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READ Salamanders of the Silk Road 107 Æ Prester John is a legend He's a relic of medieval folklore a character from a series of garbled tales that span eras and continents like an epic game of telephone He inhabits a world stuffed full of Cyclopes and malevolent rivers rocs and gryphons and sciapods and salamandersNow he's an unemployed surreal estate aBama and raised on the concrete sprawl of South Jersey He has a master's degree in English from Auburn University where he met his future wife Kate at the college newspaper Smith lives in Clarksville TN where he works as an editor at The Tennessean This is his first novel. Going in I did not realize that this book fit the category of magical realism I was thrown off for a few chapters but settled in nicely as things began to unfold The details of the world are not laid out nice and neat in the beginning While this makes for a rough start for the reader it worked nicely keeping my interest through the whole book The story alternates between the present and the past of Prester John As the book progresses you discover details that were only mentioned in the beginning making it a sort of mystery for the reader It was very well written and the surreal elements of the book were described and integrated without becoming cheesy or overdone I don't normally read this genre and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it

DOWNLOAD è eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB Ä Christopher Smith

Prester John is a legend He's a relic of medieval folklore a character from a series of garbled tales that span eras and continents like an epic game of telephone He inhabits a world stuffed full of Cyclopes and malevolent rivers rocs and gryphons and sciapods and salaman. I struggled for uite a while as to how to review this book It is not uite like any book I have ever read the closest example I can think of being One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Máruez a book which I started to read for a local book club a few years back but in all honesty did not finish It was my first and this is now my second exposure to a subgenre genre of literature known as magical realism or magic realism and it is a not a type of literature I really seek out as though undeniably fantasy it is does not comfortably sit next to favorites of mine like say swords and sorcery fantasy or high epic fantasy and perhaps takes out of me as a reader than other types of fantasy Oh what is magical realism A uick check of sources online mostly Wikipedia states that it is a type of literature where there is a widespread acceptance of magic in a rational world a world that still can for instance have scientific principles and inventions along with say magical creatures Magical realism can have settings where the perception of the viewer can fundamentally alter the physical world I remember one section in this novel where a couple having an argument caused the rain to change color Novels of magical realism often as Wikipedia uoted the author Luis Leal once wrote work to seize the mystery that breathes behind things” which I take to mean not simply as “oh this world has gryphons and rocs” but to look at the magic and mystery that might exist behind say a wave or a constellation or the rain; are they intelligent and what makes them work A huge element of magical realism is not a strict adherence to Western rational scientific laws of nature for instance in this book water if left alone accumulates carbon and can then become sentient Though parts of the book felt very grounded with the main character working in an office and having to deal with a human resources department other parts were clearly fantastical in a way well beyond what the closest possible cousin that could exist to this book in my mind urban fantasy would feature Urban fantasy like the setting of this world is our world but introduces a few fantasy elements while keeping basic tenets of our world intact An urban fantasy novel would have say spells that could affect water but would still largely adhere to basic physical and chemical properties of water that exist in our world In this novel not even those elements need apply as water can be sentient This element – our world but where even the most fundamental principles of science are not necessarily true – was jarring for me and often kept me from uite settling into the book and I never knew uite what to make of it The “straightforward” fantasy elements of the book I did like and often liked a lot The titular salamanders were fascinating creatures that were sentient telepathic emphatic lived in fire and could actually breathe out flame They were an intriguing plot element and I have never read any other book that did anything with fantasy salamanders before Similar the sciapods were amazing creatures that were taken from medieval maps and bestiaries and given life in the book sciapods are basically giant humans – though not true giants as there are even large humanoids like the Cyclopes – that hop around on one giant foot rather than possessing and using two legs Turning away from the basic structural elements of the book’s setting to the plot and characters the book centered around the immortal Prester John and his mortal wife Mina There are alternating timelines one timeline featuring the early years of Prester as he discovered his immortality and invulnerability and their conseuences as well as the rise and eventual fall of his mighty Asian empire while the other timeline focused on Prester’s and Mina’s trip to Florida to basically die Prester is tired of life and Mina is dealing with a fantastic disease that variously will either cause her to melt away like ice or fade away into basically a weightless ghost both horrible fates In addition Prester’s most recent failed career as a surreal agent selling extradimensional real estate and the means to access such places and their if not failed then lackluster marriage The past plotline had magical elements a plenty though they seemed less jarring than what existed in the modern setting in my opinion Not only was there fewer truly surreal elements in my opinion sentient water color changing rain constellations that move but they seemed to fit in better than many of the surreal magical elements in the modern day setting sentient crabs running a city in Florida though if there was one state that would have such a thing it would definitely be Florida Though the older storyline didn’t uite start out as somber it became that way over time while the modern storyline pretty much almost always was Prester and Mina live a life that is not happy and where things are fading; their marriage she’s uite literally some magical elements of the world his career contrasted with the past storyline’s revelations of failed relationships and empires It’s definitely a somber book and dare I say depressing Nothing wrong with that and the book didn’t hide thatI was intrigued by the idea of exploring the ennui that could arise in an immortal something not done a lot in fantasy I didn’t expect to also get the character Mina and her predicament and for what could have been a shallow secondary character she was given a great deal of depth I am glad I read it Magical realism is not my cup of tea and still not a type of fiction I will seek out but the book was thought provoking and well written

Christopher Smith Ä 7 READ

Salamanders of the Silk RoadDersNow he's an unemployed surreal estate agent headed down to a mildew infested beach house off the coast of Florida where he can brood over his past and seek a way out of his endless existenceAbout the author Christopher Smith was born on the blood red clay of North Ala. Bummed about this one I really wanted to like it but couldn't outlast the blatant sexism Guys I'm not particularly thin skinned but this is the 21st century I'm over it I generally finish any book that really captures my attention flaws or no But sometimes a novel's pros don't outweigh its cons and I regrettably add it to the shelf of books I've given up on It's always a shame