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.