''This will get me into all sorts of trouble, but for what it’s worth I would like to speak of the children with the deviant hearts. It is not a cheerful story, but there is beauty in it for those who care to find it.''
This is the warning that Charlotte gives her readers at the beginning of her first novella “The Deviant Hearts” and her words as true as could be. There is drama intertwined with beauty in the pages to follow as the story of Robin and her brother Jacob unfolds. There is also beauty in the way she penned down this novella, the words she selected and the way she arranged them to bring such a bittersweet tale to life. Her writing style is simple yet elegant with no unnecessary flourishes and embellishments and with just the right amount of melodrama. Nothing seems forced and everything flows beautifully, the characters being more alive and passionate than most others in literature.
It’s a story that grips you from the first lines and holds on to your heart and soul until the inevitable climax is finally exposed. I won’t give away any relevant details, I won’t tell you how the sibling’s adventures ends but I will say this – it’s the best piece of literature I have read in … forever. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. Many a time it gave me goose bumps as I empathized with the sorrow that seemed to curse the Hollowood children. The core of the story is without a doubt the love and devotion the siblings feel for one another, that gives them strength to endure all the problems caused by their condition, to find solace in their situation.
As it is a fantasy novella there are also some magical elements present like the journey Robin and Jacob undertake as they follow some paper cranes (carefully folded by Robin) that just come to life one night and guide them to an enchanted meadow where they stumble upon an old willow and an even older water deity. As on Phantasma’s album, the story of the lotus and the willow is the bit that fascinated me the most. The story of star-crossed lovers – the old willow tree and the beautiful lotus flower, lost-love and the hope of reuniting one day is what sets everything in motion as it gives Jacob the opportunity to fulfill his deepest desire. However this is no ordinary fairy-tale, and all their adventures come back full-circle in the end in a sort of “protect me from what I want” type of scenario. But as I have already said, I won’t give away anything, because it’s worth reading and discovering the plot for yourselves.
It’s a very refreshing and original story that could have made good use of at least a dozen clichés, but Charlotte avoids them graciously telling this tale in her own way. And I think that made all the difference! Written from an omniscient point of view, we are given enough details to keep us engaged without disclosing anything that could give away the ending. It could have been so overly dramatic or overly simple and thus would have lost a lot of its current beauty and charm.
It’s a quick and fascinating read, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon or for any moment you need to escape reality and enter a realm of fantasy, where you can go on an adventure with the children with the deviant hearts – Robin and Jacob, and their paper cranes.
You can get the novella in either audio or PDF / EPUB format here.