Friday, October 24, 2008

Hourglass -- reviewer Lee Pletzers

Hourglass
By David Lester Snell
PublishAmerica
Chapbook
51 pages
©2003

Review word count: 613


“You have until next orbrise to save your son...”

And so starts the journey of Ozzington (Ozzy, sometimes Oz) Noble and his quest to find the last surviving Hourglass tree. His son was stung by a Widow-Wasp, thought to be extinct. The only thing that can save his son is the golden sand from an Hourglass tree rubbed into the wound, also thought to be extinct.

To find a cure for his son, Oz visits the witch Zelda, she tells him of the existence of one last Hourglass tree. She doesn't know where it is, but if he does one thing for her, she will tell him who it is that knows.

Completing the task, she informs him that the Serpent Elder knows of the last tree and maybe he will divulge the location. Thing is, he doesn't like humans. Oz must agree to helping the serpent also, which he does, though he doesn't know why.

Through all these obstacles and challenges, through forests with trees that try to eat him and phantom trains; a plantation owner who hates him and is seeking revenge, to, Elfins that want him dead, and The Caliginous (a wonderfully designed creature), Oz charges on, seeking the hourglass tree and it's essence.

Each short chapter in this chapbook is another challenge, each one more demanding than the last. Oz's trek through the tunnel where The Caliginous await, is my favorite section in this book. The descriptions, imaginary is amazing, it felt like I was actually standing in the darkness, my feet in a puddle, watching and (especially) hearing the low growls, echo off the walls.

At first I wasn't sure what time-line the book is set in. I thought at first it could be somewhere in the middle ages, but then there was a mention of railway tracks, tunnels and trains. So, it appears that we are taken into a future, I would not wish to live in. The perils are many and the life style hard.

Oz is a complex character, at times, very manly and sure of his actions, knows to rest when he must, eat when he must and fears little. He is also a character plagued by nightmares involving the love of his life, Ambrosia. He carries her locket as a reminder of their love. His wife died during childbirth and Oz often calls on her for strength as he continues this quest for the hourglass tree.

The son, unfortunately is left as a two dimensional character, though in all fairness, he spends 95% of the book locked in a high fever and unconscious, but I felt that a little bit more could have been added to the character to add a bit more 'life' to the boy.

Occasionally the book seems a bit jumpy as chapters suddenly stop and the next starts without any sense of flow, the entire book is one POV only and this, I think, is what's so hard to keep the flow in the beginning. This is the first book I have read that is a single POV from start to finish and told in third person style.

Apart from the few jumps at the start, the book quickly finds it's pace, and settles into a great little story. Can't help but think that if it was fleshed out a tad bit more, it would make a great novella.

Hourglass sits on my shelf with the few other chapbooks I own and have read. The book will take you away from the trials of everyday life, like all good stories are supposed to do.

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