am 24. Juni 2000
I want to start by saying that I've read just about everything Jim Grimsley has thus far written, so when I learned he was writing a strictly "genrefied" fantasy book, I was a bit curious (not to say skeptical). Like Grimsley (in his authorial comments above), I grew up reading Sci-Fi/Fantasy but more or less abandoned it for more "classic" (read: literary) fiction. This isn't to say I am denigrating genre fiction, as Jim has proved to me (via Kirith Kirin) that you can go home again.
Kirith Kirin is vintage Grimsley with a twist, and I hear echoes of his other works coursing through this novel. It's ostensibly the coming-of-age story of Jessex, a 14-year-old farmboy who is prophetically called to become the saviour of the mystical world of Aeryn Along the way, Jessex discovers he is especially adept at magic, of which he is taught by three ancient "sisters" known as the Diamysaar. He also discovers that he loves, and is loved in return by, the soon to be prophetically-decreed king, the eponymous Kirith Kirin. Typical of the genre, there are inevitable conflicts involving battling magicians, armies of quasi-humans (called Verm) engaging the forces of Kirith Kirin, and the like. Through it all, Grimsley's prose shines beautifully. There is as much imagistic influence from Dream Boy and Comfort and Joy (particularly the emphasis in Kirith Kirin on singing) as there is from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Samuel Delaney.
Having said this, there are of course caveats. Kirith Kirin is quite long (472 pages, plus glossaries and appendices) and sometimes tedious. The echt pedophiliac relationship between Jessex and Kirith Kirin (of which David Tedhams, in his June 2000 Lambda Book Report review, voiced concern) is utterly superfluous. Ironically Grimsley, perhaps showing his own Southern propriety, even apologizes (through Jessex) for "too much information" after their first erotic encounter.
This isn't Grimsley's first foray into sci-fi/fantasy (his short story in Nicola Griffith's anthology Bending the Landscape and his play Math and Aftermath are the most obvious predecessors) but it certainly is his longest and, perhaps, most ambitious. I'm a great fan of Jim's writing and would eagerly recommend any of his books, including Kirith Kirin. I would also be interested to see if he continues in this genre. Well done, Jim!
am 20. November 2000
In his book "Kirith Kirin", Jim Grimsley tells the story of Jessex, a young farm boy who is taken by his uncle to the forest of Arthen to live at the Camp of the exiled king Kirith Kirin. But serving as an altar boy is only the first step towards his destiny, for he is to become the King's "Witch of the Wood", his strongest ally in the fight against the vicious magician Drudaen Keerfax. The story Grimsley tells is at once a new take on the genre's usual depiction of the fight between good and evil and the story of the love between two people in the face of great danger. Grimsley's magnificent talent as a story-teller and his beautiful prose make both stories a joy to read and have captivated me from page one. The account of the relationship between Jessex and the King is both tender and powerful and unlike anything I have read in this genre before. I truly hope that Jim Grimsley will return to the genre of fantasy to give us another vision like the one he created in "Kirith Kirin".