Ashley Capes is a very eclectic writer: I became aware of his writing through the first book of his fantasy saga, City of Masks and its sequel The Lost Mask that should reach the shelves soon. Then I was asked to read and review his novella The Fairy Wren, a curious and inspired combination of mainstream and fantastic elements. I also know he writes poetry, even though my abysmal ignorance of the medium prevents me from appreciating what I’m certain are equally enjoyable works.
So, when Mr. Capes proposed I read his newest novella, A Whisper of Leaves, I accepted immediately, since I was curious to see what new avenues he would lead me along. This is again a different kind of story, both in concept and background, since it’s based in Japan: even though modern civilization tends to create a similar context, no matter where you are in the world, there are subtle differences in outlook and mind-view and they tend to influence both the characterization and the story itself. I found these almost subliminal differences quite intriguing, and they added to the appeal of the novella.
In short, the main character Riko has come to live and work in Japan, though she was born and grew up in Australia where her parents moved long ago. As the story opens, she’s facing some work troubles brought on by a huge misunderstanding and to take her mind off these troubles she’s hiking at the foot of Mount Fuji with her friend and roommate Kiyomi. When Riko finds an old journal hidden by the forest’s underbrush, she doesn’t know that the apparently innocuous object will have a deep impact on her life and on the way she views the world.
This is as far as I’m prepared to discuss the story, because I believe readers must discover it on their own: what I feel free to reveal about it is that it’s a tale about obsession, and how it can impact our lives, even beyond our will. Obsession can take many forms: like the kind that possesses Riko, ready to put aside her own problems, and to jeopardize her friendship with Kiyomi, to uncover the mystery held by the pages of the journal, and to know as much as possible about Makiko – the journal’s owner – and her life. As the story progresses, we see how obsession can live even beyond the grave, how it can fuel a soul’s search for fulfillment and how it can motivate any creature to deeds of love or hate, which for some might be divided by a very thin border…
In consideration of the novella’s compelling quality, I can easily say that burning curiosity was indeed the driving force that moved me to finish it quickly: the clues pile up in such a crescendo that you will not be able to close the book until you have solved the mystery at the basis of the story. And that’s not such a bad way to give in to obsession after all!
My Rating: 7,5/10