Urban fantasy is my favorite sub-genre. I love the idea that something magical and extraordinary might be just on the other side of an alley wall or just around a corner. But since urban fantasy has come to encompass the plethora of vampire and werewolf novels that take place within a city, the kind of story that I enjoy doesn’t come along as often. So, I’m quite happy with David Bridger’s Quarter Square, a novella that hops back and forth between our world and one just beyond the next doorway.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“English carpenter Joe Walker thinks his life is over when he discovers his wife and best friend having an affair. Restoring an abandoned theatre offers little hope for a fresh start…until he follows a group of strangers through a hidden door into a world he never could have imagined.
In the haven known as Quarter Square, Joe encounters a community of supernatural street performers who straddle the mortal world and the magic realm known as the Wild. Here, Joe finds a sense of belonging he’s never known before—and a chance to uncover the truth behind the frightening visions that have haunted him since childhood. He also meets Min, an enchanting singer who quickly captures his heart.
But as Joe settles into Quarter Square, he learns their haven is under attack, while an ancient enemy threatens to tear him and Min apart. Now, Joe must learn to wield his own powers in order to save the life he’s come to love…”
As I read this, I was put in mind of an urban fantasy version of Mercedes Lackey’s Bardic Voices series. There’s quite a bit of music and magic and performance woven throughout this story, and it makes for an engaging backdrop. I happen to think that artistic performance is an underrated way to convey the use of magic in fiction, and I’m always pleased to see it crop up.
The characters, despite the shorter length of the narrative, are fairly well drawn. Watching Joe work through his anger and despair at the breakdown of his marriage is poignant and realistic. Min is a bit more mysterious–although readers do learn about her, she wasn’t quite as fully realized as Joe. The various people who populate the background are obviously not given as much time as Joe and Min, but nonetheless they flesh out the tale quite nicely without the need for tons of exposition.
My only complaint about this tale is the pacing. Bridger has a really good story here, but his manner of telling it seemed uneven. Readers barely get to spend time in Quarter Square before Joe and Min are off somewhere else, and they spend a good chunk of the story in that other place. I think the story would have flowed more smoothly if more time had been given to Quarter Square (strengthening the urban fantasy setting) and less time was spent away from it.
Even so, I enjoyed Quarter Square and was sorry to see it end. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Bridger’s next foray into this world, because it’s one that I would love to revisit.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on August 29, 2011.