Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Tarot Cafe: The Wild Hunt by Chandra Rooney

Last week I presented to you the first six volumes of “Tarot Café”, which is the basis for the novel “The Wild Hunt”. I’ve heard superb stories revolving about the novel and I wanted to read the manhwa as well so that my review might reflect both thoughts on the quality of the novel as work and as a tie-in novel based in this universe. “The Wild Hunt” is special in its own way and I can say that reading was drinking old wine, it’s sophisticated and gentle and at the same time it takes you over. But first, the blurb:
Based on the best-selling manga!…Bryn McMillan’s boyfriend, Jack, has gone missing. She has the nagging suspicion that something terrible–and otherworldly–has happened to him, a feeling that only increases when she has vivid visions of Jack being chased by a vicious hunter intent on owning Jack’s soul. Always one to consult psychics, Bryn finds herself at The Tarot Cafe seeking a way to aid Jack in his spiritual struggle. But when she discovers what has happened to him, Bryn finds herself with an impossible choice between a life without love or an eternity of pain by her soul mate’s side.
“The Wild Hunt” is a bit tricky to review now that I have read the manhwa series. One hand I find the prose Rooney employs lyrical and it put me in a dream-like state, from which I did not want to wake up. The story uses mythology as it center piece paranormal phenomenon aka the Wild Hunt, which has been ongoing since everybody can remember, borders on endless and once prey for the hunters one cannot escape. The themes discussed here are the choices we make, the consequences they come attached with and how these choices define us as individuals. Naturally love takes center stage as we have Bryn decide whether she would prefer reality, which offers a promising acting career, or whether she would sacrifice it all in the name of love. It’s exactly why she is consulting tarot readers and has come to Barbara. “The Wild Hunt” is not exactly a tie-in novel, but more of a pocket story spin-off that can be fitted with ease in between volumes. Because the series has been concluded, thus all major arcs and loose ends tied up, Rooney can’t play with details, information and anything else that might be of significance for the series, thus the series main characters become secondary. Which is a shame, because Barbara, Aaron and Belus are the heart of what made “Tarot Café” the influential series that it still remains. Although this way the readers feel more drawn to the secondary cast rather than the main characters, I think Rooney did a splendid job at handling herself in another person’s world and imagination. What complicates my task as reviewer here is that the aspects I fell in love with are also the ones that leave a bitter taste in my mouth. For instance the prose’s addictive. Rooney conjures apparitions in great detail and her word choices are elegant and beautiful, but at the same time this prose slows the reader’s pace down and the novel progresses in slow motion, which for the impatient might be a problem. I simply got irked a bit. I am also pro-love and its majestic presence in literature, but Bryn seems to be sacrificing her own life for a man, who didn’t feel like including her in his own life. It’s a given that he is an artist and from personal experience I know their out-of-touch behavior, but Bryn’s sacrifice leads to an unhappy ending, which is predictable. Both lovers are united, but bound to the call of the Wild Hunt. It’s poetic, but not totally unheard of. Yes, I’m a bit reserved about this, because I’m pro-endings that deny canons and having Bryn chose her career would have rocked my world and it would have been an ending, which would fit the manhwa’s spirit. Otherwise, was this a good book worth my time? Yes, I can say that this one book I am happy to have read, because it has touched me in all the good places as a reader without sounding pet peeve alarms. Do I recommend it? Yes and without hesitation. I also think that there will be more of Rooney to come. PS: "The Wild Hunt" features original illustrations provided by the original creator Sang-Sun Park, which appeal to my aesthetics and are marvellous examples of what skilled artists can create.


Charles Gramlich said...

A book based on a tarot card world. Wow. I've never heard of such before. Sounds kind of interesting but I have to wonder if such a world could be rich enough for a novel?

Harry Markov said...

It is actually based on the manhwa series I reviewed last week and they really set the world and I have to say that the tarot card reading is exquisite.