Emma Bull has written a fair number of novels in her career and all of them are superb in their own way. Be it Bone Dance, Finder or War for The Oaks, all are superbly written. So when I recently was looking for a novel to read on one of the many cold, rainy nights we’ve had this Autumn, I turned to Finder, a novel I enjoy re-reading every few years.
My personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition is subtitled A Novel of The Borderlands, which tells you that it’s set in The Borderland ‘verse created by Terri Windling. It’s not the only Borderland novel: her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote two splendid novels set here, Elsewhere and Nevernever. I, however, think that it’s the best of the three.
Any novel that I re-read must have three aspects: interesting characters, a compelling story, and a good sense of where the story’s set. Finder has all three in spades.
First, it has a first-person narrator in Orient, a young male, who has the psychic ability to find anything if the right question is asked. So when his elf friend, Tick Tock, asks him to find her missing wrench in exchange for supper, little does he know that his life will become the whim of others. There are plenty of characters, all well-fleshed out, and all moving the story along.
Second, it has a compelling story weaving two apparently disparate plots into a single thread that makes perfect sense. And Emma pulls no punches; bad things will happen to folks no matter how central they are to the story. A lot of story get packed into its just over three hundred pages and it moves smartly along.
Third, Emma does the best job in this long running series of making the central setting (naturally called Bordertown) feel as if it were an actual place, a neat trick as too many such places feel not quite real. Everything here really does as if you could walk down Mock Avenue, have a drink in the Dancing Ferret, and hear the Horn Dance perform as they came down the street.
Emma has done this three times, using Minneapolis as the setting in both Bone Dance and War for the Oaks, and Bordertown here. If you read this novel after reading these notes, do go on to read these other novels. You won’t be disappointed!