Ph.D, M.A. (Applied Linguistics), B.Phil (Education); Vice President, Scicom Education Group; Head of Dept; Adj. Professor – English Linguistics (retired)
[Minor SPOILERS below]
This is very a different and interesting book. For those who wish to read the story and discover all the references and allusions, then there are plenty to keep them occupied. I tried to read the story from the point of view of the ‘naïve reader’ – and I found that not paying attention to all the allusions did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. The plot is well-paced and keeps the reader engaged in the characters and the development of the story line.
The characters are well- defined. I was particularly fond of Buffy, Soc’ran (not quite as silly and annoying as he first appears) and Tybalt. I want to know what Tybalt’s back story is. The villains are, well, villainous - ChangChang is a nasty piece of work, as are the Shadows - and the final battle sequence is gripping and tense. I loved the tension between the Guardians and the Wild Ones. Kisada is well-portrayed. I wasn’t sure exactly who the heroes there really were, and I was satisfied that both sides seemed to find closure and redemption.
Red, Ollie and Olive developed into their characters very well. They don’t realise their own capabilities and are as surprised as those around them. In a sense this appeals to the child or teenage reader who is still coming to terms with his/her own capabilities and talents. Yes, in places the story is dark, but there is hope behind everything. When all seems lost, the characters overcome difficulties, even at great sacrifice.
The themes of life and death, hope and redemption, loss, run throughout the book. But the overwhelming feelings that permeate nearly every page are love and hope.
I suppose that the greatest tribute to the book is that upon finishing it, what I wanted to know was – What comes next ? What happens to these characters ? Who or what is Ae’tann ?
And when’s the next book ?
Patent Attorney (Mars, Pennsylvania), busy mother of three
Words Matter: The Many “Tails” of Ae’tann
Tails is masterful tapestry of fun and fantasy woven with the most exquisite understanding of life, loss, and love. On every level, my senses were tingling: I loved the clever wordplay of “tail” vs. “tale”, the juxtaposition of literal and metaphorical within a single image, word, or phrase, the lush illustrations, the music of exotic animals and their foreign names, and the very satisfying yet curious mix of ancient myth and legend in a new story that itself feels as old as time, and yet belongs to no particular time period at all. It is classic that has all the elements of a good read: action, emotion, and the eternal struggle between good and evil. All I can ask for is…more stories!
For me, Tails was not meant to be a hard or even personal read, but it became both. This author has tapped into a universal vein: how do we go on after we lose a loved one? My dear father passed away recently, and I have searched for an answer to that question for a year. Reading Tails, for the first time, my heart actually moved a step forward when I read this passage about the Tree of Tales, a philosophical gem worth quoting (with slight editing for space):
"Grandpa Buffy settled himself down onto the comfortable and soft turf. “Now we tell as many tales about Soc’ran as we can remember. The Tree will hear, and remember…when you remember anyone below the Tree of Tales, when you tell a story, the Tree grows. Every branch represents someone. As the days pass and your stories increase, so will your branch grow. Once you have ended, your branch falls and your story flowers. Others can remember you, and your flowers can still grow and remain as fresh as the day they blossomed…so if I were to tell a tale of you and Red…then all our branches would grow new leaves…and the Tree will remember the tale for eternity."
I challenge anyone to find a more beautiful concept so perfectly described.
The author’s inspiration and purpose behind Tails was to help others heal from the pain of losing a pet, a process he himself endured, but this book will speak to anyone who has lost a loved one. For myself, I have spent an entire year crying over the stories of my father, but thanks to Grandpa Buffy, I realise any stories I tell now mean leaves will grow on my father’s branches, and on mine too. The book is replete with multiple meanings, enough to satisfy the wordsmith and the philosopher alike. Even the phrase “losing a loved one” has two meanings here: the literal meaning of the loss of life via death, or more simply, someone being physically gone, and the metaphorical meaning of the loved one being lost and forgotten in time and space. Both meanings are equally frightening and devastating to those of us left behind to mourn. But growing leaves is another matter: in one short chapter, in the gloom of my personal winter, I saw the first signs of spring.
Dr. Sze Min Lee
MB BCh BAO (Queen's, Belfast), MRCP (U.K.) General Medical Practitioner (Singapore), Beta Reader for Fantasy Fiction, Mother of 3
The most striking thing I noticed about A Sunset Story when I first laid my hands on the book was the quality of its pages. From its vivid-coloured cover to its smooth-textured inner pages, the book screamed "Luxe!"
