Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht: Read, Part 12

As we approach the end of Stina Leicht’s Of Blood and Honey, Liam has lost his only friend and sunk deep into a storm of murderous vengeance. He has little to nothing left, but not everyone has abandoned him.

To review or catch up on these reads, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, and Part 11.



Chapter 23

Liam comes to Elizabeth, Oran’s widow, with the terrible news of her husband’s death, but Elizabeth makes it very difficult for Liam to look out for her and the children as Oran wished. She hates Liam and wants him completely gone from their lives. But that doesn’t stop Liam from leaving money and food for them whenever he can, even if it means he starves.

In the months after shooting Oran, Liam hides in an abandoned building and bides his time until he can locate Haddock, the investigator behind much of Liam’s troubles, demand answers to Mary Kate’s murder, and kill him. The day Liam plans to show up at Haddock’s apartment, Father Murray appears and insists Liam must go with him. Members of his order have found Liam and are coming for him. Murray wants to hide Liam and keep him safe. In the course of their conversation, Murray sees the coin Liam picked up from Mary Kate’s murder, a shilling from the Tudor era, just like the one Murray researched for Bran. He insists Liam remain there while he look into it.

But Liam doesn’t remain there. He goes after Haddock. On the way, Father Dominick and Father Christopher from Murray’s order attack him. Liam leaves them maimed but alive. He can’t kill them, not priests.

He locates Haddock and persuades him to let him inside, but not before Haddock slaps handcuffs on him, thus preventing Liam from transforming as planned. Haddock prepares to torture Liam for information, but Liam manages to transform just enough to escape and go after him. Haddock flees in his car but leaves behind a transmitter to a car bomb he was building. Liam hesitates. There are children in the street. The monster takes over and presses the transmitter. The bomb goes off. Liam comes too in the midst of the wreckage and death. But a blond man he’s seen a number of times comes to his aid.

Reader Comments: I really hope Liam gains true control of the monster. At this rate, the thing will not only get him killed, it’ll take half of Belfast with it and poor Liam’s soul. Still, Haddock was a piece of work. I completely understand Liam killing him.

Writer Comments: I parted from my usual practice of summarizing a scene or small group of scenes in a single paragraph and giving comments right after for a specific reason. This whole chapter, which contains four scenes, revolves around a central theme I want to look at. Themes are important for a book. They give a story resonance and cohesion on a subtler level than plot and characters. They must, in fact, be subtle or come off as preachy and forced. This whole chapter is a microcosm for the book, illustrating better than any other chapter the themes as they relate to Liam’s inner journey.

Let’s begin with the title: Of Blood and Honey. Leicht’s title epitomizes the theme. The dark and gruesome balanced, or perhaps fighting with, the sweet and richness of life. Liam spends the vast majority of this book teetering back and forth on a wire. On one side whirls a storm of destruction, murder, and blood. He indulges in this side more and more as the book progresses. On the other side sits one small bit of light that contains all the goodness his mother and Father Murray fought to instill in him: his judgment, morality, kindness, honesty, and love, the sweet parts. Unfortunately, the more Liam indulges in that storm of destruction, the more the light on the other side dims.

Yet this chapter demonstrates that it still remains. For all the lives Liam has taken, for all his mistakes, he still cares about others. When Father Murray comes, Liam doesn’t forgive him, but the priest’s presence gives Liam peace. For all the times Liam has killed out of self-defense and vengeance, he cannot bring himself to kill the priests who attack him. For all the monster detonates the car bomb, Liam tries to stop it for the children in the street. Deep down, hidden under layer upon layer of anguish, fear, abuse, and the power of the monster inside him, Liam is really a kindhearted Catholic boy who just wants a quiet life with the woman he loves but can no longer have. The real question at this point in the book is which side of him will triumph before he destroys himself.

Chapter 24

Bran and his brother take Liam in and try to heal him from the terrible injuries the car bomb inflicted, but Liam won’t heal. He finds himself at his grandmothers, in her best guest room, a place she’d never let him inhabit before. He’s better but still in a great amount of pain. Father Murray pays him a visit and confesses the wrongs he’s done in his order in the quest to protect humanity. He hopes someday he can persuade the church that more exists out there than what’s listed in the Bible, but hope is small. He’s been praying for someone to help him, and he believes Liam is that person. Together, they might make a difference. He offers Liam the chance, but Liam only agrees to think about it.

Reader Comments: Ah, and the structure of the series falls into place. I’m glad Liam’s at least talking to Murray now. He needs him at least as much as Murray needs Liam.
Writer Comments: The call. That’s what this chapter is. If you look at Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, what Father Murray offers Liam here is the call to adventure. Naturally, Liam does not jump at the chance to accept, and naturally, the “adventure” will be a dark and difficult one. It must for the sake of a compelling story and because it is Leicht’s style.

But there’s another aspect of this I want to point out. Of Blood and Honey is not a standalone book. It is the first in a series. Ideally, a series should contain its own plot and journey. Each book must be a fully contained story with inciting incident, turning points, conflict, and a climax. Simultaneously, each book must form a part of that same structure for a series. Applying a solid structure on the individual book and the series takes a lot of careful balancing and forethought. It is why writing a series takes a certain amount of skill.

Thank you for joining me for today’s chapters of Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht. Next week is our second to last section of this book. Until then, join me Wednesday and Friday for further forays into books, fiction, the speculative, and life.

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