I love this review for three reasons and not because it's positive.
One: Ed Calkins gets it. His points echo the forward my WriteOn Joliet co-leader Tom Hernandez (who also gets it) wrote for the book, and Ed's points also echo those given in my lone review Amazon by my lone super fan, who's done me the humbling honor of reading the series three (or is it four) times now.
Two: Ed stays in character throughout the entire review by making most of it about himself.
Three: I didn't see his ending coming. Very sweet and touching. Ed's final comments won't mean anything if you haven't read the book, and it will (hopefully) make you smile if you had. And apple cider of all things (great subtext, Ed!).
The postscript made me smile and made me glad I'd written it.
As to the play Ed referenced, I thought I published it, but I can't find it anywhere. I'll try to give it a copy edit and publish it in a week or so. Ed wrote it (it's very short) in 2012, so long overdue for publication, I'd say.
I'll never look at St. Patrick's Day the same ever again. It will, now and forever, be, in my mind, the day Ed Calkins finished Staked!
Have a great weekend, readers, writers, and vampire fans! :)
I spent St. Patty’s day doing what I advised, reading Staked! and now am compelled and inspired to review it. As my insight to those who have read the book is invaluable, I must warn anyone that has not that there will be spoilers.
In the BryonySeries, the questions come slowly and gently, where the answers come fast, hard, and ruthlessly. Staked! is as final as the title, starting, as the other three did, with the family that at first blush is no different than other very different families.. until blood, vampires, ghosts, immortality and Ed Calkins change the strangeness into epical situation.
In the first, a girl copes with isolation in a new home. In the second, that same girl because a mother. In the last, her wonder-son seeks to know himself. In the third, we are reacquainted with John-Peter, the overachieving high maintenance child who is now entering manhood with a questioning defiance and intolerance of meat.
His journey parallels the journey of the entire series, but also the author herself. Other authors have done similar story lines: Pinocchio wants to be a real boy and Data want to be more human-like, but John Peter has to learn why he’s different before he can even start.
This reflects the author own understanding of her own series even as she writes the book. Only now, in this last novel, does she seem to realize that the whole tale really is about Ed Calkins, while she faces the truth about her Irish nature.
And what a nature it is!
She effortlessly sorts through both limerick and lore, painting the vacation paradise of life behind the mirror… for some. Brilliantly, she never mentions Melissa’s silent lament. For indeed, not since A Hitch Hiker’s Guild to the Universe has there ever been written more practical advice for navigating life.
How different Melissa’s life would have been had she married Ed Calkins in the first book! Most of us readers had to stop ourselves from skimming ahead, hoping to find that he asks her again and this time she answers, allowing her a life behind the mirror with numbered husbands completing for the right to father her children that she could swap out if they didn’t measure up.\
Alas, no, Ed Calkins never asks twice. In the end we find her broken by two vampire husbands and childless except for an under-fed unremarkable submissive girl so unlike the rebel hero she had in John-Peter and a once rejected boyfriend is what a life without Ed Calkins has left her.
We also can make out why the author never married Ed Calkins, (He didn’t get to ask, she refused him before he could.) In life behind the mirror, the stolen women were branded with a number while great authors of varied times were compelled to ghost-write for Ed Calkins.
To the first, I can swear that I never would brand my wives with numbers. Their ranking changes too often by new wives or deeds that please/displease. At worse, I might mark their forehead with washable makers.
To the second, I wish a could promise Denise that if she were my wife, I would like her take credit for some of her lesser works. More likely, I would punish her for lesser works by signing her name to works of mine. (A certain play comes to mind!)
Sadly, I fear for the author herself who must surely think she has put an end to the two most loved characters in her novels. Ironically, I speak not of Bryony from which the trilogy takes its name. She is a ghost that inherits the earth…or at least it’s summary in A Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Universe, which is ‘mostly harmless’. Indeed! Melissa tells Bryony to go, and she does.
No, I speak of John-Peter and of course the Steward himself. Reader, if you see Denise on the street, see Melissa as well. Hug her, comfort her, and whisper in her ear, “Ed Calkins and John-Peter are alive as friends sharing an apple cider together.”
I promise an epic poem of limericks explaining how.
P.S. I really loved this book.