Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review/Interview: The Weeping Empress by Sadie Forsythe

I was given an opportunity to read and review The Weeping Empress by Sadie Forsythe. What an amazing unique story. I will tell you all that i fell in love with this book by the end of it, but let me give you an idea of what the story is about.

The story is of a woman named Chiyo. At the very beginning of the story she is thrown into battle with two samurai against the emporer's goons. It is not her time or place. She went to bed a modern day Japanese woman, married with a daughter, only to wake up in what appears to be feudal Japan centuries ago.

The two samurai are Muhjah and Senka, highly trained samurai who live to disrupt the emperor and all the nyims who follow him. Chiyo joins them and is trained by them. As they create problems for the emperor in the name of bloodlust and rebellion, Chiyo is rumored to be sent by the Goddess Kali herself to save them and lead them into the future. Will she accept this new life and prophecy?

For me this book read just like an anime cartoon, and more specifically, a Manga from the 1990s. The way Forsythe describes battle scenes and how the plot unfolds is dead on for that kind of genre. I admit to having a great love for dark anime, especially Manga. Even better than that though, was the fact that the dialogue is in the authors own words. I don't know the japanese language at all, but i do know that most dialogues in anime cartoons are awful because of dubbing into an English translation. There is nothing cheesy about Forsythe's dialogue in this book and it makes it even better.

Although there are no crazy super-like powers that the characters in the story possess (at least not as exaggerated as one would find in an actual anime), there are some things that go beyond the sense of reality. In my opinion its good to have this aspect muted somewhat in a novel. But just like many animes do, Forsythe really takes a look at the nature of humans in general as a society. One chapter in particular dwells on this and it is done beautifully. Most action movies never get too focused on such things and its a shame. However, many animes do, and this book falls right in line with it. Its great to see because it makes the story multi-dimensoional. For all the action and mayhem there are still things to get philosophical on.

There were some minor editing/grammar issues along the way in the story. They were minimal though, and i attribute a lot of such mistakes to a lack of good editing. Its tough when you're an indie publisher, so seeing this occur as far and few between as it was isn't bad, and didn't really distract me from my enjoyment of this story. 

Finally, the Alfred Hitchcock style ending was the perfect finishing touch to the story. It  took me to a place I did nit expect to go, but once I was there it fit as though anything different would have been a disappointment.

All in all, I feel it is my duty to give this book a high rating. I am absolutely head over heels for this, knowing I will reread this at least a few more times in the future. If not for the minor editing mistakes, this book would be 5 full stars. Since lack of editing was present, I have to give The Weeping Empress by Sadie Forsythe 4.5 stars. Thank you for an incredible read!

Sadie has also agreed to guest post on The Fraser File, and I gave her an open format. I have no idea what she will have to say, but I'm sure it will be good. In the meantime, she allowed me to ask her some questions. Here's that interview now;
RM: First off, tell the readers a little about yourself.
Forsythe: I was born in rural Tennessee, but was lucky enough to move throughout the U.S. while growing up. I learned early that just because you come from the same place doesn’t mean you’ll be the same kind of person, a lesson that sparked my life-long love of human cultures. Seeing the ways of different peoples is a personal passion that led me to study Anthropology at university and to eventually cross the Atlantic. I currently live just North of Manchester, England and am loving some of the interesting British quirks. I never tire of seeing a burley man ask for a choci bici (chocolate biscuit/cookie) with his tea, for example.
I’ve always been a voracious reader. When you’re constantly the new kid at school it’s imperative you’re able to amuse yourself between friends. I, honestly, think this is why I write now. All my time in school taught me the nuts and bolts of putting nouns, verbs and adverbs together in the proper order, but the thousands of books I’ve read (good, bad and otherwise) taught me how to instinctively feel when something is right or not. The Weeping Empress is my first contribution to the literary world and while it's been nerve wracking, it's also been a lot of fun.

