This bizarro e-fairytale comes courtesy of relative newcomer August V. Fahren. I was put off slightly by a familiar concept, but it’s clear within a couple of pages that the writing is crisp and the tale easy to engage.
The title refers to our heroine: a downtrodden Cinderella-esque misfit who lives with her sneerful stepsisters and likes drawing robotic mermaids. Her humdrum life is interrupted one day when she’s led into the land of Lethe by a two-headed talking mouse, and discovers that a cannibal witch queen is destroying the paranormal princesses, each named after a day of the week. Like herself.
The “Alice in Wonderland” structure is a well beaten path in this genre, and such formulas need investable characterisation and depth otherwise even the most outrageous ideas become bland. I was pleased to discover that although a couple of the set pieces didn’t quite have the substance or staying power of others, Thursday Thistle is on the whole an entertaining tale.
Along the way we encounter – amongst other things – tarantulas on methamphetamine, a breadcrumb trail of lamb foetuses, a spider-cow man, and a bunch of racist dwarves who keep princesses as sex slaves. The whole thing feels ever-so slightly cluttered, but then the format does allow for this to a degree, and the characters we meet are well realised. I particularly enjoyed the Zen monk who manages to confuse himself with his philosophy, as well as our patient protagonist. Thursday herself is a likeable, feisty guide, and her reactions provide much of the irreverent humour as she becomes accustomed to – and slightly jaded by – her threatening, otherworld surroundings.“I am the lion prince,” he said. “Good for you.”
The prose has a wry innocence, sharp with contemporary culture references, and it becomes quite unsettling when the whimsy takes a turn to the dark side.
I’ve read some bizarro that clearly rated psychedelic and weird above plot and personality. But this book is never turgid, flush with dialogue that ensures that it keeps moving, and the characters’ natural human responses prevent it from wandering from the reach of both our grasp, and our interest.
It has a cartoonish feel at times, like Disney’s long-suppressed dark side has suddenly leaked through the facade. The author also uses music to good effect, describing the dramatic orchestral accompaniment to scenes of action and fighting, like a film score, in which the instruments also become involved. This was a risk, but it definitely pays off.
There are a couple of spelling mistakes unfortunately, and a couple of the segments were by the numbers, whereas others would’ve been better expanded, but it’s a colourful and effortless read. I expected it to be more twisted, having read similar fayre more devoted to horror, though it certainly isn’t for kids. There are still moments of sour nastiness that balance it out nicely and ensure it stays the right side of the watershed.
Carroll meets Mellick, Thursday Thistle is a good value buy from Amazon and available now.