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Reviews (A different kind of fiction)

The Dash makes for an uneven but fascinating debut

By Jewel Monkstone
The C.V. Scroll

The Dash by C.J. Duarte

Since the popularity of Kev Groenig’s Myztik High and Mabel Ferryweather’s Alignment series, there have been a number of local authors attempting to jump on the increasingly popular genre hybrid of fantasy-romance-horror mixed with a coming-of-age structure. Most of these authors have crafted works that match the ambition of those two major works, but not their quality. An individual who has come close, however, is a first-timer, C.J. Duarte, with The Dash.
            One would expect yours truly to be more interested in this book than most, especially if it is a loose portrayal of experiences and characters in our own backyard of Cloak Valley, Monochrome. For a non-native C.Ver (‘Seever’) to be writing about such a world—and in such long, painstaking detail—is something that is sure to intrigue just about everyone in this town.
            Duarte has certainly done research on our home space. Also detectable is a natural flair for whimsical and intricate, yet clear and descriptive narrative. Often there are digressions, and elements that may run the risk of appearing a little too self-indulgent, dark, or just plain exaggerated—as is typical with first-time novelists. But to join in the unpredictable psychological journey of Claire Bead, the novel’s quasi-dead main protagonist, is something you may be hard-pressed to resist, even if it does involve many a break into disparate genres and symbols. This is the kind of attractive boldness that does not come along in literature every day.
            The scope of a person’s mind and memories is limitless, and Duarte surely revels in that theme, by stretching out this saga to a mind-bending 1,000-plus pages (at least in this advance copy). Anyone who reads The Dash, therefore, is urged to read with an open mind—though hopefully, one not quite as open, kaleidoscopic and harrowing as that of young Claire Bead.