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Queen Of Crows $2.99
Average Rating:4.4 / 5
Ratings Reviews Total
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Queen Of Crows
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Queen Of Crows
Publisher: FR Press
by Scott R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/30/2011 13:11:32
To be honest once I started Queen of Crows was a hard sell, mainly because I knew this pretty blond woman was telling the story of an aged and respected Navajo shaman on the eve of a major historical tragedy for the tribe. But by the second page I was sunk. Ms. Valentinelli’s talent won me over. I’ve been known to crack open a Tony Hillerman book for a little light reading. This was particularly true during my teenage years. But I also delighted in Sherman Alexie’s thorough skewering of him in Indian Killer. An anglo writing about the indigenous has a tenuous path as far as tone and respect without making their characters too perfect and false. What’s brilliant is that Valentinelli managed this with grace in a short story medium.

I adore short stories particularly in the speculative fiction genre because of their limitations. You’ve got to get in there do some quick and memorable world-building and character sketches and then BAM! You’ve got to get out again after telling some kind of a story ark. This makes for affective storytelling when done right. A good short story should be like a honed diamond right to the midbrain.

At the start the main character Tse reflects about his life and the hard choice he must make to which he has already committed but dreads. He has collaborated with a corpse-witch in learning a forbidden spell for the good of his people and has sent them away ahead of a foreseen calamity at the hands of a U.S. Army moving west now that the Civil War is over. Knowing a tiny bit about the cleanliness beliefs of Navajo in general and particularly shamans this tells me all I need to know about how desperate is his gamble. He is compelled to summon an entity who has been communicating with him, but is it a savior spirit or a force of great evil?

Valentinelli provided enough cultural flavor show us her tale is well-researched and well-intentioned but not to an elaborate S.M. Stirling-like degree what would have been excessive. One unremarked quirk was how quickly the white men barged into Tse’s hogahn, this is a terrible breech of hospitality but she already told us what kind of a guy Tse is an it would have slowed the story down a notch. Also on a personal note as someone who stutters I was impressed by the treatment she gave Captain Maynard who stuttered in a realistic manner. Not many authors get it right and the list of actors who do pretty much starts and ends with Michael Palin.

I liked that the antagonists of the piece were not, aside from one real bastard, portrayed as evil bigots. Two of them were merely soldiers doing their unseemly bloody duty and all of them reacted in different three-dimensional ways to the weird bloody conclusion of the story.

I really appreciated the extras such as the artwork and author’s afterward. To be honest I didn’t read the first draft of the story, since Valentinelli had already warned us that is was “a jumble of words” that needed to be rewritten. I’ll leave the polished version fresh in my memory, thank you and await more stories about Mahochepi if you please. And please do.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Queen Of Crows
Publisher: FR Press
by Stephen J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/19/2010 21:41:45
Excellent story, great art, and I absolutely loved the idea of the "DVD Extra's" like bonus features. This just screams "fearless author" to me, someone who's not afraid to say "here's my story, here's my inspiration, here's some character notes, and here's an early draft so you can see how far it's come."

Absolutely intrigues me with the authors Violet Wars world setting and her other works of fiction. Well worth the price; would highly recommend.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Queen Of Crows
Publisher: FR Press
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/04/2010 23:16:41
As described, this is an interesting format: a short story, together with a lot more information which, between the "Letter to the Reader" and early draft, provides a much stronger and more detailed context to the entity of the title. The story's worth a read in a general YA-fantasy sort of style. On a gaming site, I should mention that no game stats are included, but the extras easily provide the kind and quality of information a GM would need to derive stats for any chosen game system - so it's almost like a systemless game supplement in that regard.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Queen Of Crows
Publisher: FR Press
by Jess H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/10/2010 12:36:01
As a writer and reader, I'm intrigued by the possibilities that technology affords the publishing industry, both mainstream publishers and the "little guys" who are out there creating stories and other works of wordsmithing and looking for ways to share their creations with hungry readers. Because of this, I was very excited to hear about Monica Valentinelli's "Queen of Crows". More than your run-of-the-mill short story, this product offers readers the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in not only the history and magic of the world Valentinelli has created, but also the evolution of the tale, the inspiration behind it, and a glimpse at the very-talented creative spirits who brought the whole thing together.

