The Wolf & the Windlestraw from The Indianola Review

As the Associate Editor for The Indianola Review, I led a project to complete a collaborative serial novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2015. I’ve always wanted to edit a novel, and this seemed crazy enough to work.

Through Twitter, 30 authors from all across the United States signed on to write one chapter each (~2,000 words) on their respective day in November. The chapters were to follow the characters and plot set forth by Chelsea Eckert (our brave Day 1 author). Her characters were two courageous young sisters, Amadeus and Wolfgang, who were tasked with completing a quest using a windlestraw—an enchanted key—in a magical world set in the American Southwest. The first chapter blew me away. When Wolfgang pulled the windlestraw out of her pocket, the possibilities of magical realism–one of my favorite things to read–exploded into being.

I was always the first person to read each chapter of this wonderfully weird story, a privilege I enjoyed immensely. It’s fun and has some serious depth when it comes to the “magic system.” The Wolf & The Windlestraw is a 232-page magical realism novel that was written as a result of The Indianola Reviews  first collaborative NaNoWriMo. (We’ll be setting up the 2016 NaNoWriMo soon!) Here’s the blurb for the fantastic story:

Wolfgang has a sense of adventure unmatched by anyone, even her younger sister, Amadeus. But when Wolfgang is charged with completing three mysterious and possibly dangerous tasks, she drags Amadeus out of their hometown, Lotsett, to help her on her quest.

Their father Saul, desperate to find his missing daughters, seeks out the help of Brooks, a man who disappeared decades ago but has returned to Lotsett for his own dubious reasons.

With only a magical sword and the questionable guidance from local spirits, the sisters must complete the tasks together. Family and enemies alike put pressure on the sisters’ friendship. When pushed to their limit, will they make the right choice?

TITLE: The Wolf & The Windlestraw
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AUTHORS (In order of date of completion, November 1-30): Chelsea Eckert, Lane Kareska, Kevin C. Hunt, Robert Perret, Anne Weisgerber, Diane Rosier Miles, Michael P. Adams, Kayla Dean, Ellen Davis Sullivan, Jennifer Met, Jocelyn Paige Kelly, Carrie Cook, Sarah Vernetti, Iskandar Haggarty, Michael T. Fournier, G. E. Schwartz, Cinthia Ritchie, Tim Duffy, Joseph Walters, Vanessa Christie, Arika, Anthony Frame, Janell Zimmerer, Sara Adams, Forrest Dylan Bryant, Jae Singer, Lisa E. Balvanz, Tim W. Day, Jason Sears, Eldo St. David.
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COVER ART: Frances Mann
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PAGES: 232
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FIRST LINE: It was the day that wild dogs, a whole family of them, would try to devour Ama’s older sister alive.
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QUOTABLE: Ama relished the air hissing as the sword moved through the unseen medium, but her fantasy was short-lived. She turned around and halted in her steps, splashing into the creek that had been behind her moments ago. A small gray cat peered from behind a tree trunk, its big hazel eyes drawing Ama closer. She dropped the windlestraw and crept over to the cat, extending her arms out to pet its ruffled, damp fur.
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SORT OF LIKE:

The Graveyard Book Half-Moon Investigations

(I had trouble finding any books that were similarly written (one author per chapter), so I guess The Wolf & The Windlestraw is in a league of its own!)

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Landline by Rainbow Rowell

After learning Rainbow Rowell was going to give a talk/signing at my local library (and that she’s going to be at NerdCon), I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon and start reading her books. I was not disappointed. I started with Fangirl, which is still my favorite. Even so, Landline is a solid novel–published in July of 2014 by St. Martin’s Press.

The narrative revolves around Georgie’s (possibly) failing marriage. She gets the break of a lifetime when a network wants to pick up the show she and her best friend Seth have been writing together since college. Unfortunately, they want episodes written in the next couple weeks, which span Christmas-time. While Georgie backs out on going to Nebraska with her husband and children, she also proceeds to fail to write anything while she is consumed with worry at the bumps that have come up in her relationship with her husband, Neal. More

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni is a 486 page book published in April 2013 by Harper. I would call it a magical realism story, but Goodreads suggests historical fiction and mythology, which also seem fitting.

The Golem and the Jinni CoverI’m also going to copy the Goodreads blurb about the two main characters, because it describes them so succinctly:

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The plot covers their travels across the ocean and their strange, hidden lives once they reach their destination–New York. The Golem lives in a Polish settlement of sorts, and is taken in by a rabbi who tries to teach her how to control her strange power of being able to “hear” peoples’ desires and the compulsion to help them. Meanwhile, the Jinni works with a tinsmith, using his natural gift of immense body heat (he is naturally a formless body of fire) to mend pots and pans. Both characters feel trapped in their current lives, and seek ways to release their energy.

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The Mortal Instruments (1-3) by Cassandra Clare

Amid the feasting and family fun over Thanksgiving break, I decided to relax on all the reading I’ve been doing of new books. I revisited The Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ‘review’ these books because who really wants to look deeply into something they, on the best of days, would call a guilty pleasure? I tried to be subjective about the characters, and realized they’re not realistic in a way that I might see them on the street or know them as my friends or even be them myself. However, that may be expected as this series  is magical realism at its best, where there are mundanes, boring humans like myself, and those who have the Sight.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)

In City of Bones, we are introduced to Simon and Clary, mundane friends who have rather normal lives. This all changes when one night in Clary’s favorite club, Pandemonium, she sees a strange boy with electric blue hair being followed by someone with a knife. While Simon cannot see these people, Clary can. This small event changes her life forever. When she comes home later that night, her mother is missing and a Ravener demon attacks her. This leads her to The Institute, where she meets Jace Wayland and Alec and Isabelle Lightwood, young shadowhunters.

This book sets up the others fantastically. You learn of the Downworlders: werewolves, vampires, faeries, and warlocks and the protectors of the human world: Shadowhunters. This is where Clary learns many things she’ll need to know in the coming books. If nothing else, you should check out this book to see if you will like the series.

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2)

Now, children of Downworlders, a faerie, warlock, and werewolf, were slaughtered and drained of blood. The Clave (Shadowhunter government) blames the vampires, but they swear it is not their doing. Clary, Jace, and Simon start to team up to protect the people they love.

This book feels a little more awkward, not in writing, but in plot. I can’t give away why, but I’ll just say it may be uncomfortable for some people who like traditional relationships… but then again, if you do, why are you reading these books? Overall, it is still a good read.

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)

There isn’t a lot I can say about this book without giving away major plot points in the first two books. I will mention that quite a few new (exciting) characters and a beautiful new setting are introduced. Before I knew there was going to be another three books in the series, I thought this book ended the series very well.

I would say I sighed from relief at the end of this story. It was very satisfying, and at this point I would say I don’t care if it’s unrealistic because I loved it. If you made it through the first two, this one breezes on through until the end. I can’t wait to read #4, City of Fallen Angels.