Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Serialized on JukePop Serials and updated weekly.
In White Leaves (E.L.F.) by Michael P. Ness, Shannon Hunter and her band of Eco-Crusaders are blowing up trucks in the name of Mother Nature when an elf-like creature aims a deadly arrow at her and misses, shooting a Federal Agent. Shannon is then shot by Agent Ben Connelly, who believes she killed his partner and is taken into custody. Not sure what happened to her fellow eco-crusaders, Shannon follows the news not knowing that soon a deadly ultimatum will be issued to the people of earth ordering them to stop killing the planet or pay the ultimate cost. Can Shannon, an unlikely hero, save mankind?
There are two reasons why I recorded the original Batman series. The first reason is that I wasn’t around for its original run which took place from 1966 to 1968. The second reason that I recorded the show is that I am a horribly impatient person when it comes to the resolution of a storyline. Serialization was once how fiction was made accessible to the masses. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was released over 40 weeks and Sherlock Holmes appeared weekly in The Strand magazine. We live in a time of instant gratification that I, as a reader, love.
White Leaves (E.L.F.) starts with a bang. We’re on a mission with Shannon, her husband and the other operatives of E.L.F. Shannon is immediately conveyed as a Lara Croft kind of character. She is quicker and, from the start, generally more awesome than her husband who is seen for a split second when she goes out to see why the explosives haven’t gone off and is pretty quickly captured.
As the story flows, we get some rounding out on Shannon’s character. We have a scene from when she’s seven years old and E.L.F. enacted a similar attack on her father’s equipment. We see a bit into how she got involved with E.L.F. The lengths to which Ness goes to establish the character, as tough though we have other contrasting elements. In Chapter three of White Leaves (E.L.F.), Shannon is confronted by the agents and is wearing a “…pretty pouting face ….” She’s in Federal custody, not sure what happened to her husband and fellow saboteurs. She is worried about their fate and not sure what she saw on the hill when a creature aimed an arrow and shot a Federal agent. I’m pretty sure the character wouldn’t be wearing that expression.
Why a reader might ask, would you zero in on that one small moment? The reason that I did was that it bothered me that this character had such a moment that was so divided from the character established. Characterization might lack consistency for a split second, but the overall flow of language within the work is all over. Dialogue doesn’t come off as natural to the ear. It’s as though Ness, at times, wants to emulate more formal fantasy authors and at other times just wants to write as words naturally flow. Within that inconsistency are flashes of brilliance, but many times it serves as a block to the otherwise wonderful flow of the story.
I would have liked more of a story with Agent Connelly and the betrayal of an insider (I won’t spoil the story by saying who). The story in its serialized version may have found focus off of Shannon for too long and for the sake of development of things not essential to the plot perhaps a little awkward. Ness had to compress his story to fit into a serialized landscape and, in the end, does the job well. In Chapter four he tells us that only one person has seen the elf world and wrote about it. And thank goodness, no one believed. The name of that historian was “Tolq Uen.” I loved the tongue-in-cheek reference that most readers will get.
In Chapter 14 he shows great skill by re-writing history to suit his created world. In Chapter 22 just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Ness introduces a dragon! To add to the fun, the dragon is in Japan! Throughout White Leaves (E.L.F.) Ness gives us hints of a master’s touch. He has thought out his storyline and embedded deep symbolism in history, pop culture and the religious worlds. I loved each hint caught and probably there were many that I didn’t.
I would be remiss in this review if I did not mention the complexity of Ness’s creation of the elf species. Billions of years old, their time moved slowly, the black leaves and the white leaves born from the “Mother”. To create such an intricate backstory and to convey it with such an economy of language is something I would think few writers could do.
UPDATE: A week after this review was first posted I read the final two chapters. Ness wrote the action of the finale with perfect intensity. It seems this author’s strong suit is action, and he writes in such a way that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. The ending flowed perfectly with the story. There are twists the reader won’t see coming and that play out, but nothing, where the reader puts down the novel and feels that they have just read a, tacked on ending for purposes of sensationalism.
E.L.F. is a great fantasy read and a quick one. If you’re interested, head on over. JukePop Serials is available on the Internet, Google Play or in the iTunes Store. I cannot speak for iTunes but have found the app very handy to surf on my android phone. Head on over and start this read today and let me know what you think! I’m looking forward to seeing much more from this author.
Meanwhile, you can read an excerpt and buy White Leaves (E.L.F.) by Michael P. Ness on