Blood and Masks (Neva Cora Book1) – A review and more – Part One

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
Ernest Hemingway

First things first; buy the book on Kindle by following this link.

I bought this book by Alex Ziebart when Wow Insider was in transition to Blizzard Watch. Like thousands and thousands of the WoW community, we felt like the floor was gone and we were falling. Amid all of this, I bookmarked the twitters of the heavy-hitters from WI; Anne, Rossi and Alex. Several times Alex  wrote Buy My Book! I clicked the link and it was three bucks on Kindle and off I was to the reading races.

If I am biased due to the fine work by Alex Ziebart on Wow Insider and now Blizzard Watch it is only because he has already established himself as an insightful interesting writer.

There is a difference between a review and a critique. A review is a response to the piece, a description of what was seen and if the reviewer liked it. A critic does a very different thing, he takes the work and compares it to the state of the art. This critique will measure how the new work fits into the broader picture of the genre. Frankly, the creator of a new work wants a critique whether is it a song, book, ballet, performance art, painting or experimental.

The Critic does not have the final word by any means. I remember when American Ballet Theater made a new work in the 1980’s and the LA Times critic wrote a response. The NY Times disagreed and there started a Critic War. It was delicious!  Everyone loves that kind of clash, it is was makes the WWF stay on television.

I enjoyed Blood and Masks. The book moves quickly. We care about the main character that is set in a fantasy setting of elves, humans, mechanicals (so was hinted), magic, demons, fairies and ancient lore. It is also laced with fucking, fighting, blood, deceit and deception.

It is a good story and I’d recommend it to a friend. I read the entire Sookie Stackhouse series and while I enjoyed the stories, I also noticed that the writer got better at writing. It was obvious from book to book. I hope that the Neva Cora series does the same. Give us a world with unique universal rules, reveal to us the arc of it’s history and then plunk us right down into the middle of it with action, intrigue and mystery.

Go ahead and Buy This Book. It is only three dollars.

Now; on to the tough part. The critique.

Joseph Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949. We have culled from it what is called the Hero Saga which serves as the template for story-telling. His research (and he used the research of those before him) found the elements in the story of a hero that resonate with us, all humans of every race and culture.

The great stories in history like Hercules or Cinderella or the Jesus Christ story have stood the test of time because of these elements. The stories that did not have long faded. Today, we see the application of this template because it is well-known. If we are to be Script Doctors, we can layer this template and see where a story may be lacking.

Heavily distilled, the Hero Saga is as follows:

  • The Hero must leave home.
  • The Hero must find a mentor.
  • The mentor must leave.
  • The Hero has a band of followers
  • There is a betrayal within the band of followers.
  • The Hero must overcome the betrayal and slay the Monster.

In modern times, the ‘leaving home’ can simply be going to college or war. This template is used and should be the starting point of any story. Disney knows this well and uses it to great success. The Lion King is used in the classroom as an example of the Hero Saga.

George Lucas admits following the Hero Saga in Star Wars. The key is doing it well. Personally, I felt insulted by the transparency of Eragon; yet the success of the Saga carried the book . Point made.

This also explains why otherwise mediocre movies are shown over and over again on cable; they resonate with us! Let’s look at Miss Congeniality with Sandra Bullock.

  • Gracie must “leave home” to enter a beauty pageant as an undercover for the FBI
  • She picks up her mentor in Michael Caine immediately.
  • She collects her followers of FBI agents.
  • She is betrayed when they abandon her.
  • Her mentor is not allowed to be there anymore.
  • She wins the day
  • We feel good.

Legally Blonde, Frozen, the Shawshank Redemption, the list goes on and on. You can see the misses easily — in Mulan, the mentor never leaves . It is now weakened. Every writer today is well aware of the Hero Saga.

Secondly, we have the Mystery formula. Which I’ll get to in Part Two.


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