The Forgotten Tale by J.M. Frey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Untold Tale was one of my best reads in 2016, so when I found out that Story Cartel had review copies of The Forgotten Tale, I jumped at the chance.
The Forgotten Tale starts with an idyllic scene: The Piper family (Syth, Lucy and baby Alis - obviously they cannot retain his identity as Forsyth Turn) are preparing to celebrate Solsticetide in their new home in Canada. Forsyth is beginning to settle in, having even learnt to hack well enough to get a job with the Government. When books - famous fantasy books like The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit - start disappearing, Forsyth fears that he may have earned bad luck by turning away a guest on Solsticetide. But what was he to do? Invite Elgar Reed in and give him access to his new family and new home so that the Writer can turn his life upside down again? Then they're sucked back into The Tales of Kintyre Turn... and so begins a new adventure.
The novel itself is structured with alternating chapters from Forsyth's point of view and a third-person POV of things happening in Hain. It was lovely to see how Frey balances the two so you get enough to know what's happening and why whilst Forsyth is still in the dark, and yet you don't know too much that you start getting bored.
Again, Frey's brilliance lies in the way she has fully dissected the fantasy novel and their associated tropes, making this one of the most self-aware stories in existence - and which also takes away an element of predictability because you have no idea where she's planning to go with all the things she has set up. I mean, yes, you can guess that whatever obvious trope she introduces she's probably going to overthrow, but you don't know when - or how. And there are times where she uses the obvious like a mischievous tongue-in-cheek gremlin saying, "look, you're battling the structure here. It's a lousy structure, but THAT'S WHAT IT IS until you decide to change it."
Tropes she plays with are motherly love (do all women naturally love all children?), agency, throwaway characters, purpose, fighting the structures. In her quest for diversity, Wyndham, the son of Kintyre Turn and Isobin, the Queen of Pirates, is obviously the Black Character, as Piper was the Chinese one (minus point - despite the obvious Chineseness of her matrilineal line [bao bei, wai po, Yuan-Xiao, mooncakes?] she still uses "Pip's Asian facial structure" as if that actually helps elaborate anything.). It's very much also a story on children and legacy, and whether the wishes of the parents are being forced on the children. The ending is very obviously a Deus Ex Machina, but brilliantly executed, with a look into the lives of poor struggling Writers, for whom writing is truly hard.
But I guess, what I liked most about this episode in The Accidental Turn is its very strong theme of Redemption.
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Review of The Untold Tale here!