I’m hosting an excerpt from fantasy novel “Inside hte Tall, Thick Book of Tales” by A.C. Birdsong. Enjoy!
The company of creatures and characters all introduce themselves one by one. Of course there are too many names to remember all at once, but Lucy smiles weakly at each and limply shakes the extended hand, paw, or appendage that is proffered. Formalities done, all sit in a semicircle around Lucy and the portly matron who has identified herself simply as Gwen.
All but Merlin, that is, who stands slightly aloof near the rear of the circle.
Gwen clears her throat. “We here,” she says, “are all the characters and actors of the stories this book originally contained.”
Lucy looks around the circle doubtfully. Gwen holds her hands together, close to her chest, and continues. “We are from a wonderful collection of fairy tales, magic stories, and folklore—some wonderfully old—brought together under the title The Tall, Thick Book of Tales.”
Lucy’s hand goes to her mouth, and her eyes get wide. “The Tall, Thick Book of Tales?” she asks quietly.
The group raises its eyebrows and holds its collective breath. “Yes,” says Gwen.
“Have you heard of us?” Roman blurts out.
Merlin smiles for the first time. “Have you read us?” he asks hopefully.
Lucy shakes her head. “I—I don’t know. I—it sounds so familiar, but. . .” She closes her eyes and shakes her head. “No, I don’t know. I can’t remember.” She sighs and looks around. “I’m sorry.”
The group all sighs at once. “Oh,” says Roman, sadly. “That’s okay.” He drops his head. “But I’m sure you’re all a—a very good read,” Lucy says apologetically.
Some faces brighten.
Gwen’s face becomes dreamy. “Oh, for years and years in the old schoolhouse, we would be pulled off the shelf every day and read aloud to large groups of boys and girls. You could just feel their excitement and wonder!” She sighs, and with a sniff, uses her apron to wipe away a tear. Some of the nearby characters begin to cry as well.
Merlin throws his hands up. “Oh, Gwen, look what you’ve started. Stop being so melodramatic and get on with it,” he says irritably. Some others nod and mumble in agreement.
“Merlin, please!” Gwen says sharply. Her face softens as she returns to her story.
She bends toward Lucy. “We were loved so much for so many, many years.” Nodding heads in the background show that many agree.
Gwen sits back. “Then, for a while, we were in the private library, with the Hans Christian Andersen tales on the left and the Grimm tales on the right. A very nice neighborhood, let me tell you.” She nods, and the company murmurs, nodding and smiling.
Gwen frowns. “Oh, then we had those horrible, lonely years misfiled in that used book shop, first next to that dirty, greasy copy of SAE Screw Thread Tables and then between those haughty unread Thunderbird repair manuals!” A convulsive shudder ripples through the group. Even Merlin suffers a twinge.
She leans forward, face bright, and touches Lucy’s knee. “What joy, what elation, when someone finally plucked us off that shelf! Oh, to be opened again, read again, and loved again!” She leans back and closes her eyes. Many of the surrounding characters do the same.
About the Book
Author: A.C. Birdsong
On a small farm just outside of a tiny town lives Jacob, the last in a long line of Caretakers of Magic. His mission in life as the world’s only magician (in fact the only person who knows magic is possible) is to preserve magical skill in preparation for the day when magic is needed in the world. Other than what is required to train an apprentice, Caretakers aren’t to be practitioners, a tenet Jacob adheres to religiously.
Jacob has been teaching an apprentice, Palmer, for eight years. As a student, Palmer is a dismal failure, but this does not stop him from experimenting. Feeling that the pace of his instruction is unnecessarily slow, Palmer takes the little magic he knows, twists it, and uses it to trap Jacob and a young neighbor Lucy inside an old book of fairy tales (The Tall, Thick Book of Tales). Palmer refuses to release them unless Jacob imparts all magical knowledge to him in an instantaneous way.
From the moment of Jacob’s entrapment, Birdsong creates three interwoven storylines: Palmer’s dealings with the townspeople, who are searching for Lucy and quickly suspect Palmer for her disappearance; Jacob’s journey to escape, which takes him through scenes written into the book by Palmer, designed to harass Jacob and to speed his compliance along; and Lucy’s interaction with the book’s original characters, all magical themselves, trapped within the margins by Palmer’s spell, and are united in their desire to expel the intruders. Added to this mix are an enchanted bookworm and the fairy tales’ narrator, who have objectives of their own.
Readers will enjoy Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales. Birdsong skillfully mixes the real and the imaginary worlds with a lean and fast-paced style. A well-crafted and fun novel with colorful characters and great dialogue written for any fan of adult fiction, and suitable for young adults and older adolescents as well.
A.C. Birdsong wrote the first draft of Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales during an unseasonably cold winter in Athens, Greece. “I spent all my time either writing the story or searching for a reasonably warm and cheap place to write it. Often this left me huddled near tepid steam heaters in dingy hotel rooms, and drinking endless cups of weak Nes to fight the cold. Eventually the weather turned, which was not only fortunate for me, but for Jacob and Palmer as well, because they probably would still be fighting it out inside that book otherwise.”
A.C. lives in Seattle, where people voluntarily allow themselves to be trapped in books on a regular basis. This is his first novel.