Monday, January 5, 2015

Woven by Jensen and King is the rare book that begins with a brilliant idea and ends flawlessly

Happy New Year my friends! I hope that Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, New Year's Eve, and any and all celebrations that I might have missed in my time off went well for you. As for me, I had a great Christmas. I saw Into the Woods and loved it because Meryl Streep nailed the witch role and made me think she'd be a good manager for a business run by capitalist pigs. I played plenty of games of Bananagrams and Mare Nostrum (maybe I'll blog about these later because it makes for great fun on the "cheap"). And speaking of "cheap," I don't think that authors David Powers King and Michael Jensen have anything to worry about in that respect with their book, Woven, coming out this year because it's absolutely brilliant, and if it doesn't sit at the top of the New York Times "bestseller lists" for fantasy for at least twenty weeks...I may just lose faith in the barometer of what I consider "good taste."
"Woven" in hardcover. Not every book from a Big Five publisher is graced
with a hardcover print. The fact that Woven is means that there's a big marketing
push for this book, and honestly it deserves every penny. I hope King and Jensen
become millionaires over and over. It's raining hundred dolla bills y'all!
Okay, so I've known David for quite a while now, and he sent me an arc of "Woven" in November (for the first time in my life, I actually felt like I knew somebody important--thank you, David!), and I basically read all 365 pages in three days. Woven is the kind of rare, original fantasy that I was thirsting for. In a way, I felt like a man that hasn't had a drink while attempting to cross the Sahara desert on foot and is about to collapse with exhaustion and dehydration when suddenly there's this oasis with Palm Trees and a Four Seasons hotel.

"Woven" came along at just the right time (kinda like a 90-minute massage at the Kura Door spa in Salt Lake City), it's fingers kneading my jaded temples back to life with respect to a genre that I think has grown stale with copycats and nerds who all played Dungeons & Dragons as a kid and decided they'd write stories about their characters and expect people to read about them. Woven is free of magic schools and universities! It is free of hipsters and man-scaped spornosexuals that bounce between the real world and the world where magic, fairies, and vampires are real! It's free of "fantasy bloat" (which is how I describe pretty much any of the Wheel of Time books). It's free of the narcissistic author: the writer that sets out to dazzle and horrify you with his epic-ness because no one has ever thought of anything as epic as weirdly-named epic monsters and epic labyrinths and epic seasons that last ten years and epic walls and epic power struggles and epic descriptions of food and epic battles and the epic idea that killing off beloved epic characters makes the story epic, dammit! Hell, I don't even know what "epic" means anymore since it has become as useless in describing things as the word "very."

Much like its cover, Woven is simple and that makes it beautiful. Let's look at the cover for a moment. It features a ring and a needle, both of which are important for the story. The ring is something Tyra gets from Gleesel (the coolest goat witch ever), and it isn't The One Ring. However, it does allow the wearer to distinguish between truth and lies. I'd love something like that. As for the Needle? It's a bit more on the cool side of things. It's called the Needle of Gailner, and it has the ability to alter reality in the same way that a weaver can alter a pattern on a loom.

Woven is also clever. Nels is a strapping lad that's had his "thread" woven together with that of a beautiful princess named Tyra (when they were babies). The idea of "arranged marriage" is very medieval (I didn't really like this part but understand that for the majority of history, arranged marriages are how things got done). I do like how it is essential to the story, because without it Nels would have stood no chance at all.

Because Tyra's "thread of life" was woven together with Nels, she could always find him even in death. As romantic as that seems to Notebook lovers everywhere, each possesses a personality that's like a cheese grater with respect to the other, and this is mined to great effect by the authors for comedy. As expected, circumstance (and the fact that they are both gorgeous people) pretty much ensures that they grow to love each other (which ends up being something even more powerful than the most powerful artifact in the world, a.k.a. the Needle).

The engine behind the whole story is the diabolical Rasmus who is a powerful magician bent on destroying Nels because, as Shakespeare wrote in the Merchant of Venice, "The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children." Rasmus is a well-developed villain, having been the apprentice of Ickabosh (a master fabricator/sorcerer) and a person that's willing to do anything in the grasp for power, even if it means murdering lots of people and using his magic to impersonate them once their dead.

