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THE TALE OF BRIAN AND THE HOUSE PAINTER MERVYN Cover
BOOK REVIEW

THE TALE OF BRIAN AND THE HOUSE PAINTER MERVYN

BY Lance Lee • POSTED ON April 15, 2022

A young boy meets a mysterious painter with wondrous abilities in Lee’s novel.

Brian Jones is the son of the wealthiest man in the small village of Sandstone-by-the-Sea. His father, Moab, and mother, Melissa, and his 12 other siblings fill the house of “Goodly Home on the edge of the Sea Cliffs.” Brian becomes ill with a mysterious disease that the local doctor can’t cure. On the fourth floor of the Goodly Home, Brian’s life drains of all excitement. Desperate to cure his son, Moab seeks out an artist to fill Brian’s white room “with all the things [he] like[s] just as they are” so that he may begin to get better. When Moab finds Mervyn—an angry, muttering artist with an unusual talent for painting things realistically—he hires him to paint the walls of his son’s tower. Mervyn works for a week and produces such a lifelike display of the outside world that Brian’s family is in awe. Before long, people in the village of Sandstone-by-the-Sea become desperate for a piece of Mervyn’s magic, and when the villagers begin to turn against him, he does something quite unexpected. Lee’s marvelous imagination engagingly contrasts a portrayal of a rich family with the villagers’ simple desire for access to the same magic that the family receives. Despite the lack of variety in sentence length, Lee’s prose effectively propels the narrative to an explosive climax in which he subtly notes how unusual it is for people to chase something outside of the social norm. So’s illustrations are both vibrant and abstract, and they assist in painting a detailed portrait of both the village and the characters. Together, So and Lee create a topsy-turvy story of a genius ahead of his time.

A wonderfully imaginative, playful, and layered tale.

Pub Date: April 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-578-33828-6

Page count: 68pp

Publisher: Lwl Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2022

ORPHEUS RISING Cover
CHILDREN'S & TEEN

ORPHEUS RISING

BY Lance Lee • POSTED ON Oct. 5, 2021

Based on the myth of Orpheus, Lee’s fantasy novel follows a boy’s quest with his father to retrieve his mother from the afterlife.

Ten-year-old Sam lives with his father, John, in an unquestioned, unvarying routine; “They simply thought of this gray existence as life.” When a blank book is mailed to them, however, Sam discovers that whatever he draws and writes in it becomes real, like when he sketches a lavish tent inhabited by a singing, dancing, wise elephant in Edwardian dress whom he names Lepanto. Playing cards with Lepanto, Sam sees a vision of his mother, who’s whispering, “Come and get me,” although—as he finally learns from John—she died years ago. Encouraged by Lepanto to trust his no-longer-blank book and his imagination, Sam determines to bring his mother back from the Dread City, telling his disbelieving father, “I’m shaping events. And I say we go.” Although Sam and John can count on help from the book and Lepanto, their long journey through the Far Land of Fear is beset with dangers, like agents of the Dread City who want to drag them into despair. Can they succeed where Orpheus failed? In his debut children’s book, poet and playwright Lee writes a wildly imaginative, entertaining adventure story with deep foundations both in the lush realm of mythos and poignant human emotions. Beyond that, Lee dares to give Sam’s quest an ending that takes seriously the elephant’s insistence on the reality of imagination, making the story even more powerful. In her debut book, artist LeBow provides woodcutlike illustrations with rich blacks, curving white lines, and a remarkable, charged sense of mythic power that marries well with the novel.

An extraordinarily beautiful, touching adventure that can stand with the classics of children’s literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-57-879055-8

Page count: 312pp

Publisher: Lwl Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

ELEMENTAL NATURES Cover
BOOK REVIEW

ELEMENTAL NATURES

BY Lance Lee • POSTED ON Sept. 14, 2020

Lee’s latest poetry collection explores the strained relationship between humankind and the natural world.

The author’s strongest poems discuss humans’ destruction of nature in general, and the animal kingdom in particular. In “Geese,” for instance, the speaker tells of “acid rain that burns the feather, / and stinging air from great cities / that makes them fly blind,” and then asks, “Are they so dumb or so forgetful / they come and come again each year / never changing their way?” In “Dandelion,” the speaker suggests that the titular weed is “more beautiful than the storied rose” because of its resilience and ability to survive the winter. The speaker begins to value other forms of life as much as his own, concluding, “I wish you stood here, and I / flowered there.” “The World is Dying” states it plainly: “We recoil / at nature’s tooth and claw, / yet no animal kills and kills / and kills even without knowing / he kills like we kill.” In “A New Season,” Lee grapples with the consequences of such unprecedented killing in climate change, noting that we all will become “strangers on our own ground.” Near the end of the collection, “The Oranges of Guimaraes” suggests that perhaps humans are not as special and central to the ecosystem as we once believed. With hundreds of poems to shuffle through, in ekphrastic and naturalistic styles, readers are bound to find several that resonate, and at least one or two that truly linger. Overall, Lee manages to make this collection of old and new poems feel urgent and up-to-the-minute as it rushes toward a vital point. It’s an interdisciplinary set of works that effectively considers the havoc that people have wreaked on living things—including themselves.

An unsettling and necessary read for environmentalists and fans of naturalist poetry.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5320-9831-4

Page count: 410pp

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2021

ORPHEUS RISING Cover
CHILDREN'S & TEEN

ORPHEUS RISING

BY Lance Lee • POSTED ON Oct. 5, 2021

Based on the myth of Orpheus, Lee’s fantasy novel follows a boy’s quest with his father to retrieve his mother from the afterlife.

Ten-year-old Sam lives with his father, John, in an unquestioned, unvarying routine; “They simply thought of this gray existence as life.” When a blank book is mailed to them, however, Sam discovers that whatever he draws and writes in it becomes real, like when he sketches a lavish tent inhabited by a singing, dancing, wise elephant in Edwardian dress whom he names Lepanto. Playing cards with Lepanto, Sam sees a vision of his mother, who’s whispering, “Come and get me,” although—as he finally learns from John—she died years ago. Encouraged by Lepanto to trust his no-longer-blank book and his imagination, Sam determines to bring his mother back from the Dread City, telling his disbelieving father, “I’m shaping events. And I say we go.” Although Sam and John can count on help from the book and Lepanto, their long journey through the Far Land of Fear is beset with dangers, like agents of the Dread City who want to drag them into despair. Can they succeed where Orpheus failed? In his debut children’s book, poet and playwright Lee writes a wildly imaginative, entertaining adventure story with deep foundations both in the lush realm of mythos and poignant human emotions. Beyond that, Lee dares to give Sam’s quest an ending that takes seriously the elephant’s insistence on the reality of imagination, making the story even more powerful. In her debut book, artist LeBow provides woodcutlike illustrations with rich blacks, curving white lines, and a remarkable, charged sense of mythic power that marries well with the novel.

An extraordinarily beautiful, touching adventure that can stand with the classics of children’s literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-57-879055-8

Page count: 312pp

Publisher: Lwl Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Awards, Press & Interests

ORPHEUS RISING: BY SAM AND HIS FATHER, JOHN WITH SOME HELP FROM A VERY WISE ELEPHANT WHO LIKES TO DANCE: Kirkus Star

ORPHEUS RISING: BY SAM AND HIS FATHER, JOHN WITH SOME HELP FROM A VERY WISE ELEPHANT WHO LIKES TO DANCE: Named to <i>Kirkus Reviews'</i> Best Books, 2021

ORPHEUS RISING: BY SAM AND HIS FATHER, JOHN WITH SOME HELP FROM A VERY WISE ELEPHANT WHO LIKES TO DANCE: Kirkus Star

ORPHEUS RISING: BY SAM AND HIS FATHER, JOHN WITH SOME HELP FROM A VERY WISE ELEPHANT WHO LIKES TO DANCE: Named to <i>Kirkus Reviews'</i> Best Books, 2021