The high points? Well, first, of course is Valentinelli's presentation of her work. Not only is her fiction writing a joy to read, but her research is impeccable, and her autobiographic material presents just the right combination of academia and personal interaction. If Queen of Crows was "just" the short story or the story and the author's "Inspiration" chapter, it would have been well worth the $4.99 by itself.

But it doesn't stop there. Valentinelli goes on to offer us more in-depth material on one of the main characters, as well as the setting - material which, while it is not vital to the story, intrigues as it informs. The combination of fiction and additional material really give the reader the feeling that they've gotten more than they bargained for--in a plethora of ways.

In addition, the production values are extremely well done. I opened it for the first time with Foxit, and was a little disappointed. I could see some of the art, but not all of it, and there were blank spaces that fairly cried out to be filled in the layout. But when I realized it was likely an application problem rather than an issue with the actual product, I quickly pulled up Adobe and got to see my first glimpse of what was from start to finish a truly beautiful product. The cover art is striking. The interior layout complements the story without overpowering it. The character illustration is gorgeous, and even the font and labels chosen for the novel-draft at the end of the product do exactly what they should - reinforce the nature of that piece without distracting from the reader's enjoyment of it.

I'd recommend Queen of Crows for anyone who has a soft spot for hard topics, who likes their historic fiction a bit on the dark-and-yet-beautiful side or who is looking for a glimpse into the creation process of a darned-good read. If you enjoy Orson Scott Card's Alvin the Maker series, you might well be intrigued by Queen of Crows as well as any other Violet War materials. I know I'll be keeping my eye out for what Valentinelli and her cohorts have up their sleeve next!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Queen Of Crows
Publisher: FR Press
by Steven D. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2010 10:55:56
A Flames Rising Review:

I’m not only a reviewer for FlamesRising.com, I am a fan. From the features and articles to the reviews, I read and enjoy it all. I’ve even gone as far as purchasing Instant Antagonist: Selfish Succubus, the first product from Flames Rising Press. Therefore, it should go without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that I read all of Monica Valentinelli scribes on da’ flames, and I believe that she’s one of the best contributors on the site (and coincidentally puts my feeble writing talents to shame). So you can imagine how honored and excited I was to have been given a reviewer’s copy of “The Queen of Crows”, written by Monica V. and published by Flames Rising Press (their first published fiction no less).

Outside of her writing on the flames, I’ve read Monica’s short story titled “Pie” from the horror anthology Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas, which was one of my favorite tales if memory serves. However, I knew nothing of Monica’s work in progress, the “Violet War”, an Urban Fantasy setting in which the Queen of Crows takes place in. So, in preparation of reading this story, I decided to do a bit of homework and discover just what the Violet War is all about. And honestly, I couldn’t describe her world and do it justice, so I implore you to take a look for yourselves (you can do so by clicking here). After getting familiar with her world I felt ready to get down to business with Monica’s tale.

So after all that build up and preparation, how did my audience with the Queen of Crows fare? Well, I do have one small quibble; this short story was just too short folks! I want more, MORE I tell ya! I really enjoyed this tale, and yet Monica followed the cardinal rule of the audience; always leave them wanting more. Excellent work Monica!

Read the Full review at http://www.flamesrising.com/queen-of-crows-review/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Queen Of Crows
Publisher: FR Press
by Jason T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/21/2010 22:16:39
Author Monica Valentinelli’s The Queen of Crows is an eBook of sorts, but rather than a standard watermarked PDF of text-filled pages, Valentinelli’s offering is a glimpse of the potential that digital books can fulfill. The Queen of Crows is a multifaceted “product” built around a single character, complete with dynamic artwork by artist Leanne Buckley and a design motif embodying the world in which the story takes place. The book’s most interesting and perhaps most unique feature is Valentinelli’s account of her writing process and the origins of the creativity that eventually manifest as the book’s central story.