Although I've never met Michael Jensen in person, from what I know about him, the idea of Woven's magic system came to fruition in his mind over the course of ten years. Forgive me, Mr. Jensen, if I get that wrong. But in reading this book, and thinking of the hard work both of these authors did, I can say that all that time and dedication shows in the pages. Woven is a polished jewel among books. It deserves it's Big Five publishing contract hands down, because this thing is a masterpiece. The pacing in Woven is perfect, every single character has a purpose, every place the characters journey to moves the story forward, and "fabrication" is probably the most original and elegant magic system I've encountered in books since David Eddings introduced me to the Will and the Word in the Belgariad over thirty years ago.

Woven is a book whose peers are Stardust by Neil Gaiman, the Belgariad by David Eddings, the Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, and the Prydain chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. It's a book that can be read and enjoyed by all ages, and I hope it gets made into a big budget movie. Disney are you listening? I own your stock so making this into a movie would make us shareholders happy :).

Anyway, for clarity's sake (and for that old Amazon bone), I give Woven five stars out of five, and it's honestly one of those books that had I known something was going to be this good, I might have rated other books lower in comparison. Alas, these are the challenges in life I must face when it comes to reviewing books.

I hope you all stop by David Powers King's website, congratulate him on Woven, mark it "Want to Read" on Goodreads, buy the book when it's out, and shout out some love for #teamScholastic (they brought you such fun stories as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and now, well...Woven). Please stop by on January 30th of this month when I'll be honored to be an official stop on the Woven blog tour! Let's hope that Mr. King and Mr. Jensen's literary agent and publicist don't mind the interview questions I sent them (and answer them) because they are some pretty good ones. But if they don't get answered, well that's what twitter (and sequels) are all about.


  1. I'm about halfway through the book and enjoying it so far. The thread idea was clever and it fits with how we are all woven together by the things we do.
    David's stopping by my blog for the tour in February.
    And welcome back, Michael!

  2. I'm looking forward to reading this book. I'm excited for David!

  3. So happy for David and Michael! Glad you had a great holiday, Michael.

  4. Glad to see that you've returned. You've been missed.

  5. @Alex and Stephen: Thanks so much for saying you missed me! I'll be off to check your blogs asap and see what's been going on :)

  6. Glad to see you back!
    I also saw Into the Woods and gave it a solid B+ (it's hard to compare to my undying love of the original play and broadway cast, but they did about as good as they could)

  7. It sounds awesome and I love the cover. Welcome back!

  8. Welcome back, Mr. Offutt. Woven sounds interesting, especially as it's getting the full-on MO primo endorsement! I'll investigate.

  9. Well that is the best darn-tooting review! It is on my TBR list, I need to push up up higher!

    (did you know captcha is on?)

  10. @Southpaw: Thanks for the heads up. I'll see if I can fix it.

  11. You're back. Hope you had a nice break. Excellent reviewing skills there. I will have to buy it now. Sounds fantastic. I want to see Into The Woods SO BAD. We're going this week. YEAH. Thanks for the review. I will be back on the 30th.

  12. OK, you've sold me. I'll have to read this one.

  13. Your review make the book sound like a fantasy reader's dream. Kudos to the authors. Here's hoping they sell tons of books.

  14. This book sounds wonderful, and I remember that you used it as an example of how a publisher can be a brainless twit and turn down a great book--in this case because one of the authors is gay. I'm so glad that Jensen and King then landed a major publisher like Scholastic.

    I'm looking forward to reading Woven. And welcome back, Mike my dear.

  15. Happy New Year!
    I love Meryl Streep. I want to see Into the Woods.
    I've been following Michael and David, and I'm so happy for them.

  16. Sounds awesome! Can't wait to read this actually. I've been disappointed with the quality of fantasy novels lately myself, and I see you have been plagued by the same peeve that haunts me: the over-use of EPIC. Gads!

    Thanks for the review and recommendation Mike. It is definitely on my TBR list now.

  17. This was an amazing review! I consider myself lucky enough to call David my friend also, and I agree with you that Disney should be listening. :) I even made a comment to him about it a few days ago. I was lucky enough to read one of the draft versions myself.

    I'm on my way now to check out your interview with him. You've found a new follower. Have a great night! Eva