RM: How did you come up with this story?
Forsythe: Don’t laugh, after a night of watching Inuyasha I sarcastically asked, “Why don’t any of these girls who get swept off to save the universe ever mind?” As I went about my business over the next few days I expanded on the questions. “What if she had something she didn’t want to loose, a family maybe?” Then I started imagining how she might react, who she might meet, etc. It was just a laugh, a dark parody of the common Shougo plotline. Eventually, however, it developed a life of its own and I started jotting scenes down.
RM: I thoroughly enjoyed The Weeping Empress. I felt as though I was watching a Japanese Anime without the need for the English dubbing, which usually cheeses the dialogue significantly. Are you and anime fan, and was this something you were going for?
Forsythe: I am definitely an anime fan. I discovered it late, however. I didn’t start watching it until I was in my late 20s. At the time I was working a high stress and decidedly depressing job. Coming home and watching some ridiculous comedy anime was my way of relaxing. My life has lightened up and I don’t need the comedy anymore. Which is good because what I really love are the ones exploring the darker side of man. Recently I’ve moved from anime to manga. I find I can read a series a lot faster than watching it.
I definitely had the manga/anime fan in mind as a potential reader when I wrote The Weeping Empress. Authors are always told to write what they know and that’s what I did. I wrote a book with a similar feel to the stories I like the most, for readers I thought would like the same things as me. It’s really just that simple.
RM: In one of the chapters there is a focus on the human condition. It says that societies do not think about the future. That we are very short-sighted to just what is in front of us. I feel it's safe to say we can see signs of that everywhere in our current world. What brought that philosophical notion into the story, and do you yourself believe that we are doomed to repeat this indefinitely as a society?
Forsythe: Though it isn’t extensively expounded on in the book, that concept is implicitly important to the story. If people weren’t the way they are Kali wouldn’t need to take the corrective action she does. I don’t think we’re doomed to make the same mistakes forever though. Unfortunately, I do think that things will get a lot worse before they get better. It will take a shock to the social system to force people to recognize the errors of their ways. In the mean time I, as a member of society and therefore part of the whole, keep trying to do my part to think long-term and consider the ripple effect of my own actions.
RM: I love how dark this story was, especially the Alfred Hitchcock style ending that you wrote in. We never did learn much about Chiyo's original life besides some basics, but you did an exquisite job in emphasizing its importance to Chiyo's character. Was there ever a plan to get more in depth about this particular aspect?
Forsythe: I purposely didn’t expand on Chiyo’s previous life so that it would feel cut off and lost to the reader, just like Chiyo. But the sequel (which I really need to name) will be largely from Michael’s point of view and will give a lot more insight into their life together. It will also address how the events of The Weeping Empress happened.
RM: What other books have you written or are in the works right now?
Forsythe: The Weeping Empress is my first novel and its birth was quite organic. I didn’t even plan to write a book initially. So there aren’t any previous books, but I’m working on the sequel to it. I’m also kicking an old school (not sparkly) vampire story around that I might develop at some point.

RM: Where can people purchase a copy of The Weeping Empress?
Forsythe: All the normal places, Amazon and Barnes & Nobles carry it of course. But if you were interested in supporting a small local business you might consider buying from John at Back to the Books (see, small ripple effects).
Forsythe: Before I sign off I want to take a moment to say thank you for having me. I've enjoyed the questions and even learned a thing or two about a new (to me) culture. Few things make me happier.

I really want to thank Sadie Forsythe for this interview and for the pleasure of reading The Weeping Empress. It can also be found for purchase at Smashwords.com for $1.50. That's a great deal! Here is the link;

Sadie can also be found at the following links for Facebook and Twitter;

I also want to say thank you to Sadie for her comment about learning something of Deaf Culture on this blog. Often times I wonder who is really reading my posts and I was touched to find that not only did she read it, it also had some meaning for her as well.
The next post on The Fraser File will be my first ever guest blogger, Sadie Forsythe herself. I'm pretty excited for it. I gave her an open format, so you'll have to see what she has to say. Her blog will be posted this Thursday, August 2nd. Look for it in the late evening hours of the Eastern Time Zone. 
Until next time,
 R. M.