BOOK || Outsider by Klaire de Lys

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

If you've been following my Favourites posts for the past couple of months, you will have seen the name Klaire de Lys a couple of times. I am absolutely in awe of this girl. Her makeup tutorials are incredible and her creativity knows no bounds whatsoever. I'm constantly being insipred by her tutorials to push myself and to not be so afraid of my creativity and thinking that it's wrong. When I found out that she had two books released, I was instantly intrigued. I watched her videos and read her blog posts about her Outsider book series. She would draw how several of the characters looked in her head and filmed how she created the cover artwork. She did that herself! There was no outside presence involved. I really respected that and was truly impressed as a self-taught graphics nut. Once I was paid in August, those books were mine. 

When these books arrived, I set aside the book that I had just begun to read as soon as the doorbell rang on that Monday morning and I opened the box with these gems inside.

When I first opened Outsider, I didn't know what to expect from Klaire's writing style. I didn't know what kind of narrative it would be, whether it was the first person or the third person. It's in the third person and the first chapter really sets the scene in the most fractured of ways. It's a mixture of present day moments with flashbacks strategically placed here and there. These flashbacks are clear-cut but the separation of the paragraphs. I grew to love this strategum employed by de Lys to separate moments between reality and fantasy. Most authors use italics to do this but I loved the paragraph separation technique It saved me from getting very confused. I'm easily confused when reading because my attention span has never been the greatest. This narrative had me from the word, "Go!".

I was immediately drawn into Astrid's, the lead character's, world of Ammasteinn. You feel immediately for her when as a young child she witnesses her parent's brutal murder just because they were Ammastein's Romeo and Juliet - fell in love with the wrong side (Romeo being a dwarf and Juliet being an Elf). You just know that this is going to be a defining moment in Astrid's life as it sets everything into motion and she takes you along on the journey that follows. You follow her as she grows up and meet new and interesting people that will also define her life. As you see Astrid grow up with flashback chapters, you also see the young woman that she's become in present day chapters.

Alongside the characters, the landscape plays in important part in the books. I loved the landscapes that Klaire depicts in the Outsider series, both in Outsider and Defiance. I don't have the most accurate of imaginations when it comes to landscapes depicted in books. I often feel that I don't imagine anything the way that the author intended. With Outsider, I found myself seeing everything in my head the way that Klaire described it because on her blog and YouTube channel, she shared her drawings of how she saw the characters and places in her head. This made it even more fun to read as I knew that I could relax and not worry about getting this or that wrong. All I had to focus on was pronunciations of names and places.

Throughout the Outsider series you meet a lot of different and intriguing characters of various races; Elf, Dwarf, Human and Goblin. It felt like being in Lord of the Rings territory. That series actually helped with the visualisation of the characters in terms of height in relation to each other and that you aren't visualising it in terms of Disney characters i.e. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. With these different races, Klaire creates the most intricate hierarchy amongst them without needing to go into great detail. You know who doesn't like whom and why. That's established without the necessity of long winded ancient stories being told. Though, that may be being saved for another book. Basically, it's clear why they don't like each other and that's carried throughout both novels. Though, barriers are broken as the characters interact. I'm not giving away any spoilers but let's just say, I ship it. Especially after Defiance's last chapter.

What made the Outsider series very likeable were the characters. Klaire did an incredible job of making the characters that we meet completely multi-faceted. The vast majority of the characters are very likeable and respectable yet have moments when you want to slap them or shake some sense into them. Also, she creates characters that you just love to hate, (Skad, I'm looking at you!). In every book I've ever read, there has been a character that I have hated for one reason or another (Joffrey!). Skad is one of those characters but he was created that way. I previously read that Skad was a character that Klaire herself didn't particularly like to write because he was so mean and horrible. I didn't like the way he got on with other characters, in particular, Astrid and Dag. He was just a very unpleasant character from the first moment he was introduced to his last appearance in Defiance. I read every section he was in waiting for something awful to happen to him because I just wanted him to get his comeuppance. Let's just say, karma is so good sometimes! There were moments when I wanted to hug Astrid, high-five her and then shake her from left to right over and over. That's the definition of the perfect character to me. Likeable but vulnerable and unlikeable. Just like a real person. They have their good points and bad points. 

Defiance saw a greater divergence amongst the characters and as a result, the chapters. As I've read A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, I know what it's like to be thrown into a world where chapters are character orientated and these characters may be worlds or miles apart. I'm not the best with narratives like that because I can't remember what happens from one chapter to the next because they are so different and separate. With Defiance, I didn't have that problem as it was so easy to remember what happened with this character and that character in their respective chapters. I didn't get lost once. I knew who was where and when and what had previously happened to them without having to look back at the last page of their last chapter. That spoke wonders to Klaire's narrative and ability to create an effective follow-through.

What I loved about the journey that Astrid and Jarl undertook was that it wasn't going to be over in a week. It was going to take months to get to Lǫgberg. It almost had a Lord of the Rings appeal to it that way. I often feel that in films and television that journey times are often skewed so that it looks as if a journey of a million miles take no time at all. In this series, you are constantly reminded that this is an epic journey to this city and that it isn't going to be completed just like that. They just can't go from A to B and boom, they're there. No. In Outsider, it'll take them weeks just to get to point A and they still have to get past points B, C, D all the way to point Z. I loved that and it really amped up the angst that they need to get to the city as soon as possible!

A random point but this really spoke to the OCD side of me. Each chapter in Outsider and Defiance started on the same page. In Outsider, each page started on the right hand page and in Defiance, it started on the left side. I've never seen that before in a book yet I really enjoyed it. It was something different and inherently unique to the books. I hope that book 3 continues in the same scheme and has the chapters start on the right page.

There is only one tiny negative point that I have about these books and it's not detrimental to the narrative or a dig against Klaire in any way whatsoever. In a separate video, Klaire explains her life living with dyslexia and how it has impacted her life and her self-esteem. One of her dedications is to her editor who she thanked for fixing her spelling mistakes. I will say that there are moments in the narrative where those spelling mistakes managed to creep in and remain undiscovered. It didn't matter to me that they were there but they did kind of interfere with the momentum of a really tense part in the story-line where you just wanted to read at speed lightning and get to the climax. One little spelling mistake would trip me up so that I would have to go back and read it again. It disrupted that momentum just briefly and then the ball got rolling again but it took a moment to get that momentum back. They were few and far between but if you are a person that is very OCD about their spelling and grammar, be aware that there will be a few occasions where you will come across them.

Outsider isn't what I would call a book for a young person that wants a fairy story. It is by no means a fairy story. It is gory from the first chapter to the very last in Defiance. The final chapter in Defiance is beyond my favourite chapter. I gripped the book so hard as I read the final pages. I've never read anything as quickly as I did those pages There are countless incredible moments where I found myself thinking how on Earth Klaire managed to create such amazing scenes - the crossing to Einn spings to mind on the boat. That was the first moment in which I knew that this series was going to be right up my street. I would say that Outsider is akin to  Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire in some ways in my opinion. I was constantly reminded of both series' as I read the books but Outsider is distinctly Klaire de Lys' baby and completely Ammasteinn.

I thoroughly loved every page of the Outsider series. I couldn't put the books down when I had a few moment where I wasn't working, sleeping or editing. These books even came with me to rehearsals. I couldn't bear to be separate from it. I highly recommend them to anyone that is interested in fantasy novels. I'm very excited for book 3: Wrath (I believe that's what it is going to be titled) in the series and Klaire's new Super Secret Project which is being unveiled on September 25th.

Her books are available from Amazon & Kindle - Outsider |/ Defiance

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