By Katherine Jean Pope
Katherine Jean Pope's fantasy novel Muse has left me quite perplexed. I say that because for a change the words escape me as to how to explain how I truly felt about it other than confused yet also intrigued as to what the possibilities of this novel has. With a lack of true character development and muddled plots, the unique and inventive way her descriptions were relayed to the reader is about the only reason I kept reading.
Our main character Lumina, who often reminds others she prefers to be called Mina, is a muse - or so we and she think. She lives in what seems to be a fantasy world in the building with a coffee shop on the bottom floor run by a gnome with a grumpy talking tabby cat. It's here where we meet Max, another muse in this imaginary world one assumes is of Mina's creation and what quickly becomes Mina’s nemesis. Max explains the ropes of being a muse to Mina and asks her to attend a formal fae function with him. It's at this function where Mina's adventure begins.
The character we get to know alongside Mina the most is a fae named Shade but known better as Creature. Although a bit cantankerous like you'd imagine a creature to be, there's a side of Shade you grow to love as he and Mina fight their way through their adventure. Shade is really all Mina's got.
Pope takes us through a variety of fantasy twists and turns which is why it's quite difficult for me to speculate when my aforementioned confusion began exactly. And because I'm a stickler for not going into detail enough to give a book away It compounds the confusion for you, and for that I apologize. So on we go...
Something that Pope did that I have not only never seen done quite this way but that I wish all authors would do is truly make me feel like I was there in the scenes with Mina and the others. But she didn't do it with a bunch of superfluous words, She did it with by telling the reader how things smelled. If the characters were walking next to a river she wouldn't just describe the colors and shapes and such. Pope told us what things smelled like.
Personally, smells are very impactful. I smell certain smells and they evoke memories. Oftentimes they take me back to a certain place in time. Pope's descriptions did that for me. Because I could smell it, I could also taste/see what she was describing. It was a truly unique experience.
The only exception is Pope's excessive use of the word "ozone" as a description of smell. Now I, of course, don't know what smell/description she was trying to convey using the word; however, when used in the context it was used as many times as it was, it didn't match the Webster’s definition. (Damn I wish I'd taken note of an example!!) The actual definition is a "toxic gas with pungent odor." which paints a negative image for me – out of place since the rest of the description didn't come across negatively. It made it difficult to know what she was talking about when used as often as it was.
Pope tells us in Muse that in a good book, "...the characters in it become almost alive in your mind. You live their adventures with them, they become real to you, like friends." Unfortunately, this isn't something I found to be true about her own book. The characters weren't fleshed out and the adventures when combined felt to me like a muddy mess. However, I did love her use of smells to describe things.