Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer
Author: Janni Lee Simner
Publisher: Cholla Bear Press (website unavaiable)
DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.
This review will be shorter than my usual ones because this is a very short novel, and it's new, so I don't want to give out too many spoilers here. Let's talk about the importance of names and titles! This novel is a classical example of picking the right name for your novel in my opinion. It was originally titled Secret of the Three Treasures, which is very tame. It's almost hard to believe what a quick switcheroo can do, but now we have the magnificent title Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer - can you believe that? I think that's leagues ahead of the original and really catchy. I probably never would have read this had it retained its original name. I'm not one for going on much about covers (unless they really tick me off), because authors typically have little to do with their cover (and all-too-often little to do with their title!), but this cover is also wonderful. It amplifies the title perfectly.
This is yet another novel where I fell so in love with the title that I couldn't not read it! Of course, as I've discovered with other novels, a great title doesn’t guarantee a great read, but I'm always optimistic that a writer who can come up with a title like that can also write a novel like that, and unlike my previous experience with such a title, this novel kept me on-board to the very end.
I did get tripped up by the very first sentence. The author amusingly writes a short paragraph at the start of each chapter in italics, as though Tiernay truly is an adventurer. I loved this, but the very first one confused me. At first I thought it was written badly, but after I’d run it through my mind about four times employing different emphasis, pauses, and speeds, I realized it’s perfectly fine. Maybe it was just me, but I’d be a wee bit worried having a novel, even one with a brilliant title, starting out with a sentence that it takes a reader three or four passes through it before he gets it! Here's the sentence in case you're interested in seeing if you're sharper than I am!
Tiernay west stalked through the forest, silent as the great cats of the African plains, deadly as the fabled Royal Assassins of Arakistan.
Now when I read it, it seems perfectly fine to me. I think it was the juxtaposition of 'forest' and 'plains' which tripped me up initially; then my mind was so focused on that, that I couldn’t grasp the rest of the sentence!
I am so in love with Tiernay Markowitz (from which you know it’s only a short hop to 'West'). She's an admirably feisty and determined young woman. She wants to be an adventurer, and to take after the hero in the novels her dad writes. Not that she sees dad much these days, since he and mom have split up. Now she has to deal with the new man in her mom's life, Greg, who seems like a nice guy, but who doesn’t seem even remotely interested in adventuring; nor does his young son Kevin - at least, not at first. I loved Tiernay's long-suffering mom, too. She was the perfect combination of feistiness herself, and of face-palming patience in the face of her daughter's aggressive self-confidence
Acting on information received (by eavesdropping on a nearby table at the restaurant where they ate lunch), Tiernay learns of treasure! This treasure could even be in her home town. Admirably, she heads to the library and discovers a really interesting book about her ancestors, and what should drop out of the book but a short, handwritten note, which mentions not one, but three treasures! Tiernay is on the job, and next she does some Internet research. Yes! She uses the library and the Internet! She researches. She doesn't have things miraculously drop into her lap (apart from that one note!). She doesn't have magical powers. She isn't 'the chosen one'. She's not part angel, part demon or whatever, she's just a regular ordinary child who refuses to be hobbled by others' perceptions of her age and gender and so becomes extraordinary. In short, she's how every main female character should be. How hard is that? Why can more authors - especially female ones who write about females - not get what Jannie Lee Simner has grasped so firmly in both hands?
Tiernay is the kind of daughter I would have chosen, had I had one to choose. She's smart, fearless, indomitable, and completely adorable. She's not afraid to go out on a limb, even under the derision of others. She's always optimistic, she sticks to her guns (even though she carries none!), and she selflessly plays it out to the end. There's rather more than a handful of YA novelists I could name who could learn how to craft a strong female main character by reading this novel, let me tell you! I recommend this novel without reservation not just for the appropriate age group reader but for anyone who likes a good yarn, and for any writer who wants to know how it should be done.
I'm not a big fan of series, but once in a while there comes along a character who has earned the right to be in a trilogy or series, and Tiernay "West" is definitely such a character. I'd like to see more of her. I'd also like to see an adult fiction about the grown-up Tiernay, perhaps where her life didn't quite turn out to be the adventuring existence she had envisioned as a child, where she's in an interesting but relatively mundane job (maybe she's a tour guide, so at least she gets to travel) and then, quite by chance, something pops up on her radar and leads to a rollicking adventure. Yeah. I want to be a beta reader for those stories!