Review of Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder

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Rating: 4.5

Keeper Teeka left his home at the Emerald Keep for his first Contract with Senior Hunter Brandt out in the deserts of their world Persis. Disaster hits only two months into his Contract when Hunter Brandt is killed on his Claim, leaving Teeka without a Contract far from his family and Keep.  When Teeka decides to Claim the find for himself and Brandt’s heir, he is surprised to find Brandt’s heir is none other than Senior Hunter Quill, a scarred, enigmatic Hunter who keeps to himself.  Quill offers to protect Teeka and together they decide to work the mine Teeka found to both honor Brandt’s memory and to register the Claim for themselves.

The head of the Hunters Guild gives Quill and Teeka  one month times to work the mlne.  If they don’t finish the lode, another Hunter may claim it and all their hard work will be for nothing.  As Hunter Quill mines the Claim, Teeka keeps for him, cooking, cleaning and making sure all of their equipments runs smoothly. Teeka also learns the process of mining the gems while their attraction to each other grows daily.  But a Keeper without a Contract must keep themselves chaste and their reputation clear of all gossip and their situation is not making that easy.

When Brandt’s death turns out to be murder instead of an accident, Quill and Teeka’s suspicions are raised, even about each other. And when others falls sick and Quill and Teeka come under attack, they must decide to trust each other and stand together or lose everything, even their chance at love.

Emerald Fire is a richly layered novel by two authors previously unknown to me.  Noon and Wilder have pulled together elements from cultures around the world as well as fabricated many of their own to build a gorgeously textured world called Persis.  They have left nothing out in their world building, from geology to biology with various habitats each with its own unique flora and fauna. Their vivid descriptions of Persis’ differing cultures  come complete with separate  the peoples beliefs, separate religions, government officials, laws, clothing, food, education, and transportation, I mean everything!  One of my favorite creations of theirs is a truffle.  A furred desert animal, it has a trunk, two sets of eyelids, short trunk like legs and an endearing personality.  I kept picturing a cross between a miniature elephant and a dog (the mind boggles).  I want one, perhaps two, just like Snuffles and Sniffles in the story.  And the cooking!  We get an intimate glimpse into Teeka’s meals including a roast he made of a sandcat (including his butchering technique), supplemented with roasted onions, moss bulbs, spices and a sauce.  And Teeka’s deserts including his famous lavender berries cake had my mouth watering.  They came up  with spices and cooking methods and complete menus – just amazing.

With some stories, an excess of minutiae works against the plot, swamping it with too much information.  Here the opposite is true, the details are seamlessly blended into the narrative, so like the spices in a dish, the details add depth and flavor to the story being created.  We learn how the tents work to exclude the heat of the two suns, the gloves and clothing worn to insulate the people, their inside garb, even the “necessities”, usually shared by a group of tents, where all shower and relieve themselves.  We get to wander into the market place to buy teas and vegetables or watch Teeka knitting socks or rugs from threads made of all types of matter, animal and vegetable much like here.  Each elements serving to wet our interest in life as it is lived on Persis.  I cannot congratulate the authors enough on the outstanding job they have done here.  Just remarkable.

Noon and Wilder build their characters the same way they built their world, with attention to detail and dimension.  No character is truly known from the start, not to the reader,not to each other.  Emerald Keeper Teeka starts off young, earnest, sure of his talents as a Keeper but he is only two months into his  first Contract and feels every bit the novice coming from a sheltered background.  He delights in each new sensation and experience and is devastated by Brandt’s death.  I had so many questions at the beginning.  What is a Keeper?  What is the training they keep referring to?  What is a Contract? Part of the joy of this story is that the answers are unveiled in small increments as the story unfolds. The character of Senior Hunter Quill is built in conjunction with that of Teeka, both characters fleshing out and becoming real the more we get to know them and their backstory (as told to each other).  Their secondary and side characters all equally authentic, all equally detailed.

