscent of the conflict between India and Pakistan. While this is a fantasy, Koop was sure to discuss these allusions with friends and sensitivity readers, keeping in mind that the world is inspired by ours but at the same time very much its own. The novel turns away from a more traditional Western-centric fantasy vision, presenting more POC than not. When asked about this choice, Koop replied: “If I just wrote white characters it would be a boring world.”

IMG_20190319_151156_236

In terms of challenges, Koop’s greatest one was accepting that Racing the Sun was finished. She says: “I could keep staring at it for years, or I could put it out there.” Having done countless edits on the manuscript Koop says she was starting to wonder when it would be enough. Once the decision was made, Koop turned her mind to researching self-publishing where-upon she settled on a joint e-publication and print-on-demand package with publishing service IngramSpark. Koop didn’t want the limitations of e-publication to hold her back when so many readers who prefer physical books.

Koop goes on to discuss how expensive self-publishing her novel was, although she was lucky enough to engage an illustrator who has become a great friend. Sylvia Bi took to the project with enthusiasm and produced a gorgeous cover. Koop decided on an illustrator for her book because she wanted Racing the Sun to have a professional feel as well as take a little of the pressure off of the process.

In earlier drafts of the novel, Koop says there was a pronunciation guide to help readers with the many and varied unfamiliar terms, however, in the final version this was scrapped. “I kept adding to it, there are too many things in this list, people might get scared.” Like with many fantasy novels however, Koop confirms that you can easily pick up the terminology as you go.

The world of Abrecan is already a vibrant alternate world and Racing the Sun is just the beginning. A stand-alone within the world, Koop has plenty of plans in various stages of completion to bring more of Abrecan to life. As she says: “people are just coming across this one book, they’re not seeing the other works just yet.” With more than twenty folders of ideas on her shelf, there is always something to work on. Her next project is a circus novella set in a French-based area, although she also has plans for a Cinderella retelling and an Egyptian-based retelling of Cupid and Psyche.

 

To keep up with Koop, follow her on Twitter or Instagram or visit her website.


 

Words by Kayla Gaskell
Images provided by Jasmine Koop

Racing the Sun

44330028Reading Racing the Sun by J.R. Koop was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Set in a Southern Asian inspired fantasy kingdom and with a queer love story at the centre, this Young Adult work is bright against its heavily heteronormative, and predominately Western-based peers. After the soul is stolen out of her secret lover’s chest by a sorceress bent on resurrecting the Ashen God, Rahat must race through the dangerous jungle to save both her lover and her kingdom.

Koop’s writing flows easily and is very fun to read. Her characters and their relationships, especially between family members, are engaging and well-formed. The passages with the faerie, Qaidra, were some of the book’s best they provided much of the lore and world-building background for the work. Qaidra is a being that has suffered and the glimpses into her past were sharply drawn and helped flesh out the faerie into a strikingly memorable figure. That said, I do think the world of Abrecan  could have done with a little more world-building in terms of the lore of the Gods and the significance of the faerie Rapture; at times it felt as though the author expected you to be privy to the inner workings of the world without the full breadth of that insider knowledge quite making it to the page. However, the world-building that was present was rich and interesting – Koop clearly has a vivid, active imagination and lots of love for the things she creates.

The politics of this novel – Rahat and Iliyah, her lover, are both of the ruling class but cannot be together: instead Rahat is promised to Iliyah’s brother to unite their kingdom – add tension to the plot and a desperation to Rahat that endears her to her readers. Although, again, I would have benefitted from a tiny bit more of an explanation about the things that prevent Rahat and the girl she loves from being together, especially given the reason for their separation – Iliyah’s service to a God as a dream weaver – proves to be easily dismissed at the end by the powers that be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which felt like a good mix of Neil Gaimen, Garth Nix, and Audrey Coulthurst. There’s lots to love in Racing the Sun: the rich world of Abrecan; the sweet love story; the love and encouragement between family members; the unusual range of creatures and beasts (I loved the mechanical horses, they were my absolute favourites); the adventure. This novel is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, and I am excited to see what Koop produces next.

Four Stars.


 

Words by Riana Kinlough

SANSA, DANY, ​AND THE FEMINIST AGENDA

(Image: HBO)

Spoilers for S8, Ep.1 ‘Winterfell’ are coming.

You have been warned.

Game of Thrones has long been praised for its portrayal of complex, multi-faceted female characters, who are every bit as honourable or conniving as the men they scheme and fight alongside. The show, however, has not been without its critics, nor has it been spared from criticism, including of a sex scene that was seen to normalise rape during its fourth season.

