Friday, November 21, 2008

Me and Catherine Jinks

I've been reading little but young adult books the last three weeks for three main reasons. They tend to be short, fast reads. They are almost always fun. And the disjointed mess I'm writing this year for NanoWriMo is probably best described as Young Adult and I felt like it would help keep me going (it has).

I've read a lot of good ones. The political parable After by Francine Prose. The surprisingly complex dark fantasy Sabriel by Garth Nix. But the one that's been sticking with me the most is the one I expected the least out of: Pagan's Crusade by Australian Catherine Jinks. Not because I thought it would be bad, but because I don't often go for historic fiction. Set in Jerusalem during the Crusades, the book focuses on Pagan, a young man who tries to escape his gambling debts by becoming a Squire for the Templars. Except for some of the battle scenes towards the end it's all pretty tongue-in-cheek and a pretty fun read. Here's the opening paragraph:

A big man in brown, sitting behind a table. Big hands. Big chest. Short and broad. Head like a rock, face scarred like a battleaxe. He looks up and sees---what's this? A street urchin? Whatever it is, it's trouble. Trouble advances cautiously.

I was hooked right away. The voice, the humor, the story...I loved it all. The more I read, the more I realized why I liked it so much.

Jinks writes like I do.

Short, focused sentences. Sentences designed to get the point across quickly and not waste time with flowery language. But every couple of pages she nail you with a piece of dialogue or a terrifyingly beautiful description, something that punches you in the gut and makes you stop and think for a moment.

Okay, to be fair I should probably say she writes like I try to write. Her work is considerably more polished than my own. While I see writers I admire and even love all the time, this is the first time I've come across one that seems to approach it in the same way I do. I know I'll continue with the Pagan series at some point soon, but in the meantime I've picked up her novel Evil Genius, a book that was hugely popular at my library this past summer. I'm eager to dig into it and see if her approach stays the same or if it differs book to book.

Until next time...


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