I again wavered between a 4.5 and 5 rating with this story.  But a few things kept it from perfection with me.  Actually, that would be one thing,  the ending. Teeka’s future seemed headed in the right direction, as is the relationship between two main characters I have come to love.  But there was still so much more to be settled. I can’t give specifics here as I don’t want to spoil this wonderful book for anyone, I just felt that there was just a few too many loose ends left not tucked in to the beautiful tapestry they wove for us. Teeka would never have left one of his knitting projects in such a state nor did I expect it given all that went before in the story.  I hope both authors can be persuaded to continue Teeka and Quill’s saga.  They have made a great world and I, for one, am ready for more journeys there.

Cover:  Cover art by Alessio Brio, an artist I am also not familiar with.  Here she takes the colors I usually don’t like in a cover and uses them to create a stunning cover redolent of the heat beating down on the desert dunes.  Outstanding job.  Conveys the location of the story and the authors names are clear and easy to read.

The Week Ahead and A Must Recipe – Tarragon Chicken

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Happy Father’s Day all.  It’s a beautiful day here in Maryland, and all is well.  Except for third best dog, Kirby.  Kirby is our Soft Coated Wheaton and a rescue.  A total joy and all around dim bulb who we love dearly.  But he is like a small boy, boundless energy and everything goes into his mouth, regardless of what it is.  So he got into something a couple of days ago and has a upset stomach for his efforts.  This is a typical day with Kirby. It starts either inside or outside.

Kirby comes up to me and sits, wagging his tail, waiting for me to notice him. (uh, right big dog with a Wilfred Brimley face at my elbow)

Me:  Kirby, whatcha doing?

Kirby:  Grins and shows me mouth full of crap (5 socks, robe, pillow case, 3 stuffed toys, who knows)

Me:  Oh, Kirby. (sigh).  OK, let me have it.

Kirby: Runs to top of hill, staircase, sits and grins with mouth full of crap.

Me:  Kirby, get your butt down here.

Kirby:  Grins, wags tail.

Me:  Kirbyyyyyyyyyyy!   Get up, goes to top of hill or staircase, at which point Kirby runs past me to stand at the bottom.

Kirby:  Sits and grins with mouth full of crap.

Repeat sequence until I finally empty his mouth.  Which he promptly fills up again. And when his mouth is empty, he is talking up a storm.  He  wants me to know that kids are on their bikes in front of the house, the UPS man has just driven down the street, you name it.  He is the house’s Town Cryer.  Siamese cats have nothing on him.  I wish I could do an audio recording of Kirby.  I would post it here, trust me you would be amazed.

So while I have a few moments this morning before we start our ritual, here is our review schedule for next week:

Monday:                                   Concord Grape: Unexpected by TC Blue

Tuesday:                                    Stone Rose (Lost Gods #3) by Megan Derr

Wednesday:                             Smooth Like Latte by Rawiya

Thursday:                                 Second Time Lucky by Ethan Day

Friday:                                      Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder

Saturday:                                  Reviewers Surprise

 

After all that great reading, you will need some sustenance.  I just made this for the first time and it was wonderful.  I used chicken thighs which I lightly seasoned and put into a 420 oven for 15 mins.  Then I crisped the skin in the pan and put the chicken pieces aside.  Then start the recipe from there.  You will love it.  Pair it with the dry white wine you cooked with and a lovely light salad and you have a great summer meal. Enjoy!

Tarragon Chicken

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chicken (about 3 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup  dry white wine
1 shallot, minced
1 cup   creme fraiche
1/2 cup chopped fresh tarragon
Lemon juice

Directions:

Melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet over quite high heat. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and fry in batches until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Put all the chicken back in the pan, add the chicken stock and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Reduce any leftover juices until sticky. Add the wine and the shallots and reduce to a thickish sauce, about 5 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and half the tarragon. Boil down again to sauce consistency, 3 to 5 minutes.

Season the sauce with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Put back the chicken pieces, turning to coat, then transfer to a platter. Pour the sauce over, scatter over the remaining tarragon and serve.