On Anne Rice’s Facebook page, Greg Wilkey is a very frequent contributor to the ongoing discussions that take place there, and he actively shares details about two of his supernatural-themed series. His previous series, the Mortimer Drake books, were concisely-written, action-packed, and had a very rich mythological origin story that provided readers with a very interesting story cosmology that only fueled the addictive intrigue of books , a welcome departure from the saturation of broody, lovelorn vampire stories in the young adult genre.
One of my favorite elements of Anne Rice’s books were the existence of esoteric organizations of sorts, who had shadowy motives, and were often cloaked in a rich, initially impenetrable shroud of mystique. In Greg Wilkey’s newest young-adult series, Neither Nor Series, there exists two very different, combative organizations, that both ally themselves differently on ethical question of whether human beings should involve themselves with the greater, more mysterious preternatural powers that lurk in the world. These forces are neither benign or deeply sininster, rather they are just as morally complex as the two human organizations themselves, whose very actions and interests just happen to be invested in this same clandestine realm in the story. The complex nature of their motives impressively honors the same depth that anime film director Hayao Miyazaki also gave to his supposed antagonists in the story. It isn’t really the characters themselves that are intrinsically evil, but the actions that they do that are either hateful or deplorable. More so than the Mortimer Drake books, the question of ethics runs deeper in this series, especially since Edgar, the story’s protagonist himself, is pitted with many difficult trials, that do not have easily recognizable solutions.
Moreover, there is a very strong family history plotline running through this story, and Greg Wilkey remarkably allows the family’s relationship with one another-Edgar and others (including Becket)- to develop feasibly slow throughout the story, and different facets of these characters open up in different scenes of the story. Everything feels so neatly organized that one has to wonder just how much of this story was outlined beforehand, though many writers that write without an outline can sometimes unconsciously (or consciously) plan these sorts of intricate story-lines successfully.
The whole intricate story is unveiled slowly, as Greg calculatedly unravels different parts of the story, like a clock master slowly adjusting the time of a newly constructed clock to a new time, and then letting the clock tick freely away from whatever fixed time it is set to. The flow of events and crucial revelations feels natural, without any obtrusive sensation of the story feeling contrived in any way. By the end, there are still a litany of different subplots and overall mysteries about the motives of different characters that are yet to be revealed
The story also has a heart to it, as Greg does a masterful job developing the turbulent emotions of a boy, who discovers that he has profound powers, and who also has had information that has been deprived from him, for his own safety. Hero stories always involve this sorta conflict, and Greg could have easily succumbed to the temptation of making this conflict feel stagnant and formulaic, but it surprisingly fuses well with the clever foibles of the story, which both pay justice to tropes from other stories of this sort (like the Talmasca from Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witch series), but also establishes its own rich mythology.
It is never impeded by any slow, overly drawn out moments, and Greg’s writing is enviably concise, and to-the-point, which is a very hard feat for any writer to master. As evidenced by my long-winded sentences, Greg, conversely,has a very direct, succinct writing style, revving up the ante and alacrity of the flow of the action and suspense of the story.
My only small quibble for this delightfully entertaining start to a new supernatural series, involving the spirits of the dead, and powers that can manipulate mortality (in a sense) is that the ending felt just a bit rushed. Otherwise, the story never slows, and you will undoubtedly read the whole thing in one day, without catching your breath, during the time. It is not deep literature, in any sense, it is a cinematic, fluid, fast-paced action-adventure novel, which I feel greatly compares to the sensation of reading a graphic novel, or watching a Hobbit film, leaving the reader suspended in a non-gravity room of sheer exhilaration (that is how my brain felt after reading Death Runs in the Family).
For fans of Anne Rice, her assistant Becket is featured as a side-character, a mentor figure of sorts for Edgar, the main character of the story. You will probably enjoying seeing certain parallels between his canon character in this story, and the real-life personality/story of Becket, who does not only serve the noble role of being Anne Rice’s assistant, but who is also a very talented, published writer himself.
BIBLIOPHILE’S REVERIE LITERARY TEA RECOMMENDATION:
DEATH RUNS IN THE FAMILY TEA: Yezi Tea’s Zheng Shan Xiang Zhong
If you are planning anytime soon to discern between the ethereal borders between this dimension and the dimension of death, you may want to concoct this robust Red Tea from the inventive tea makers themselves, over at Yezi Tea (an awesome independent Tea Company), called Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong. Interestingly, according to the product detail site about this particular blend of black tea (commonly called red tea too, especially this specific type of black tea), the origins of this tea are shrouded in mystery, much like the way many subplots in Greg Wilkey’s novel are also shrouded in a sort of mystery, adding to the allure of the tea itself and also the depth of the world Greg created in this story.
When you first pour the hot water over these thin reddish-brown strands of tea (each offering a rich, almost smokey aroma in dry form), the water becomes an interesting reddish brown tint, and imbues your senses with the image of a campfire at night, with a burst of roaring, even comforting flames, and a cloud of enveloping smoke, that instantly brings warmth to your body and mind, allowing you to enter into a wholly different state of being. The tea is infused with a slightly sweet honey taste, which further differentiates this specific blend of black tea, from other more tart-tasting forms of black tea.
It is a strong tea that only needs about three to four ounces of hot water, added to a small tea cup of sorts, when you are preparing it. It is the perfect accompaniment for a cold, blustery winter evening, where this kind of nourishing, strong, fierce tea blend is sure to make your mind drift far away from the mundane world, and escape freely into the mysterious and immersive world that Greg Wilkey masterfully created in the first installment of the Neither Nor Series.