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Hilary T. Smith
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Queen of the Night

Queen of the Night - Leanne Hall Everything on the street is still. No wind, no sound. It's as if the earth itself has stopped breathing. *Long, wistful sigh* If entering the world of This Is Shyness was like wandering into a darkened hall of mirrors, returning to it in Queen of the Night is like sliding from wakefulness back into a welcome dream. Hall continues to gently twist the seam between fantasy and reality, creating an alternate version of Melbourne that is shaded with the fanciful and strange, the curious and bizarre. But the perpetual night hanging over Shyness feels familiar this time, and crossing Grey Street into the darkness is more like a homecoming than a tumble down the rabbit hole. Until I began reading Queen of Night, I don’t think I had realised just how much I had missed this world and the characters, Wolfboy and Wildgirl. We reconnect with them six months after the events of This is Shyness, and whereas the first book had a larger focus on their shared quest through Shyness, the second book takes a slower, more subtle approach, examining the delicate web of the characters’ relationships and the ties that bind them to Shyness. It’s a quieter book, in a manner of speaking, but perhaps deeper than the first – delving into the nature of dreams, hope, and cause versus effect. After finishing This is Shyness I was inclined to think it an excellent standalone, but Queen of the Night proves there was (and is) much more to be explored in Shyness. Leanne Hall’s writing is incredibly beautiful. For me, it’s just the right blend of lyrical and local, the striking imagery tempered with the distinctly Australian voices. Wolfboy and Wildgirl’s narratives are clearly defined, and as much - if not more - is conveyed in their manner of speaking and actions than their respective dialogue. Wolfboy’s burdened heart and tentative advances, and Wildgirl’s impetuousness and courage make for a compelling dynamic between them, and I loved the way Hall developed their relationship, allowing her characters to make mistakes and grow. Also: Wolfboy, I want to climb into your lap and stroke your cheek. Just sayin’. *blushes* While Queen of the Night further tears back the layers of this world and reveals more about the darkness, Shyness and Dr Gregory, I appreciated that it still does not give away all the answers. Hall leaves space for the imagination, for speculation and questions. Allusions are made and hints are given, but there are no explicit answers and the book doesn’t talk down to the reader by spelling everything out. The unexpected still lurks around corners, from a blindingly bright underground club to a deserted velodrome, the mysterious Datura Institute and pale flowers growing in teacups on street corners. And despite how much “curiouser and curiouser” Shyness becomes, it feels organic and unforced. As mentioned above, the pacing and structure of Queen of Night is somewhat different to This is Shyness, but the plot feels more nuanced here. The secondary characters play a larger role this time, and ideas about the nature of both literal and metaphorical darkness, and the role of dreams as a conduit for emotion, are explored. It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is about these books that I love so much. The writing, definitely. The imagination, of course. But in Queen of the Night I was particularly struck by the tender way the various relationships in the book are portrayed. The characters are flawed, vulnerable, but the connections are palpable. The final scene in which Ortolan and Diana appear perfectly articulates this, the way so much love and understanding can be communicated in the description of a simple action. If Beatle Meets Destiny was a flirty love note to Melbourne, then Queen of Night is a kiss blown to this eclectic, secretive city, and a gentle acknowledgement of the hidden worlds it holds within. * * * * *This pretty is up next. Yes, I colour coordinated: