Reviews

Book Review: The Waterfall Traveler by S. J Lem

The Waterfall Traveler is a young adult fantasy novel that I picked up last year after seeing the author do a cover reveal on the Books Go Social Facebook page. It looked stunning, so I kept my eye on it and ordered the paperback when it was finally released. Still, due to my enormous TBR pile, it’s taken me this long to get to it. But honestly, it was worth the wait.

The story focuses on Ri, a teenage girl who has been raised in a small village on an island cut off from the mainland. Samuel, the man who raised her, found her when she was just a child on his travels, so both of them are outsiders to the village, even though they’ve lived there for years. To make matters worse, Samuel has the Sickness (which initially seems like a form of dementia) and often goes wandering off on his own. After one of these episodes, he wanders into the forest surrounding the village. When Ri finally finds him, he tells her about a boy who travels back and forth through the waterfall. She dismisses it as one of his fantasies and sends him home while she stays to try and gather some food. However, it’s not food she finds. In the dark part of the forest, she discovers a human skull covered in slime. Before she can analyse it properly, a man steps forward and goads her, with the intent of taking the fish she’s caught. Ri doesn’t give in, but a strange noise sounds around them and he tells her to flee. She does, but injures herself and collapses by the river.

Sometime later, she awakens to see a boy around her age attempting to treat her wounds. Initially, she tries to ward him off, panicking about how long she’s been unconscious due to her need to look after Samuel, but she relaxes enough for him to patch her up. Yet the danger she faced is still lurking, and they both find themselves under attack by an unseen foe. Ri is shot with a poisonous dart, so with no other choice, the boy gathers her up and takes her through the waterfall to his home on the other side.

Three days pass before Ri finally wakes up, but the boy — Bryce — tells her truthfully that he cannot simply take her back because the gateways between waterfalls change with the moon, and so the path to her island is cut off for another month. In a panic, she attempts to escape the cave Bryce lives in, only to discover the smooth-talking Carter coming to pay his best friend a visit, and to arrange the delivery of herbs Bryce gathered in the forest to certain city guards. Giving in, Bryce agrees to let her accompany them up into the streets of the city, where she discovers the huge divide between the rich and the poor, as well as the devastating news that Samuel is a wanted man there, accused of a crime she cannot bring herself to believe him capable of. And then there is the news of the Culling, a faceless danger attacking the city.

I won’t lie about this book – at first, I thought I wasn’t going to like it because I found Ri irritating and far too impulsive to be practical. However, she grew on me quickly, especially when it came to interacting with the other main characters. The book is all from her point of view, so it was interesting to be privy to the private thoughts she had about everyone. All the characters in this book are strong, with concerns so specific to them that their actions felt completely justified, even if Ri didn’t agree. Most of the hints weaved throughout the story about what was really going on linked together solidly in the conclusion, though as The Waterfall Traveler is the first book in a series, some were left open. The plot itself was well thought out, and the world building was so rich I felt like I could stroll inside the pages. Though perhaps not at one of the more perilous parts.

Another thing to note about this book is that it’s an indie, but it truly reads every bit (if not better, in some cases) as books by bigger publishers. So, if you’re unsure about reading a book that’s been self-published, I’m inclined to say give it go. I’d happily press The Waterfall Traveler into everybody’s hands if I could, and I know from experience that it’s not the only book that deserves more press than it’s had so far.

If I had to describe it in a word: enchanting.

Kat out!

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Exciting news! (And some background before I get there)

When I was about seven, I came up with a simple story idea about strange creatures living in the woods. My dad took this little snippet and made it into something much more – the beginnings of a book.

Unfortunately, due to his mental health, he struggled with finding the motivation to keep going with it, and was always undecided about how old the main character should be. You see, his idea was to have the main characters based on our family, but as the years passed, my brother and I got older, so the main characters had to age too. Finally, his work on it came to a stand still, despite the fact that we all loved the chapters he’d written so far.

Skip forwards ten or so years, to when I started thinking about properly writing my first book. (I always wanted to write, I just hadn’t really had time with school and college, and I kind of had my dream stomped on a bit by an older relative who said there was no point in writing as there was no money in it.) Dad approached me and asked if I wanted to try writing his story, but in my own style. I didn’t really have my own story yet, so I thought about it, and once I’d finished college, decided that I’d do it.

My progress was slow, as I was in to many different things at the time and writing was only one of them, but after a year I had a completed first draft. And boy, was it bad. I was pleased to have finally finished, but I knew it was a very poor adaptation.

It took me a long time to realise why: it was still too much his story. I hadn’t made it my own yet, and using his characters was hard for me, because where he’d based them on us, I was too close to them.

So, being my usual stubborn self, I overhauled the whole thing. I changed the characters completely, making them very individual and unlike my own family (okay, one or two traits might have stuck, but there will always be a bit of those you know in any character), and I dived deep into their history to find out what made them tick. I also added characters, and removed others, until finally I had a cast that I could work with. A cast that I liked.

And it was hard. Hard to disregard so much of what I’d enjoyed of my dad’s story, but just wouldn’t work for me. Hard to knit the plot back together and make it strong, solid, enjoyable.

There were times when I was so stuck on a scene or frustrated with it in general that I wanted to throw the whole thing away and just give up. But I didn’t. I made it work, and at the end I had my story. Inspired by my dad’s, definitely, but truly, distinctly mine.

Over the years of visiting and revisiting, I’d worked on other books, including my Half-Wizard Thordric series, but once I’d found my writing voice and adjusted the manuscript once more, I decided to find a publisher.

So, the news I’ve been building too, and am so, so proud to say, is that now I have. The Origin Stone, as the book is now titled, is set to be published by the lovely Nuff Said Publishing in March 2019.

Out of all the books I’ve written, The Origin Stone is definitely the one that’s made me work hardest. It’s so wonderful to announce that it finally has a home!

Kat out.

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Exciting news

Hey everyone, I just wanted to announce that I’ve signed with a small online publisher for one of my middle-grade books, Unofficial Detective, the first book in my Half-Wizard Thordric trilogy (hopefully, they’ll take on books 2 and 3 as well). You can find an extract of it here.

It’s just going through the editing process now, but soon we’ll start working on cover design and layout, which I’m rather excited for.

Anyway, just thought I’d post a quick update – more news to follow!

Poetry

Hardback

I ease into the spine,

careful not to rip or tear,

hearing that new page sound;

a spreading of toes

preparing to feel the ground

in case it tries to slip away

from me.

A deep inhale

before setting the fingers to work,

elegantly stretching from right

to left

as eyes blur left

to right.

Strength flows up my arms

congealing in my head.

The saliva on my tongue

tastes

of salt;

bittersweet meetings,

conversations left unsaid

where

there was so much to say.

I arch upwards,

clearing away the tide

that fills my lungs,

exhaling

the raw.

I step back to mountain;

the cover shuts.

My body tingles

with satisfaction.

My mind

is famished.