Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance

Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love the classic fantasy story with adventure and romance and plot twists and magic. But it can get very scripted and boring, because everyone wants to stick to the same mold. This story gave me the opportunity to break away from the stereotypical stories that form this genre, and try something new.

On a rainy February night, like every other, Abe and his long-time girlfriend Joanna head to their favorite local restaurant and meet waitress Lioness Lazos, who is new in town and has no place of her own. From the moment they meet her, they are intrigued and enchanted and cannot help but be drawn to her. Joanna is quick to suggest that Lioness move in to Abe’s garage, and Lioness agrees happily. Joanne and Abe could never have predicted that this one event would change their lives forever.

I quite enjoyed this novel, even though it was very different from what I had expected. There are so many things that set this novel apart from other fantasy fiction stories that I read, so I’m just going to list them here:

  1. The characters are quite old. Abe is 65, and Joanna is somewhere in her 50s. For someone who reads a great deal of fantasy novels starring teens and young adults, seeing an older character who is more than just a “wise” person or a caregiver for the protagonist was unusual as well as refreshing. It gave the story a different feel, and allowed for it to be more than just a fantasy story. The characters had a wisdom and worldliness that is not seen in characters who are much younger and less experienced, and this allowed for a lot of introspection and character development to occur.
  2. The myth that was used took me by surprise. I don’t know what I was expecting, but at about the halfway point I realized what the author was hinting at, and it made me so excited. I love mythology, but only if it is done right. And in this story, it is done right. It isn’t a tale of good versus evil (which is a very common theme in fantasy – and most other genres of fiction) but rather a story of lust, love, responsibility, and change. Having the author examine these themes in a classic mythology story was a really great experience for me as a reader.
  3. There was no crazy action plot. The discovery of Lioness’s true identity served as a catalyst, but not one I expected. It led to growth in the characters and changes in relationship dynamics, rather than some kind of crazy magical adventure. It allowed for tension to brew between all of the different players in the story, and demonstrated how nothing can be taken for granted, and one small thing can make you question your entire life.

I don’t want to keep listing every single little thing, but the point is that this novel took a fantasy concept and turned it into something that resembles realistic fiction. It explored a person’s development, with all of the different events that could influence this process. This made it a unique reading experience for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The one criticism I have is that the sudden impulsiveness that Joanna starts to show is very abrupt and took me aback. It didn’t seem to have a rhyme or reason, it just came out of nowhere and I just wish there had been more of a lead into it. Apart from that, this was a really nice story to read, and I hope to read more by this author in the future!

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