I read a book last month that I’ve been meaning to talk to you about. It is a great book. A super fun read!
A little under a year ago I stumbled across a completely wonderful member of the Twitterverse, an aspiring author with a heart of gold: @InkMuse, Rebecca Hamilton to those of you still refusing to reduce your thoughts to 140 characters or less. After a few mentions and one or two direct messages to each other, Ms. Hamilton excitedly offered to send me the first two chapters of her upcoming book to take a look at. I admit, though excited to read her work (I am always curious and up for reading new and virtually unknown writing), I took this with a dash of salt. An unpublished author querying a complete stranger via social media? I knew better than to get my hopes up. Of course, it would turn out that I was completely off base and that I would wind up in thrall and so, so eager for the actual book. It did take me a little longer than I would have liked to get a hold of the book, as I was holding out for an actual print copy that I could order from my local independent store – but when I had it I was hooked!
Hamilton’s The Forever Girl is an outstanding first offering from a promising new author, and just what the Urban Fantasy realm needed. In this coming-of-age tale we meet Sophia Parsons, a twenty-two year old Wiccan waitress with religious prejudice and a difficult family life looming overhead. As if that weren’t enough, Miss Parsons also suffers a mysterious and not-entirely-natural affliction. Then we meet Charles, a smouldering centuries-old shape-shifter with sharp tongue and rock-hard abs. Could Sophia’s life get any more challenging? Why yes, of course it could.
One of The Forever Girl‘s most striking attributes is the language found within it. Hamilton’s mastery of language, especially descriptive language, is nothing short of impressive. From the “wasping” sound of Sophia’s supernatural disability to the “dawn’s russet sky – a shepherd’s warning, some said” that Sophia awoke to on page ninety-one, Hamilton treats her readers to a bright, intelligent and altogether fun narrative. A personal favourite quote comes from Sophia’s love interest Charles as he discusses his long life with her (on page one-sixty-nine): “You must understand: immortality is not an escape from death. It’s an accumulation of loss.” Poignant.
Another huge boon is the story’s mythology. While The Forever Girl certainly contains shades of vampires and shifters, it is a story with a new perspective entirely. Hamilton took traditional myths and legends, popped them into the blender and hit purée. This new take on a somewhat tired subject is hugely refreshing and the addition of Hamilton’s title focus, the forever girl, helps to make this a can’t-put-it-down read.
Particularly endearing, an absence of glitter-free fanged creatures notwithstanding, is the care and respect Hamilton has taken in her creation of a Wiccan protagonist. Not Wiccan herself, Hamilton did a great deal of research to ensure the validity of Sophia’s spiritual voice. From all accounts – testimonies from Wiccan readers – Hamilton hit the nail on the head with the utmost consideration to the religion and its followers.
There are, however, two discernible downsides to this novel: Sophia and Mrs. Franklin. Hamilton’s protagonist is a phenomenal character; she’s intricately woven, dynamic, fun, challenging and unbelievably insecure. While a very common trait, especially in young women, hyper-insecurity in literature needs to stop. Hamilton did redeem Sophia by feeding her challenges to overcome that would help to build her waning self-confidence and gave her a cheering section that was not solely populated by dark, dangerous and lip-bitingly handsome Charles – that was lovely to read, as so often we are confronted by a strong, formidable woman who withers to a shade of her former self when not near her (supernatural) counterpart. Hamilton allowed Sophia some weak(-in-the-knees) moments, but was, for the most part, consistent in providing a fierce, independent, introspective role-model for her readers.
The Mrs. Franklin storyline also left me wanting more. This was a secondary plot, something extra to help build more depth to the new, supernatural world Sophia is discovering in The Forever Girl. It is also the point of antagonism I prefer and would have loved to read more into. This could easily have been a novel unto itself.
Fans of romantic Urban Fantasy will love The Forever Girl. It’s vibrant, it’s refreshingly different and our boy Charles is just too wonderful to pass up – you will develop a crush, there’s simply no avoiding it. Fans of good writing will love The Forever Girl. It is wonderful to see a book this well written in a genre that is beginning to become dishearteningly sloppy. With authors like Hamilton at the helm, there is hope yet!
Happy reading, ladies and gents!