Thursday, 12 March 2015

Blog Tour: Review + Q&A A Whisper of Wolves by Kris Humphrey (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E, semi-short 'n' sweet review)

The white feather is cool & a vital plot element
  2nd March 2015, Stripes Publishing, 224 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Content: lots of danger, tissues needed

Summary from Amazon (Had issues accessing Little Tiger Press website when I scheduled this post)
 When a raven drops a white feather at the doorstep on the day of your birth, it is a symbol of your destiny. You are a Whisperer - a guardian of the wild. Many years have passed since the people of Meridina last knew war, but a shadow has settled over the kingdom. When Alice and her companion, Storm, sense a demonic presence in the forests, they send for help. But they're running out of time. With the entire balance of the natural world at stake, will Alice and Storm have to face the demons alone?

Nayu's thoughts
I'd expected this to be a longer book, and to have a more positive outlook, but nevertheless I clicked with it and devoured it in one sitting. I love the strength of girl power which positively sings through story. Minus the darker parts which I really didn't like (needing tissues never bothers me, it's the heartache and scare factor which can be tough to deal with), this book could have been written for me. It belongs to the category of books which are almost beyond cool because they are that good. I was continually wowed by how awful events turned out for Alice, it was like anything she was meant to do was permanently set to become a disaster. 

Alice feels like an ordinary name for such an extraordinary girl. Although being a Whisperer meant she was isolated in the community, I thought what Alice had to do was vital to protect everyone, even when she didn't quite know how to protect herself. The wolf aspect made me a fangirl of Alice. They are magnificent creatures and for her to be so close to them and have, I can't say what I was going to without spoiling the story. Let's just say they are important, although that should be obvious given the title. 

When the tragedies piled up, I was both fuming mad and gloriously pleased with Kris for being so cruel to Alice, for forcing her to grow as a character at a time when she wanted & perhaps needed to be comforted and given a break. There is so much packed into this fairly short read that it feels really long, and I'm looking forward to book 2 ever so much!

Question and Answer session with Kris

Nayu here! After loving this book so much it was a real treat being able to grill Kris with my questions - I hope you enjoy the answers as much as I have! Thank you Kris for answering my questions, and for writing what is an awesome series!

Nayu Q1) This has probably been asked a lot but what’s behind the idea of the white feather being a symbol of who Alice is? 

Kris A1) The white feather is a symbol for all of the Whisperers. First of all, it’s a way of showing the world that a new-born Whisperer has been chosen, that they’ve been given a special connection to the earth and to all animals. It also conveys a sense that the Whisperers are being watched over by the ravens, just as the Whisperers watch over the rest of the natural world in their role as guardians of the wild. It may seem strange that the feather is white when ravens have black feathers, but this strangeness is a reflection of how the Whisperers and their companions are different - they’re born with abilities that don’t usually exist in nature.

Nayu Q2) Storm is the ultimate sidekick! I was not a happy bunny when Alice was separated from Storm. What made you made pick a wolf for Storm’s form? Why not something smaller, or a type of cat, or something bigger? 

Kris A2) There are so many great animals to choose from, and I’m a big fan of big cats, too; I think they’d make great companions. The idea for Alice’s companion being a wolf actually came from my editor, but right away I knew it was the perfect choice. They’re elusive and beautiful, and a bit frightening, too. The fairy tales we’re told as children are full of them. Wolves are such a powerful symbols of wildness, and that’s what the series is all about.

Nayu Q3) There is heaps of drama packed into this quite short read, lots of tension, as well as several moments needing tissues. I cared for Alice so much that I couldn’t stop reading, even though it was a bit of a dark read for me. Did you ever consider combining the other books into book 1 making it a longer read? Did you consciously keep hope at the heart of the story? That’s what kept me going, especially when Alice suffered great loss.  

Kris A3) A sense of hope was absolutely vital to the story, and it was something I tried to keep burning in the background even when things seemed impossible for Alice. There’s a lot of action packed into A Whisper of Wolves, but it was never really an option to merge the next book with this one. Often, small is beautiful, and a shorter book can be more inviting, especially to a reluctant reader. I promise you won’t have to wait too long for the next book, though! 
I’m glad you enjoyed the tension and had to get your tissues out! I like to put my characters – and my readers – through some serious drama. My favourite books are the ones where you have to take a deep breath after the really intense chapters. 

Nayu Q4) I had preconceptions about what Princess Ona would be like, and was pretty wrong. I love her spunk! She is definitely on a level of coolness with Alice. Are you able to say whether there’ll be lots more appearances of her in book 2? 

Kris A4) I’m glad you like her! Having been pampered her whole life, the princess has a completely different starting point to all the other characters in the series, and I think that makes her really interesting. She and Dawn are opposites, one has responsibility thrust upon her and the other has been shielded from it completely. I’m not spoiling any surprises if I let you know that Princess Ona has a key part to play in the next book – and beyond!

Nayu: Whoohoo! Thrilled to hear that!

Nayu Q5) What’s your favourite place to write? Is there any particular music/drink/food you like to have while you write? Does anything specific help get you into the writing zone? 

Kris A5) I have a small writing desk in my hallway at home. The computer I use is a real dinosaur – about twelve years old, I think – and it can’t connect to the internet, which is essential for avoiding distractions. A cup of tea and a jar full of bourbon biscuits is my usual writing fuel, especially in the afternoon when my mind tends to go to sleep. The only time I listen to music when I write is if I’m getting ideas down. If I’m editing or writing chapters I can’t handle music – I end up singing along and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t sing and write at the same time. In terms of getting into the writing zone, I find doing something really boring helps, like housework or going to the supermarket. By the time I’ve finished with the chores I’m usually super-keen to get on with something a little more interesting.

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