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Take a walk on the weird side

“The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac”

Sharma Shields

Getting stuck in traffic has a bright side – you get to read the bumper stickers on the other cars around you. I got a chuckle last week when I spotted one expressing the fine ambition to “Keep it Weird.”

We have plenty of Washington authors who know how to do just that. This week, let’s take a look at two who write fantasy mash-ups that include magic, monsters, hexes and quests.

Over in Spokane, author Sharma Shields situated “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac” in a forest that straddles the Washington-Idaho state line. When 9-year-old Eli Roebuck’s mother introduces her son to a large, hairy creature named Mr. Krantz and then runs off with same, it prompts Eli’s lifelong obsession with sasquatch tracking.

Even as he grows up, begins his career, gets married (twice) and becomes the father to two daughters, Eli‘s unrelenting quest for Bigfoot and the family he lost as a child impacts the family he is responsible for as an adult.

This tale grapples with the “demons” that haunt all of us – but in this case they are physically manifested. While Shields conceives her characters in many vibrant versions of wackadoodle, at core, unfortunately, some of them don’t seem to have much dimension.

Meanwhile, on the west side of the state, debut novelist Randy Henderson introduces a hero named Finn Gramaraye in “Finn Fancy Necromancy.”

At age 15, Finn was framed for the crime of necromancy, and while his spirit was sentenced to a 25-year exile, his body was temporarily inhabited by a changeling back home in Port Townsend.

Now that Finn has served his term and is returned to his body and his family, all he wants to do is eat pizza, watch Star Trek, learn what computer-related developments like “The Google” are all about, and get caught up on his love life. But almost immediately he is linked to a murder he didn’t commit, and he realizes that somebody still wants him out of the picture and is going to great lengths to make that happen.

As the member of an arcana family, Finn has some magical powers, which he draws upon in order to fend off the witches, gnomes, and – yes – sasquatches being sent by a mysterious, malevolent force.

As he caroms back and forth across Puget Sound to prove his innocence once and for all and find the villain who has been manipulating the forces of darkness, Finn also is aided by his semi-functional family as well as an old high school crush, a “mundy” (non-magical) neighbor and a fellow former exile.

This lively read is occasionally bogged down with cutesiness – words like “hurtiness” and “yayness” are over the top.

Still, I need to remind myself to lighten up when I fret that fantasy invests too much energy into the creation of extravagant worlds at the expense of the characters’ deeper drives and desires. Let’s be thankful for the folks out there who are keeping it weird.

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com

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