I had the privilege of reading a pre-release copy of Devon Winterson’s debut novel, The Perfect Player, which is due out on November 11, 2013—or, as I’m sure Devon would say, “On the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour.” Devon is a moderator at Writer’s Beat, an online community for writers, and her often hilarious and witty anecdotes and gracious interviews of indie authors can be found at her blog, The Ether of My Imagination.
"A forbidden tryst exposes a threat and sets a secret plan in motion, and twenty-year-old Marisa of Mynae discovers her life is all a lie. But even as a cryptic journal reveals her true purpose and a trail of hoofprints leads her to a demon renegade, Marisa balks at fate’s course until evil devours her people and imperils her father’s life. Only then does she learn what it takes to play–and win–a deadly game of predator versus prey."
Gems for Writers:
Backstory. The Perfect Player involves a big world with a deep past. This world’s history and the backstory of the side characters are integral to the plot that unfolds—more so than in many books I’ve read. It’s easy for beginning writers to dump all the backstory in one painful, boring lump, but Devon deftly weaves this complex past into the narration so that I never felt overwhelmed by tedious info dumps or glassy-eyed with dull information. On occasion, I was even hoping for more revelation of past events to help fill in the picture. If getting bogged down in backstory or world descriptions keeps you from finishing a fantasy novel, you won’t have to worry about it in The Perfect Player. In fact, I’m eagerly waiting for the release of the rest of the series, hoping the whole picture will come into full focus.
Deus Ex Machina Done Well? Another pitfall beginning writers often fall into is having a side character or a higher being swoop in to save the day or provide important information when the main characters have backed themselves into corners. The Perfect Player flirts with this, yet it works.
The forces of evil that young Marisa finds herself up against are too vast for her to fight alone. A voice lures her to the answers, prods her into action, and provides forewarning of impending disaster—which often Marisa ignores. When her enemy flings her away in a rage, Marisa is sure she will fall to her death, but ghostly hands catch her and lend her speed to rejoin the battle. I might have rolled my eyes at Devon’s use of these convenient saves, but the help given by this higher power were some of my favorite parts of the book, and we learn that the spirits of her ancestors were beside Marisa, aiding her, all along. Small clues given throughout the story prevent Marisa’s convenient helpers from jumping headlong into the Deus Ex Machina role.
There were times when this story was so intense that I could not put down my Kindle. Devon’s characters soon spring off the page, full of flaws, complexity, hidden motives, and deep unfulfilled desires. One of the most rewarding elements, to me, was that none of these characters were safe, not even the heroes we came to love. Unexpected twists and sudden loss make The Perfect Player a page-turner. Who will survive until The End? You’ll want to add this debut novel to your to-read list and find out on November 11.
Until next time: read, write, live, love!
***The Perfect Player (2013), by Devon Winterson, is published by and copyright Imagination Ether Press. It is available in stores, online (see above), and from your local public library.
***Per FTC Regulations: I received a free Advance Reading Copy (ARC) from the author and was not compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise, for this review.