i. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
ii. Dracula – Bram Stoker
1. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
2. Holiday in Cambodia – Laura Jean McKay
3. Only Human – Gareth Roberts
4. Beautiful Chaos – Gary Russell
5. The Silent Stars – Dan Abnett
6. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
7. Every Breath – Ellie Marney
8. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
9. Delirium – Lauren Oliver
10. Pandemonium – Lauren Oliver
11. Requiem – Lauren Oliver
12. Venom – Fiona Paul
13. Belladonna – Fiona Paul
14. A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
I don’t really understand pseudonyms, or noms de plume, in the 21st century. I mean, for JK Rowling, sure. If she wants to see whether her works would get published without her “brand” attached, why not use a pseudonym? I think that’s brilliant. Not to mention awe-inspiring. If I were as famous as JK Rowling, I think I’d use my name on everything.
Actually, I’m pretty sure Bloomsbury made JK use her initials as her pen name because apparently women can’t write good fantasy. I think her multimillionaire status really showed them.
But then again the author of Deltora Quest used a female pen name. So I guess it depends on the publisher, some are just smarter than others. (Women can’t write fantasy. Don’t make me laugh).
E.L. James of Fifty Shades is a pseudonym. But that’s a no-brainer. If I had written that piece of grammatically awful, pathetically plot-pointed, let’s-take-feminism-back-a-few-centuries piece of trash I wouldn’t put my name on it either.
Back in the day, women used pen names so their works would be accepted. The Brontë sisters? All of them used male pseudonyms. As did Louise May Alcott of Little Women. And George Eliot? Actually a pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans. This was all because of the gender inequality that was rampant throughout the literary community in previous centuries. And still is, apparently. “Women can’t write fantasy”. Ha!
According to GoodReads, Fiona Paul is a pseudonym for author Paula Stokes. This is a pseudonym that makes absolutely no sense to me. The Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy is brilliant thus far. I am not quite understanding why Paula would not want her real name on the series. Please, if anybody knows they can tell me right now. I adore this series. It has everything that YA requires, plus some extra things that we didn’t even know YA needed.
Belladonna picks up right where Venom left off. But soon after a lovely, tender moment between Cass and Luca, Luca is taken away and is apparently about to hang for the crime of heresy, or the “belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine”. It was such an enormous deal back in the day. After Cass tricks her way into the jail (she’s a wily one) Luca tells her that his only hope of survival is to prove his innocence by finding the “Book of the Eternal Rose”. So Cass tags along with her friend Mada and her new husband Marco on a trip to Florence, where she encounters all sorts of nasty things. And Falco.
The best thing about this novel is that it touches on the legend of vampires. Which we all know is a must for YA fiction these days. Only, people honestly believed in vampires in this book. At a time where science can’t explain everything, the only choice people have is to believe in the Church and in deeply-ingrained superstition. So when girls start falling ill, with “bite marks” and paleness as two of the symptoms, what choice do the people have other than to suspect vampires? Paul captures this superstition beautifully. Especially in a conversation between Mada and Falco, where Falco denounces the Church and the idea of vampires, and Mada looks horrified. Paul captures the mood of the time so well that when we meet Belladonna Briani, Falco’s patroness, and she is pale, beautiful, and looks half her age, there is an illogical voice in the back of our heads that whispers “vampire”. Of course, this isn’t the case, and both Belladonna and the vampire threat is explained. Both have to do with the shadowy Order of the Eternal Rose. But if I say anything more, I’ll just be giving it away.
As much as I loved this book, there was one thing that annoyed me. Falco. I totally understand that teenagers fall in and out of love faster than an adult can blink, but Falco [SPOILER] betraying Cass for Belladonna felt out of character. He loved Cass. He loved her fire and the way she broke the mould for noblewomen and, of course, for her beauty. He tells Cass that Belladonna’s beauty is too hard and unreal for him. But then he goes off and is obviously having an affair with the evil woman! When I read Falco, I read a character who shoots straight from the hip (even though I don’t think guns had been invented by this stage). If he wanted Belladonna he would have told Cass so. In the nicest way possible, but still. I mean, sure, he lied about his job in Venom, but who wouldn’t:
“So, what do you do for a living?”
“Oh, you know, I rob graves and deliver the corpses to a mad doctor who then cuts these bodies up and tries to extract a mysterious ‘fifth humour’ from the already congealed blood sitting around in their veins. But enough about me, what do you do? Wait, where are you going?”
I always thought that Falco was straight-forward with what he wanted in love. He knew Cass was engaged, knew it couldn’t go anywhere, and yet he wanted her. And told her so. So why wouldn’t he say anything to Cass about Belladonna? I know why, now. He’s a slick operator who just likes pretty girls and toys with them, during a time where relationships ended in “til death do us part” or the relationships didn’t start in the first place. I hate that. Falco was lovely. And then he had to go and turn into part of the 95% of men that only use women for sex and whatever else.
I suppose Falco had to be besmirched so that when [SPOILER] Cass ends up with Luca after breaking him out of jail, we don’t feel any sense of loss. Just that Cass has ended up with the right man who was under her nose all along.
I just want to take a side note here and congratulate Cass Caravello for deciding to break her fiancé out of prison rather than wallow in her silk sheets and have food brought up to her chambers. Which she had every right to do, as a noblewoman. Her aunt was even going to find her another match, once Luca was…gone. But Cass was having none of it. She, and her lady’s maid, broke into the Venetian prison, took on a guard, and managed to break Luca out of said prison. How is that for a strong female protagonist? YA readers take note: Bella and Anastasia are weak. Forget them. Come over to the light side where we have Katniss and Clary and Tessa and Cass and Hermione.
I don’t really mind the whole “he was right there all along” cliché, because it’s something Cass struggles with throughout the whole book. It’s not some sudden realisation that makes you want to burn the book you’re reading. Cass starts to doubt her beloved Falco and “for the first time wished [he] were more like her fiancé”. You can see her emotions changing and roiling away inside her. Then when Falco reveals his true heart, Cass sees Luca’s. So, in this case, the cliché works. Very well done, Miss Paul.
There’s nothing else I can really say except that I can’t wait for Starling to land on March 20th, next year.
Actually there is one more thing: The American cover?
- #10 “Venom” by Fiona Paul (infernalimagination.wordpress.com)
- Something Wicked Returns Day #21: Belladonna by Fiona Paul: Guest Post, Review and Giveaway (rainydayramblings.com)
- Seven Famous Female Authors Who Used Male Pseudonyms (divinecaroline.com)
- Rowling accepts donation for identity revelation (bigstory.ap.org)