So addicted am I to embroidery that I like to read fiction that engages with embroidery and embroiderers. I am partial to 'cosy' crime fiction, a whole genre of which involves embroiderers and knitters. So when Inspirations Magazine a few months ago carried an advertisement for two fantasy novels with titles of The Stumpwork Robe and The Last Stitch my fingers went immediately to www.thebookdepository.co.uk and ordered them both.
They are also available from Amazon.com, with, of course, an excellent exchange rate for Australia at the moment.
Both books are also now available as ebooks for the Kindle, which is how I would buy them if I saw them now.
The two novels are in sequence and very much a continuing story. Set in the world of Eirie, a European-style land where magical figures drawn from Irish, Scandinavian, Balkan, Breton and English mythology keep their own ways, often running counter to human law and morality. Adelina the traveller is an embroiderer, making her living by selling her embroidery, her services as an embroiderer and the threads she trades as she travels throughout Eirie.
This is a dark, powerful page-turner. It takes seriously the traditions around faerie in European cultures.It is closer to the Brothers Grimm and Raymond Briggs than Walt Disney. It deals in tragedy and any victory is hard won and costly.
I found I needed to know the storyline in order to deal with the narrative. I skimmed ahead - right through the two books - to get a sense of security and destination before I could deal with the suspense and tragedy. Once I had the direction clear I settled down to enjoy Prue Batten's polished prose. She writes clearly; her rhythm and flow carrying the reader on.
She experiments with an alternation of first and third person narrative to allow Adelina to 'speak to camera'. I found the device a bit distracting from the narrative - but I am a tell-me-what-happened-next-reader.
My other niggle is the glossary which is a useful tool for this book but there are other terms that could have been included and alphabetical ordering would have been helpful.
http://mesmered.wordpress.com/) to publish work in progress, exposing herself to reader response, a community of writers and scrutiny of her writing as part of the process. It is really interesting to observe the process of publication adapting to new possibilities.
The Stumpwork Robe concept of documents concealed within stumpwork embroidery has led to a partnership with Pat Sweet, a miniature book artist whose work can be seen and purchased at http://www.bopressminiaturebooks.com/.
I dips me lid to Prue Batten. It takes intellect, integrity and guts to experiment with electronic publishing and social media through a novel grounded in European mythology, and, through an embroidering heroine, explore what it means to be human, .