DISCLAIMER: Valarie Kinney has previously contributed to Cultured Vultures.
My latest indie-published gem review is In the Presence of Knowing by Valarie Savage Kinney, the first in the Windy Springs series. Set in the aftermath of an abusive relationship, Keisha is reliant on her friend Layla to offer her a place to stay, and for support, after discovering she is pregnant. The baby in her belly is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, though far from minor. It’s the wake up call she needs to leave the abusive Vince. But is there something wrong with the baby?
“Something was wrong. I would lie in bed at night with my hands resting on my swollen belly, feeling my baby kick inside me, and I knew that something was terribly, awfully wrong.”
Despite this opening hook, Keisha’s pregnancy is not a driving force for the story in this book. At least for part one. The driving force is Keisha and her summer of adventure at Windy Springs, a Renaissance festival that opens during the summer and autumn months. After moving in with Layla, she is recruited as a fairy to sell handmade wings at On a Wing and A Prayer, a stall at the festival. There she befriends many odd characters, not least Gibble the troll who becomes an important part of her life.
Linking to the book in the opening paragraph, I read the book’s blurb for the first time. I actually would recommend you not read that blurb. I may have read it a few week’s ago when the book was offered to me, but thankfully I had forgotten it. There’s too much information there that would dispel a large sense of the mystery that is inherent here. Who are her new friends? What danger does her ex pose? How is her baby? Without the mystery, it would not hold as much intrigue.
Written from the point of view of Keisha, the writing is tight and honest. Errors are at a minimum and you can tell there’s been some strong editing, which some indie titles lack. There could be room for more creativity, but that’s difficult to achieve if you want to keep your character believable and reliable. One of the strong points of the book is the psychological aspect of dealing with an abusive relationship, and how you move on from that.
“Knowing Vince, he was probably drunk out of his mind by now, still thinking I would change my mind and come back. Though he hadn’t shown up to hassle me while I was at Layla’s, now and again when I was in town, I had the feeling I was being watched. Like I had to keep checking over my shoulder for his old Buick.”
As the mysterious elements of Windy Springs and its inhabitants reveal themselves, the one constant is Keisha’s gradual acceptance of herself, and her acceptance of others’ acceptance. It’s a heart-warming tale, but feels as though the weight of it is quite heavily on the inner-self, rather than of plot moving forward. It could quite easily have been a longer book, but then since book two will hopefully be coming out, it serves as a successful introduction to the world, even if it does leave a few more unanswered questions then you would like.
To say much more about the plot here would spoil its reading – all I would say is if magic and mystery are your thing, and you want to get into a longer running series, it’s definitely worth a read.
In the Presence of Knowing is the opening, enjoyable book in the Windy Springs saga – a book of battling demons, coming to terms with yourself, of accepting others, and crafting beautiful fairy wings in a magical forest.