AUTHOR Q&A and eBOOK GIVEAWAY!!
Ansley, M. (2014). Theo and the Forbidden Language (The Forbidden Series
Book 1). Self
Adult / Fantasy
gave this book 5 of 5 stars
This is an amazingly well
written story with a unique premise: humans and animals were at one time
truly equal and equally civilized - all were clothed, could speak, think, and
read. All lived in communities with laws, trade and schooling, religion and
marriage. In short, humans and animals lived separately, but similarly. At some
point, written language became forbidden for all living creatures, and books
were destroyed -- as were any humans or animals who could read them. Also, at
some point, humans began to "pacify" the animals, poisoning them so
that they lost their civilities and became mindless beasts to do labor for the
world building is fantastic, reminiscent of landscapes and descriptions
experienced in books by Tolkien and Lewis. Rich details and eloquent writing
will have readers fully engaged with the various settings. Also richly
written are the characters, and whether human or animal, all characters have unique
appearances, personalities, and quirks to make them thoroughly memorable.
Author Melanie Ansley is a truly gifted writer who evokes a wide spectrum of
emotions from readers, who will find themselves pondering some pretty heavy
and the Forbidden Language works
as a stand alone book and the ending happened at a perfect place, where readers
had enough information to be satisfied and were ready to take a deep breath
after some intense situations. Having said that, personally, I cannot wait for
the next installment and MUST KNOW MORE! There are plenty of paths that could
be followed in future books, though these loose ends aren't bothersome. I
have faith that the author will satisfy her readers' curiosity.
readers be warned: war is a central theme to this book, and Ansley doesn't shy
away from its graphic nature. There are horrible deaths and destruction,
fully detailed so that readers have a very clear picture of what is happening.
As such, I recommend this book for mature middle graders and older --
main character, Theo, a seemingly unremarkable young rabbit, has been shown
books and taught to read by his grandfather, Father Oaks. It is his knowledge
of the forbidden language that, once discovered by his village, leads to his
imprisonment; however, once discovered by outsiders, it is this forbidden
knowledge that takes Theo on a quest that may ultimately preserve the animals'
way of life and save them from the empire of Mankahar. But as is the case
with most quests, there is danger abounding and doubt about who is
Thank you to the author, who provided to me a free eBook copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melanie Ansley was born
in Windsor, Ontario, then bundled off to China at the age of 5. Her
fascination with mythical talking animals started in Shanghai, where
she'd buy Chinese comics like "Journey to the West". In the 1980s she
spent most of her lunch breaks in her Hong Kong primary school's
library, where she developed an insatiable appetite for fantasy and
historical fiction. She now splits her time between Beijing and Los
Angeles, and has written several produced screenplays. "Theo and the
Forbidden Language" is her first novel.
Melanie was kind enough to answer a few of my (serious and silly) questions! Enjoy!
Hall Ways: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
MA: I actually
wanted to be He-Man's wife. Thankfully that phase ended quickly. Someone must
have enlightened me that that wasn't a viable career. So of course I chose
writing and filmmaking--which usually aren't viable either!
Hall Ways: Ha! That's excellent. Based on Theo, I think readers will say you have found a viable career in writing. How would you describe
your writing process?
MA: Slow. I've
learned I need to talk things out on the page. My first drafts consist of huge
amounts of dialogue explaining what has and will happen. This is of course the
anti-thesis to good writing, where you should show, not tell. But it's how I
get the thoughts down and then from there I can shape the story. I have learned
the painful lesson that I need to have at least a basic outline before I start
writing--I usually ignore the outline and "pants" my way through the
writing, but setting an outline at least keeps me within the ballpark.
Hall Ways: This is not your
typical talking animals book in that there is both violence and mature themes.
When you were writing, who was your intended audience? Did it stay that way
once you were finished?
MA: When I
wrote it, I didn't think beyond writing something that I knew I'd want to
read--at age 13. This book first began as a few short adventures imagined in my
teenage years, when I was most influenced by stories like Redwall, Watership Down, Animal Farm, and he Plague Dogs. I think reading
these books introduced me to the idea that animal stories weren't just limited
to innocent themes like Peter Rabbit
or Black Beauty. They made me realize
that animals could be metaphors, and that animal lives can be and are very
brutal. We like to create soft fuzzy stories about animals, but the reality is
that most of them live harsh, violent lives, whether in the wild or under human
domestication. Theo's story started out more mildly, but once it became clear
that he would be fighting against domestication, it got me thinking more and
more about what that meant, what that process would look like to a sentient
animal. And I realized it wasn't the stuff of Peter Rabbit, it was pretty volatile.
Hall Ways: It really does make you think. Literacy, and the power it brings, plays a big role in the book. How
did this originate?
MA: This really
stemmed from realizing that Theo was trying to stop the humans from farming
animals. It made me think about what allows us to domesticate animals, dictate
how and when they live, when they breed, when they die. And some would argue
it's our higher intelligence, but I looked at it from another angle: would we
domesticate animals if they had language and could express themselves? Which
made me imagine a time where animals did have speech, but somehow lost it, and
how as humans we've been able to shape the world to our designs hugely because
we can communicate in complex ways.
Hall Ways: You know, I'd like to say humans most certainly wouldn't treat animals the same if they could speak to us, but history shows humans dominate whatever/whoever can be dominated. It's shameful. Please tell us in one sentence why we should read your book.
MA: Where else will you be entertained by warrior rabbits and axe wielding
Hall Ways: I certainly can't think of any place, that's for sure. This is part one of
the series, any hints as to what’s next for Theo and his group? How long do we
have to wait?
going to keep growing, I see him becoming increasingly assertive and “badass”
to borrow a contemporary term. At the end of Book 1 he has just come to terms
with who he is, and now he must learn what he will fight for. It's something we
all have to learn about ourselves: where are our moral lines, when do we fight
and when do we lie down? I also see the series as continuing to deal with dark
themes that hopefully challenge our views of animals and how we treat them. As
to wait time for the next installment, I'm aiming to publish "Theo and the
Forbidden Library" by end of 2015, but in the meantime I'll be putting out
a novella that tells the story of one of Theo's companions, Princess Indigo,
and how she joined this quest. It’s been super fun writing something that is
outside of Theo’s world, but ties in.
Hall Ways: That sounds FABULOUS! I am so excited about the novella and that book two is coming sooner than later. Thank you so much for answering my questions! Finally, just for fun. . .
Sweet or Salty? Salty
Print or eBook? Both please. There is no such thing as too many books.
Cats or Dogs? Don't make me choose! This is an unfair choice.
Desert or Ocean? Ocean.
Coffee or Tea? Coffee for writing, tea for reading.
Text or Talk? Depends: who's on the other end?
Now Available: Prequel Novella