When the long-awaited first episode of the eighth season aired on Monday morning (or Sunday evening, for those in the northern hemisphere), reactions to what unfolded filtered onto the internet in a near-endless stream of memes, GIFS and play-by-play social media posts. Many of these centered around the first meeting of Daenerys Targaryen (and her impressive slew of titles) and Sansa Stark. In line with the Game of Thrones tradition, it did not go well. In fact, Sansa’s side-eye had never been fiercer, and Dany’s inherent self-righteousness remained strong as ever.

She [Sansa] doesn’t need to be my friend,’ Dany says to Jon. ‘But I am her Queen. If she can’t respect me…’ and then Dany trails off ominously. But Sansa’s frosty reception was an issue for more than just the Mother of Dragons. Many people online are dissatisfied that the two characters, who have both survived and overcome the challenges that have faced them, particularly as women, were instantly pitted against one another.

This Sansa/Daenerys shit is so unimaginative and dull and so clearly the idea of men,’ said @annehelen on Twitter.

STOP PITTING WOMEN AGAINST EACH OTHER.’ @juliekosin agreed.

This discussion falls into the larger context of the long-standing tradition of television and movie screenplays, where two women on screen together are often engaged in conflict, or are at the very least failing the Bechdel test. With this in mind, having two well-developed female characters with their own motivations and flaws at odds with one another might be interpreted as a step back from the strides forward Game of Thrones has made.

But I have to disagree.

Though their meeting crackled with all the tension that Dany’s uncompromising will and Sansa’s hard-earned abrasiveness had to offer, I think this is a good thing. In order to stay true to their character development, having the two in conflict with one another is in line with what we know of them.

Dany, after all, was set to invade Sansa’s home, and all of the Seven Kingdoms. We witness her smirk as her dragons frighten the silent Northerners who regard her suspiciously. We are reminded in the same episode of Dany’s inflexibility with Sam’s realisation that she has killed his father and brother for being unwilling to bend the knee.

Sansa, for her part, has long since learned to keep her guard up. Winterfell, and her family, have only just become a part of her life again after so many years of being alone. And, as Sir Davos reminds us, ‘If you want their [the Northerners] loyalty, you have to earn it.’

In light of this, Game of Thrones has done a service to both Sansa and Dany’s characters by putting them in conflict with one another, rather than forcing them into an instant camaraderie just because they are both women.

There is also the further context of Dany’s positive relationship with Missandei, and Sansa’s with Arya, which is reinforced during the course of the episode.

Where were you before?’ Jon asks Arya after they’re reunited. ‘I could have used your help with Sansa.’

But far from siding with her favourite brother, Arya reinforces Sansa’s position of defending their family. To me, this serves as a reminder that Sansa and Dany’s actions are not born out of girl on girl hate, nor from some misguided sense of jealousy, but rather from an incompatibility of experience.

After all, two women in power need not like or even respect each other, but it becomes a problem when such a pairing is seen as the norm. In this case, I do not think that Sansa’s distrust of Dany is a continuation of an outdated mentality that sees women on screen deferring to the more complicated storylines of men. Rather, I think it is a continuation of Game of Thrones’ commitment to Sansa and Dany’s characters, whose motivations and actions are both real and flawed.


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Header image: HBO

Rachael is a fantasy writer, an arts student, and a professional procrastinator. She spends most of her time watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, teaching her cat to play fetch and thinking about writing. You can find her on instagram at @rachaelstaple

Stieg Larsson – A Biography

Everyone has either read or heard of the Millennium novel series.

If you haven’t, it’s about a journalist and computer hacker who work together to fight Sweden’s right-wing forces. The first three novels, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, were written by Swedish journalist and writer Stieg Larsson. After Larsson’s sudden death in 2004, the fourth and fifth novels were written by Swedish author and crime journalist David Lagercrantz.

But who was the man who wrote the first three books?

Stieg Larsson entered the world on 15th August 1954. He lived with his grandparents in the Swedish countryside until he was nine-years-old. He loved the small wooden house his grandparents owned, but didn’t like the city of Umeå, where he lived with his parents after the death of his grandfather.

Due to conscription law, Larsson served in the Swedish Army between 1974 and 1975. He was trained as a mortarman.

Larsson started writing at age twelve, using a typewriter his parents bought him for his birthday. He wrote science fiction stories, which were all published in magazines. He would later become editor or co-editor of some of these magazines. Between 1978-79, he was the president of Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction, Sweden’s largest science fiction fan club. He also wrote for, and edited, the Swedish section of the Fourth International.

