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!