Book Review “Destruction” By Sharon Bayliss

Destruction-Sharon Bayliss

*OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT*

I recently purchased Destruction by Sharon Bayliss because I wanted to have an idea of what kind of book her publisher liked. I also liked the cover art. I am a fantasy fan and prefer a much longer story but this book was pleasantly surprising. After finishing it I’m glad that it is the first in a series and I’ve already ordered the second book on Amazon. I can’t wait to spend more time with the “December people.”

Even though this book is about a dark wizard family there are no exotic or fantasy settings and not much magic because most of the characters didn’t know they had magic. The majority of this story takes place inside main protagonist, David Vandergraff’s home in Houston Texas. It’s the story of a struggling marriage and a family in crisis. Most of the problems David faces are things that any normal grown man might have.  There’s the uncertain future due to the failure of his construction business, his guilt over a 12 year old affair that he must now admit to his wife, and the fear that telling the truth will destroy his family. While trying to hang on to her, David must form a relationship with his recently orphaned children who are the result of his affair and whom he’s never met. David now has five teenage children that live under the same roof and one abandoned neighbor child that’s living with him for the foreseeable future.Then you add in the fact that all members of the family are dark wizards.

I enjoyed the Bayliss’s treatment of magic in this story. She explains that each wizard is associated with a particular season and that their associated magic is lighter or darker depending on their season. I also liked her idea of using wizards as protective talismans for other wizards instead of simply having them use charms and the fact that bad things happen if a wizards ties to their talisman is broken. I feel that she has managed to achieve an enormous amount of character development for David and his family in a relatively short amount of time. Though the use of magic wasn’t a big part of this novel, the scenes where it makes an appearance are beautiful and left me feeling just as frustrated as one of David’s children after his wife Amanda forbade magic’s use in the home. I want to see more of what this family can do!

I have two  critiques about the story that don’t come until the end. The first is  when the eldest son Jude, completely changes roles from protector to villain without much warning. There was evidence of his depression in his quitting the football team, drinking too much and breaking up with his girlfriend but nothing to suggest he’d be violent toward others. The author does mention at the beginning of the story that magic is dangerous and she gives several examples of wizards who have gone crazy using it.  I feel that this might be mentioned early on so Jude’s change in attitude will make sense later, but he’s only known about magic for a few weeks. It that doesn’t seem long enough to drive Jude crazy.  I’m sure that the second book will go into further detail about why Jude has changed and like I said earlier, I can’t wait to read it!

My second critique is that the reader never got to see the big dark wizard battle that the entire story seemed to be leading up to! David Vandergraff is about to confront the man who abused his children, might have killed his lover and could very possibly still kill his youngest daughter, but that confrontation doesn’t happen. David doesn’t fight him at all and isn’t even present when the big fight takes place. The reader only gets to hear about it through the David’s daughter Emmy’s retelling of the fight. It’s a huge buildup and then a let down to me. Bayliss does a great job of setting everything up for an epic battle in the desert but it never came. In fact we never even see what this darkest of all dark wizards, Whitman Colter, can do!  I did enjoy the irony of Whitman’s sister having to fight and destroy him and the fact that in doing so, she likely killed herself. However, I would have had more enjoyment from a David and Whitman showdown. II find myself hoping Whitman isn’t dead so we can see him fight David at some point!

 

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People Who Inspire Me

Sometimes I do laundry, dishes or clean the cat box in order to delay the moment when I actually sit down to write.  Everyone does this.  Even though I don’t realize it at the time I engage in every mundane activity possible in order to avoid the thing which gives my life meaning. So before I begin a “Lost Girl” Netflix binge I’m going to take some time to mention the people I aspire to be like.

The first is George R.R. Martin.  Very predictable I know, but I have been reading his books since I discovered them via a recommendation by a fantasy savvy Media Play employee.  And that reference alone tells you how long Mr. Martin has captivated my imagination because I don’t even think Media Play’s exist anymore.  His novels and my lack of anything else comparable to read at the time, were my reason for beginning an epic fantasy story.  And his novels are the reason I will one day revisit that 300 page high fantasy story and finish it.  I want to create complex characters that move through gorgeous landscapes that feel like characters themselves.  I want people to laugh, cry and get angry when they read my work just like I did while reading his Song of Ice and Fire series.  I want to create a world as amazing as his and I want this so bad my eyes water every time I hear the Game of Thrones theme music.

Neil Gaiman is an author I discovered a little later in life.  The first book of his I read was Neverwhere and I can’t remember who turned me on to it.  I ended up buying three copies because I mailed one to my mom and gave another to a friend as a present. After I devoured this novel I quickly set about finding every scrap of material Neil Gaiman had ever written.  If I could pick one word to describe him it would be “versatile.”  Or maybe “imaginative.”  It’s a toss up between those two words. I have read his more famous novels, Neverwhere and American Gods but I’ve also read his YA novels like The Graveyard Book. I even have a copy of his graphic novels Batman, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader and Death. It doesn’t matter if he’s writing a novel or graphic novel dialogue Neil’s humor and gift for storytelling is instantly recognizable and I feel like I’m still struggling to find my voice. I want to be distinctive like Neil so that a reader can pick a copy of my book and within the first paragraph know who wrote it.

I used to read poetry because I used to be a young, tortured, (so I thought) teenager.  During this time I discovered Sylvia Plath.  I read other poets but she is the one that really sticks out and inspires me because she is so visceral.  Her poems are deliciously dark and dripping with the blood from the veins she opened to write them.  Once you’ve read it, the lines from “Daddy” or “Lady Lazarus” will haunt you forever. I also count The Bell Jar among my all time favorite novels. Although I’m not clinically depressed and I have no desire to take a bunch of sleeping pills or stick my head in an oven, I do have a desire to make an impact.  The work of Sylvia Plath reminds me that in order to write something powerful I’ve got to rip out my heart and put it on display.  Okay, that’s a little dramatic but it’s late and I feel like being dramatic.