Larsson started engaging heavily with far-left political activism during his writing career. He joined his local branch of the Communist Workers’ League, and researched right-wing extremism in Sweden in his spare time. He even published a book on the subject in 1991. In 1995, he established the Swedish Expo Foundation “with the aim of studying and mapping anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in society”. He also wanted the Foundation to protect “democracy and freedom of speech [in Sweden] against racist, right-wing extremist, anti-Semitic and totalitarian tendencies”. He also became the editor of the foundation’s magazine, Expo. He spoke publicly about right-wing extremism, and fast became instrumental in exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organisations. He was subjected to heavy criticism and hate for this, and even received death threats.


The death threats, whether they were legitimate or not, naturally made him fear for his life. He replaced the front door of his home with a fireproof one. He also travelled to and from work at different times each day, and frequently changed the route he would take when going home
.

In 2002, he started writing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He then wrote the two sequels after finishing it and was working on the fourth book at the time of his death. He wanted the series to comprise ten books in total. He wrote the novels spare time, and often ended up working on them long into the night. But he didn’t make any attempt to get them published until just before his death, having decided that the royalties would serve as his retirement fund.


He submitted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels to a publishing company, but they turned them down. The second publishing company Larsson contacted, Norstedts Förlag, accepted the novels, and they’ve since sold millions of copies.


But Larsson didn’t live to see the phenomenon the Millennium series would become. Seven months after he signed the contract with Norstedts Förlag, he suffered a fatal heart attack after climbing the stairs to the Expo offices. He was fifty-years-old. The heart attack was caused by his unhealthy lifestyle: he was a fast food-eating, coffee-drinking, chain-smoking workaholic.


In his will, Larsson stated that he wanted his assets to be left to his local branch of the Communist Workers’ League upon his death. But the will wasn’t witnessed, so it was invalid under Swedish law. Larsson’s estate (including the royalties from book sales) instead went to his next of kin: his father and brother. This sparked controversy because Larsson’s long-term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, wants to control his work, but she has no legal right to do so because she and Larsson never married.


Despite this, the original three Millennium novels have remained popular to this day. Eighty million copies had been sold by March 2015, and Lagercrantz’s contributions to the series (The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye) have only boosted sales even more. The novels have been adapted into films. There’s no doubt in my mind that the series will continue to be popular.


Words by Callum J Jones

Archenemies

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer is the second instalment of Renegades trilogy. Told in dual perspective between Nova (Insomnia/Nightmare) and Adrian (Sketch/Sentinel), two star crossed lovers on the opposing sides of justice. This instalment picks up immediately from the first book, with Nova continuing her mission to infiltrate the Renegades, the superhero organisation she blames for the murder of her parents. Under the guide of the Anarchists, her adopted family, she continues to learn the secrets of this powerful organisation to bring them down.

The sequel introduces Agent N, a drug which can sap the powers of any Prodigy (those with superpowers) deemed to be abusing their powers. This plot is coupled with the growing attraction between Adrian and Nova, which had taken the backburner in Renegades, who are simultaneously trying to make sure nobody uncovers their respective alter egos, including each other.

One thing Meyer does incredibly well is writing action scenes. Each action scene is heart-pounding, fascinating and unputdownable. The last third had everything we’ve come to expect from a tale of superheroes; action, secrets and betrayal.

Unfortunately, it took far too long to get to that point. This trilogy was originally meant to be a duology and it felt as though by creating a trilogy, Meyer must pad out the sequel. Having read the last book a year ago it was hard to remember every single alias and actual name of over twenty-five characters. Not to mention their superpowers. It became a process of having to recall and constantly flip to the character list every few minutes which interrupted my enjoyment of the book, where as Meyer should have spent the time to reintroduce the minor characters readers may have forgotten about.

Meyer attempts to tackle difficult topics such as what leads disillusioned people to the wrong side of justice. What happens when the line between good and bad seems grey? Yet she does so in a heavy-handed way which makes the reading didactic and preachy. There are no subtleties as we see Nova and Adrian question every move made by the Renegades and bring to light the moral issues with a plethora of rhetorical questions. The idea of the villain infiltrating the good guys is an interesting concept but not when it is used to beat the reader over the head with a constant pointing out of the flaws of the good guys. Nothing is left for the reader to think about for themselves as it is all laid out for them.

It was refreshing to see Meyer go beyond the common clichés of the superhero genre in Archenemies, a pitfall she had not managed to avoid Renegades. This may be because there was a greater emphasis on the romance between Nova and Adrian and the loyalties that their bond might test, to both themselves and their families. Personally, the action scenes were much more engaging, and the romance should have taken the backburner again.

 

3/5


Words by Georgina Banfield