Posted on March 23, 2010 by Steven Dawes
Written by Monica Valentinelli
I’m not only a reviewer for FlamesRising.com, I am a fan. From the features and articles to the reviews, I read and enjoy it all. I’ve even gone as far as purchasing Instant Antagonist: Selfish Succubus, the first product from Flames Rising Press. Therefore, it should go without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that I read all of Monica Valentinelli scribes on da’ flames, and I believe that she’s one of the best contributors on the site (and coincidentally puts my feeble writing talents to shame). So you can imagine how honored and excited I was to have been given a reviewer’s copy of “The Queen of Crows”, written by Monica V. and published by Flames Rising Press (their first published fiction no less).
Outside of her writing on the flames, I’ve read Monica’s short story titled “Pie” from the horror anthology Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas, which was one of my favorite tales if memory serves. However, I knew nothing of Monica’s work in progress, the “Violet War”, an Urban Fantasy setting in which the Queen of Crows takes place in. So, in preparation of reading this story, I decided to do a bit of homework and discover just what the Violet War is all about. And honestly, I couldn’t describe her world and do it justice, so I implore you to take a look for yourselves (you can do so by clicking here). After getting familiar with her world I felt ready to get down to business with Monica’s tale.
So after all that build up and preparation, how did my audience with the Queen of Crows fare? Well, I do have one small quibble; this short story was just too short folks! I want more, MORE I tell ya! I really enjoyed this tale, and yet Monica followed the cardinal rule of the audience; always leave them wanting more. Excellent work Monica!
Rather than rehashing up same lame description, I’ll let the announcement of Monica’s story from Flames tell you what it’s about;
“The short story, which is entitled “The Queen of Crows,” takes place during the 1860s and focuses on the tough decisions that a Navajo elder named “Tse” must make to save his people. Will he summon Mahochepi, the Queen of Crows, without knowing who–or what–she is?”
The short story on its own is worthy of the $4.99 price tag. However, neither Monica V. nor Flames Rising Press was content with just offering you a short story. This is an entire package of goodies! Following the story, Monica’s wrote about the inspiration behind her short story, offering both insight and information about her ideas. Hot of the heels of this portion, there’s a very nice illustrated portrait of Mahochepi herself from the obviously talented Leanne Buckley (I’m not familiar with her work, but I should familiarize myself ASAP). The illustration depicts the queen in all her power and magnificence, and quite frankly trips an old trigger of mine, my attraction to dangerous women (hey Mahochepi, if you’re reading this, call me… I’m in the book.)
Up next is “Who is Mahochepi?” Beyond the story itself, this is my favorite section. As a long time RPG player and freelancer designer (and my interpretation could be way off here) I felt that this portion was the game designer in Monica coming out, which is a good thing in my book. This section spilled the beans in such a way that I found myself thinking that Maho (I think I’ve known her long enough to give her a short name) would be a great reoccurring character in any modern horror, historic or urban fantasy setting. In fact, I found myself jotting notes to use her in my Beyond the Supernatural game. Monica, if your reading this, the Violent War series might make a great RPG series someday (I planted a seed, we’ll see if it grows one day.)
I had to chuckle to myself when I got to the “Letter to the Reader” portion. Remember how I said that I did my homework before I read the story? Well, it turns out that I didn’t have to as Monica told all about the Violet War here. Sigh, live and learn I guess. But as a sweet consolation prize, Monica did mention on her website that the soundtrack for the Violet War series was the “Grimm Tales” album by Nox Arcana. As a fan who owns all their fine music, I did indeed plug in the headphones and listened as I read. And yes, it is indeed a great album to read her story by. If you’re not familiar with their work or this album, check out Grimm Tales out by clicking here.
And last (and probably least the way Monica explains it) Monica tacked on her first draft of “The Queen of Crows”. She “warns” you ahead of time that it’s raw, ugly and underdeveloped, but I think she’s being a little hard on herself as it’s not quite as bad as she made it out to be. Since she was brave enough to publish it, I’ll be brave enough to say that it’s better than most of my first draft attempts. Regardless, it was interesting to read how different of a direction the end result was from her first attempt and I appreciated reading it all the same.
Anyone who purchases the Queen of Crows should be arrested for piracy. For all you get in this book, the measly price tag of five clams is plain stealing in my eyes! It’s a very interesting read, it gives an appetizing taste of things to come from the upcoming series, has lots of addition material, and its wrapped up with in a keen looking package (the cover art, interior layout and designed comes courtesy of Shari Hill btw and did a great job.) And now, I will zip my beak so you can make your own audience with the Queen of Crows.
Review by Steven Dawes