The featured component is a short story entitled The Queen of Crows in which a Native American shaman named Tse is visited in his dreams by Mahochepi, a vengeance spirit who shows him visions of white soldiers arriving in large numbers. When Mahochepi sends a Corpse-witch, her corporeal ambassador to teach Tse the spell that calls forth Mahochepi , he’s faced with a horrifying dilemma – whether to stay and face the soldiers alone or to call on the Queen of Crows and accept the consequences that accompany her.

Valentinelli’s writing is well-researched and vividly executed. Her world pulls itself from the pages of history books and comes to life, fully realized and described in concrete detail. Valentinelli populates this landscape and then crafts a slow burning and suspenseful horror that envelops the story as we read our way toward the inevitable encounter with Mahochepi – the Queen of Crows.

The short story comprises about half of the product with the second half devoted to several purposes. There’s the section entitled “Inspiration” which describes both the historical and personal origins of the story. Next Valentinelli includes a character biography for Mahochepi which describes her in great detail and provides an obvious utility for use in RPGs, an application for which Valentinelli has written in the past. There’s also a letter to the readers from Valentinelli describing both her creative philosophy and creative process followed by the start of her unfinished novel which functions as a sort of rough draft of The Queen of Crows.

The amount and variety of information contained in this project is truly impressive. There’s scary and compelling fiction, autobiographical and inspirational nonfiction, fantastic artwork, links to other resources, multiple versions of the story, the characters, and their world, and all in just 40 pages. Monica Valentinelli’s The Queen of Crows must be considered a successful experiment in digital publishing and a significant benchmark for the medium.

For more information go to: www.flamesrising.com and www.drivethruhorror.com

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Queen Of Crows
Publisher: FR Press
by Janette D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/16/2010 02:38:26
There’s a lot of talk these days about e-publishing and (depending on who's talking) it represents either a brave new world or the end of civilisation as we know it. Personally, I think there are amazing opportunities once the business and format decisions are sorted, and everyone starts concentrating on the creative potential.

That's why I so enjoyed Queen of Crows, designed and written by author Monica Valentinelli in collaboration with illustrator Leanne Buckley and editor Shari Hill. Published by Flames Rising, it's currently available in pdf format, and provides a tantalising glimpse of what e-books might be, once they grow out of being simple digital clones of print books.

The central item in this gorgeously designed digital product is the short story “Queen of Crows”. But that’s just the beginning.If “Queen of Crows” is the main dish, the related fragments provide us with a perfect, sumptuous feast of complementary tastes. Short stories nearly always leave us with unanswered questions, but I left the table sated.

The extras include notes on the story’s creative origins; access to background reference material which inspired Valentinelli's creative process; gorgeous character artwork; an excerpt from the unfinished novel in which the main character first appeared; and links to other works by the contributors.

Valentinelli gives us a lyrical yet chilling encounter at a crucial point of America's history. Can medicine man Tse trust the assurances of a corpse-witch in his dealings with the mysterious Mahochepi? And what of the White Men and the stranger who travels with them? Tse’s choices echo with unease, and the horror builds to a grim conclusion, with revelations that add rich detail to flesh out the story.

The layout is beautiful, and each section is appropriately designed for its purpose. It’s exciting to see such a seamless collaboration between author, artist and editor. I especially likes the inclusion of one or two links to external sites for reference material. As an information geek, I would have loved more - and this is the kind of thing I anticipate with excitement about digital publishing; the opportunity to embed links within a story, giving readers the choice of following the author's paths.

I’d recommend this to anyone with an eye for great writing, haunting story, good design or engaging art; or even just an interest in the relationship between humans and the spirit world. Just don’t read it right before you turn out the light.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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