Tag Archives: Wen Spencer

Spencer, Wen: Eight Million Gods (八百万の神) (2013)

Cover art by Tom Kidd
Really great cover

There is a reason I love Wen Spencer’s writing. Her characters are all odd-balls trying to fit in with the rest of the world. Some are more successful than others. Having pretty much grown up in mental institutions ensures that Nikki is going to have a harder time of it than most people. Having an obsessive compulsive disorder called hypergraphia isn’t helping Nikki fit in.

The driving compulsion to write; the overwhelming urge to write. Hypergraphia may compel someone to keep a voluminous journal, to jot off frequent letters to the editor, to write on toilet paper if nothing else is available, and perhaps even to compile a dictionary. Hypergraphia is the opposite of writer’s block.

The way Wen Spencer describes Nikki’s writing compulsion is pretty intense. At one point Nikki tells us that she would even use her own blood to write if the urge became too strong. Wow! That is some disorder to have.

For some weird reason, quoting law to some policemen was like hitting Superman with kryptonite. They just couldn’t cope with material from their home planet. (p. 1)

When Nikki’s mom drags along a police officer to have Nikki interred in a mental institution, quoting law to the police officer is one of the tools Nikki uses to get away. She does get away to Japan on a roller-coaster ride of gods, goddesses, super-natural creatures (like tanuki) and new friends.

But first things have to be resolved with the police officer and Nikki’s mom.

All mom’s are nuts, but some moms are crazier than others. While Nikki certainly has a pronounced form of OCD her obsession is fairly easy to satisfy. All her mom had to do was make certain that Nikki had the writing implements she needed. Being a Senator from a wealthy family (in the US that goes without saying) would also give Nikki’s mom the finances to make certain Nikki could get her education and help her with her obsession at the same time. That means that either Nikki’s mom is insane or maybe there is some other reason for Nikki being placed in a mental institution than the one Nikki thinks is true.

The blurb kind of gives the answer to that. Hah, hah – one of the many reasons I seldom include the blurb in my reviews.

When Nikki discovers that perhaps there is more to her hypergraphia than insanity, she is filled with relief and despair. Her relief is obviously from understanding that she isn’t nuts (well, not only nuts). The despair comes from realising that her horror stories are real, real, real.

What would it be like to realise that the story you had written about a person being killed by a blender was for real? It’s not the most common method of killing a person and to have that person be killed in the exact manner you had written – well that would freak me out. Then imagine finding out that the gods, goddesses and mythical creatures in Japan were real, and wanted something from you. Nikki freaking out is an understandable reaction. She does, but not in a major manner. In fact, her experiences with getting away from her mom’s attempts to get her into mental institutions serve her well in adjusting to her new reality.

“Eight Million Gods” was a fun story. There is an element of romance, but it doesn’t dominate the tale. Instead, we get loads of action, murder and mayhem. In other words, my kind of fantasy story.


Spencer, Wen: Tinker series

Tinker by Wen SpencerTINKER (2002) – 2003 Sapphire Award Winner

Tinker is a romance/adventure book placed in a science fiction setting. While there are elves, they are part of a parallel world that earth got to through technology – sort of side-stepping to another world. Warning on the romance part – it is explicit.

Wen Spencer’s invention of Tinker – our salvage-yard owner protagonist – is the creation of a well-rounded character. All others are rather two-dimensional compared to her, but as she is our scrappy heroine that doesn’t really matter.

Pittsburgh travels between Elfhome and Earth – one month on Elfhome/24 hours on Earth. While on earth the ambient level of magic goes way down. Tinker has found a way to combat that through storage tanks and a magic spell. That turns out to save the life of the Viceroy (Wolf Who Rules), Windwolf. In saving Windwolf’s life Tinker becomes embroiled in the politics of the Elfin court, the NSA and the Elfin Interdimensional Agency. Everyone is out to find her. Thankfully, Tinker has the brains to deal with all of the complications of her life.

I like Tinker. She is smarter than I’ll ever be and a whole lot braver. Her innocence and huge heart are appealing. Wen brings Tinker to life for me and her writing brings music to my soul.

Wolf Who Rules by Wen SpencerWOLF WHO RULES (2006)

Wolf Who Rules continues right after the end of Tinker. In it we get to know Wolfwind and the elven culture a little better. Tinker is still the main protagonist of the novel.

Tinker is having nightmares. Nightmares that are about things she has no knowledge of. Scary things like the Wizard of Oz. These dreams are draining her but it seems they are important for some reason.

When the royal troops come to Pittsburgh, Tinker needs to figure out how to behave around other domane and royalty. As she is only 18, the elves consider her a baby and therefore of no consequence. Are they in for a surprise!!!! Windwolf is, for the most part, left to deal with the politics of this tense situation.

While Tinker saved Elfhome from the Oni in the previous book, there were side-effects. There is a growing discontinuity in Turtle creek. Add a couple of dragons and the half-oni and the tengu and Tinker and Windwolf have their work cut out for them.

We are still encountering the excellence of Spencer’s writing. Her books are a delight to read. I believe I’ve read them all. This science fiction parallel world of Elfhome is a dangerous place to live and Spencer’s writing makes that quite clear. Warning in this book as well. There is some explicit sex in it.

Elfhome by Wen SpencerELFHOME (2012)

Elfhome disappointed. I’d gotten used to the excellent writing in Spencer’s two previous book. Elfhome on the other hand was too noisy. There were hiccups in the flow of words and Tinker had all of a sudden become two-dimensional rather than the three-dimensionality she’d had in Tinker and Wolf Who Rules.

The plot itself is actually pretty good. Elven kids come to Pittsburgh to hoping for better lives. They are kidnapped and during the investigation of that kidnapping Oilcan and Tinker discover Skin-Clan interference. It turns out the Skin-Clan might have emigrated to the Oni-world – playing gods with the lives of the population there. When Tommy Chan is added to the mixture the text loses its adhesiveness. Too much is going on in too little text.

I still liked Elfhome. It’s just that I’d gotten used to a different standard of writing from Wen. The whole Elfworld setting is pretty enchanting. A world of powerful magic, beautiful elves, man-eating trees, frost-breathing wargs, and god-like dragons makes for interesting lives for the population.

If there is a book no. 4 in this series, I will buy it. The only problem with Elfhome is Tinker and Wolf Who Rules. Without these two novels, I probably would have had no complaints. That is the problem with excellence I guess.