Unfortunately, my next anxious thought was "I hope the story is as good as it looks."
I need not have worried. The book lived up to its appearance, and more.
From its witty unconventional prologue to its final climactic scene, I was transported into another world where animals talk, sing and do battle against evil - all unbeknownst to us unwitting humans. So, the next time you see your dog growling at what seems to be empty air, beware...maybe it’s not really empty after all!
The story revolves mainly around the three pups Red, Ollie & Olive, and their friends/allies. Without giving too much away, it tells of the beauty and pain of birth, death, rebirth and the age-long battle between good and evil.
There are many unique different characters to keep the reader's interest. The author does not just introduce us to conventional domestic cats and dogs, there were exotic Japanese cranes, wild cormorants and annoying geckos (sorry!) too.
I found myself researching a few of the animals mentioned in the book online, especially the various bird species. I have an irrational fear of birds and my knowledge of them is unfortunately, severely limited.
There are 3 things that determine if I like a book or not.
Firstly, there must be at least a character that I care about in the story. If a book has me rooting for a character and worrying about his or her impending doom then I know that the author has done a good job in fleshing out the character and his or her potential backstory. In Lord of the Rings, I rooted for Aragorn. In a recent murder mystery by Sophie Hannah, I was rooting for a character who disastrously turned out to be the murderer himself!
In A Sunset Story, I found myself rooting for the unlikely characters of the portly elderly rabbit Grandpa Buffy and the no-nonsense warrior cheetah Kisada. However, the same way we might prefer C-3PO and Sirius Black over Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter, I found myself in the same boat when it came to these two over the three pups who were the main characters of the book. This is the funny thing about a good story. Every reader will take home a different message from the exact same story. What speaks to my heart will be different from what speaks to yours.
Secondly, if a book manages to wring out a strong emotional response from me, be it tears of grief or laughter, then it has succeeded in drawing me into its world of make-belief.
I had been happily reading A Sunset Story when suddenly, an unexpected turn of events in the story had me bawling my eyes out. I was caught unawares and that somehow made the tears flow more freely, and if I am honest, furiously. This happened to me not once, but five times reading this book! So keep your tissues handy if you do not want to wet the colourfully illustrated pages.
Lastly, if it is a good book, I had to want the story to NOT end. I had to want to read a sequel. And I found myself really wanting to know more about the backstories of some of the minor characters - Tybalt the lothario cat, (even though I am NOT a cat person), and Derwent, the guinea pig with a past.
So, while I feel that A Sunset Story has satisfactorily sated my curiosity insofar as the three pups are concerned, I am yearning for more stories about the various other characters in the book.
The many hints and foreshadowings throughout the whole book makes me suspect that the author has already mapped out the whole intricate universe of Ae'tann in full detail in his mind. I am hoping that this wealth of backstories and spin-offs will keep the series going for a long time yet.
I am looking forward to more from this fantasy (yet believable) world of brave and loyal animals!
Now a little about myself:
I love reading. I will neglect the housework, the laundry, the bills and even my long-suffering husband when I am engrossed in a book.
I join book clubs, annual reading challenges and writers' festivals where I stalk celebrity writers. I also stalk them through twitter. (Isn't the internet wonderful?)
I collect autographed books from my favourite writers. This is a secret vice of mine. I will pay hard earned cash for a writer's signature but will not buy a new handbag even though the current one is riddled with holes.
I will also strike up conversation with strangers if I see them reading books in public.
I like stories with an escapist element. I read to get away from reality. I therefore tend to avoid books with difficult or sad themes. That I ended up crying, and still made my way through A Sunset Story should tell you something!
I am also a beta reader of fantasy fiction and gay fiction.
Consultant Editor-At-Large, Scholastic Asia [Daphne acted as principal editor for the book, in her private capacity and pens this note in that capacity]
I find the ideas behind The Tails of Ae’tann: A Sunset Story intriguing, and I think there’s plenty to appeal to readers of all ages, especially those who enjoy adventure and action, and also those who are interested in origin myths, and have questions about the afterlife.
I am looking forward to the next book and seeing how the characters and plots develop. As riveting as this first book is, it sounds like the continuing instalments will add even more depth and dimensions to the story, making it a truly exciting, satisfying and thought-provoking series and, potentially, a future classic of the fantasy genre.