When I reviewed Chalk on Amazon, I was short and to the point, without any spoilers. Or details, for that matter:
This book will not cure insomnia. It will in no way help you sleep. If you are in need of full, restful nights’ sleep, do not pick the book up after supper. If you require an early wake-up, interrupt your reading by 8 pm. 9 pm. 9:30.~ Review by Hugh Donnit, who looks suspiciously like myself.
4 am? You may as well put the coffee on now and finish it up before work. It’s that sort of book.
And this isn’t inaccurate. It is that sort of a book. Alas, it’s not terribly helpful as a review goes, either. But Mr. LaPoint being a faster and a more prolific writer (and blogger) than I am, he’s already threatening to release Chalk‘s sequel, so I decided that the review needed a bit more fleshing out to do his book justice.
The first thing I noticed was that he tells the story first-person, with a female narrator. (Okay, perhaps the second thing– the first thing I noticed, with the narrator, was that her house was gone, mailbox and all!) Now in my experience, however well anyone writes about other races or cultures than their own, one thing most writers fall flat with is writing the opposite sex from inside. Either men write butchy tomboys, or women write effete mamma’s-boys, even when they’re trying not to, and almost without fail. Raven Mistcreek isn’t butch, but she is a bit of a tomboy, almost by the necessities of her situation. LaPoint, thankfully, does not let the action linger long enough to climb far into the character’s head, and her Tomboy schoolgirl mode works.
Where some action writers geek out into gun-porn with the weapons specifications, LaPoint takes the opposite approach. Our heroine’s weapons– handgun, rocket launcher, rifle, chainsaw, or anything else, don’t have any specs or manufacturer, because they’re magical constructs she draws with– you guessed it– chalk. This power is presented in the first chapter– in fact, her chalk is all that’s left at the initial “crime scene” where here house has been stolen from. But the significance of the power itself is only slowly unfolded as the book goes on.
Despite his protestation of not being much of an Anime or Manga fan, the visuals and tropes Mr. LaPoint uses in Chalk would fit right in to an adventure anime: a super-powered schoolgirl, a katana-wielding (excuse me, Katana-wielding: that’s the sword’s name) Kitsune, a dreamy romantic knight-in-armor (it was almost disappointing that the author didn’t make more out of this romance!), surreal hellscape battlegrounds, tentacled abominations, tech-upgraded Horsemen-of-the-Apocalypse. Even a spectacular boss fight at the climax! What more could one ask for?
How about a rightly-earned Dragon Award nomination for Best Fantasy? Click here to go nominate it, then!
Read more of N.R. LaPoint’s writing at his blog, https://empyreanblade.wordpress.com.
The next book in the series already has a cover (which I shamelessly stole from his FaceBook page):