Welcome to a new Book Discovery!
Here’s the scoop on these Book Discovery posts: they are not book reviews. Instead, the “Book Discovery” articles are meant to make us better writers by learning from the pros of published books, particularly new-and-cool books you may never have heard of. I won’t be discussing any “cons” that the novels may have, mostly because writing books is hard and why be negative when you can learn from an author’s successes? If you want my opinion on the book because you’re interested in reading it, you’re welcome to private message me through my author Facebook page. Or you can just try the book for yourself. 😉
Today’s book is Hidden Current, the first in a brand-new fantasy series by Sharon Hinck. The limited edition hardcover is gorgeous and just hit the shelves at the end of January!
Balance of Hurt and Healing
Even though many of Sharon Hinck’s books are set in fantasy worlds, she has an amazing gift for writing relatable characters who are wrestling with deep problems. As you journey through the pages of Hidden Current, you can tell the author is someone who knows what it means to experience loss, disappointment, confusion, and pain—and also to find God in the midst of all that. Sharon doesn’t shy away from letting her characters experience hard things, but she also brings the story to a redemptive climax that will have you cheering.
As writers, it can be very hard to balance tragedy and triumph in a novel. Without conflict, no story can exist. But if too much conflict occurs with no “light at the end of the tunnel,” sometimes the story becomes too depressing. Often, when you let something bad happen in your novel, the promise to your readers is that this conflict will eventually be resolved. If you go too long without resolving that conflict, or pile on too much additional tragedy without also letting your characters triumph in certain ways, you could lose the interest of your readers.
If you want an example of well-balanced tragedy and triumph, read Hidden Current. The author doesn’t pull punches, but she also opens the door to resolution and redemption in ways that excite the readers. Just like in real life, the characters’ paths don’t turn out the way you might expect, and sometimes tragedy occurs that has you wondering if triumph is even possible anymore. But it’s precisely because of those low points that the victories become even more powerful.
The fantasy world in Hidden Current creates a “sense of wonder” for readers with unique plants, animals, and natural phenomena (star rain, anyone?). It’s the kind of world I’d love to visit so that I could explore the rim villages along the edge of the floating island (yes, you heard me right) and maybe hug a forest hound.
There is a wide range of depth among fantasy worlds in novels. Some novels have worlds so elaborate, it takes quite a while for readers to get fully acclimated (a good example is Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive). Other fantasy worlds seem as easy to enter as taking a step through a wardrobe door. There is no right or wrong way to do your fantasy world; it all depends on what you want for your story. Think about this: what are the elements of your fantasy world that primarily drive your plot?
If your answer is something like: “a complex war that occurred in the distant past and created lots of political and social ramifications,” your readers can’t learn all of that information at the beginning of your novel. You’ll have to gradually introduce them to the world and teach them about this past war (through the experiences of your characters, of course).
Other times, the elements of your fantasy world that drive the plot are easy for readers to quickly understand. In Hidden Current, the oppressive Order that controls the dancers (which you can learn about just from reading the book synopsis) is the fantasy world element that most affects the plot. Even though you learn important details throughout the book, you can dive right into the world with just an understanding that the Order controls the dancers, who in turn use magical dances to control the world.
If you’re interested in creating a fantasy world that drives the plot, but also allows readers to quickly be immersed and gives them a consistent “sense of wonder,” check out Hidden Current for a great example of how to do this.
Okay, okay, I know I mention this a lot in Book Discovery posts. I like cool, unique magic systems! 😉
The magic in Hidden Current is based on dance, and the author herself has a lot of dancing experience, which just makes the magic that much more detailed and believable.
So, Hidden Current‘s magic has two important elements working together to make it…well, magical: first, the idea of the magic creates a sense of wonder. Who doesn’t want to learn more about dancing magic? But the author has also cleverly thought out how the dancing is magical and how it affects the world, so the reader’s initial sense of wonder is not disappointed, but rather fed by each new detail.
Secondly, the author used something in the real world that she knows very well—dance—as the starting point for her magic system. When you’re creating your magic, chances are that it will be based on something real: poetry, physics, combat styles, etc. Make sure that you understand your magic “base,” either through personal experience or research, enough to write about it credibly. If readers see holes in the realistic side of your magic, they may not “buy in” to the more fantastical parts of it.