Character Interview: Lord Arkus From "My Sparkling Misfortune"

The Book

10384734Title: My Sparkling Misfortune
Author: Laura Lond
Genre: Humor, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Epic Fantasy
Read my review!
Goodreads | Smashwords

Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind.

The Interview

Hey everyone! Today I’m having an interview with Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle, a professional villain and the author of the book “My Sparkling Misfortune”.

1) Why hello, Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle. I hear that you’re the villain everyone fears around here. Could you tell me why you chose for a career as a professional villain?

A: Greetings, Ms. Majanka. Well, I am not usually open to sharing personal things like that, in fact I guard my early history, but I suppose there’s no harm if your readers know — after all, it’s unlikely that they make their way into my realm and start talking. So I will tell you some of it. I had chosen this fine profession when, as a very young man, I had lost a close friend, and on top of that found myself accused of things I had not done. I figured it was not worth it to try to prove them all wrong — and I enjoyed their fear of me. So I had embraced this path proceeded to earn my reputation of a villain.

2) What does a day in the life of a supervillain look like?

A: It depends on whether I am actively involved into some evil scheme or not. If I am, my day would be filled with various preparations, spying around, training my men, or actual fighting. If not, then I allow myself to relax a bit. Not too much though, I still have to take care of the castle and the rest of my domain, making sure things run smoothly. Goblins can be quite troublesome, you know, they tend to make mischief when they think I’m not watching too closely.

3) I also heard that there’s something going on with you, a monster-like creature and white towers. Can you tell us what’s up with that?

A: He is not “monster-like,” he is a real monster, with fangs, claws and all. You can see him on the cover of my book (I *still* can’t believe they had made me pose standing right next to him for the cover!).

Well, anyway. That beast had been charged to kill me by one of my enemies. That’s a downside of being a villain, I suppose: you have a long list of enemies, some of them powerful enough to arrange something like this. The only thing that will stop this monster is the white towers you’ve mentioned — towers of good as they are also called. He can’t come near them. So if I want to be safe, I need to make sure I am always close to one of them.

4) Now, this is what makes me very, very curious. Why would an evil mastermind like yourself, decide to write a book about his misfortunes?

A: I thought it was about time a villain had his say. Have you noticed how villains are usually portrayed in books? More like props to move the story along rather than real characters. They are rarely heard or given a chance, they are often misrepresented and underestimated. The latter is fine with me, because when I turn out to be smarter than someone thought, I win. But the overall situation is, well, rather offensive. I thought a book like mine might help to set the record straight.

5) The sparkling Jarvi isn’t exactly the ideal sidekick for a villain like yourself. Can you describe to us what your first thoughts were when you figured out that Jarvi was actually a sparkling?

A: Oh, I wanted to scream! I actually did… Would you just imagine: I travel a long way, risk my life to capture an evil spirit, succeed at last — only to find out I’ve grabbed the wrong one! A sparkling, of all things, a spirit that normally helps heroes! Argh. That was beyond frustrating.

6) What is your opinion about the whole everyone-seems-to-want-to-be-a-hero thing that’s going on in the Kingdom, with Prince Kellemar and others like him going to great lengths to reach hero status?

A: It’s got to be some kind of a virus, with princes being most vulnerable to it. Kellemar has suffered from this affliction as long as I’ve known him. It is rather widespread, too: I traveled hundreds of miles away, to Ulkaria, and found that Philip, the prince of the land, also had the same ridiculous wish. Hopefully, I had helped him to get over it.

As to my opinion, I find it both amusing and annoying. The annoying part comes from the fact that many of these hero wannabes would like to achieve their status at my expense. I don’t mind fighting off a knight or two, but when they start coming one after another, it gets old pretty fast.
7) Would you ever want to be a hero?

A: Goodness, no! Why would I?

8 ) What is the greatest thing about being a well-known and feared villain? Would you recommend it to anyone?

A: It’s fun in many ways, you get to set your own rules, but I have to warn that it’s a lonely profession, and you have to always watch your back.

9) And now, Lord Arkus, one of the questions I’m most curious about….Have you ever been in love? And don’t kill me for asking, please…

A: [Coughs] Me? In love?! What a strange notion… Certainly not, not until… Well, no.

10) Are you thinking about a sequel to your novel “My Sparkling Misfortune”? If so, can you tell us something about us?

A: Yes, I am actually working on the sequel right now. It will be titled “My Royal Pain Quest.” You might have noticed that the way the story had ended in the first book was not all that satisfactory; at least I found it hard to accept. So I started looking for ways to remedy the situation… which led me to yet another annoying adventure. Well, perhaps not all of it was annoying as I got to meet some rather interesting folk, including one special lady, but still. The title fits the book very well.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Lord Arkus….I better get out of here now!

A: You should be able to leave just fine, Shork has locked up the goblins. Just don’t drink from Black River as you go, you will talk funny for days if you do.

Book Review: My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond

10384734Title: My Sparkling Misfortune
Author: Laura Lond
Genre: Humor, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Epic Fantasy
Rating: 4,5 stars
Goodreads | Smashwords
Review copy provided by the author.

Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind.

My Sparkling Misfortune is the hilarious fantasy tale of the evil Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle. Being a villain, and pretty good at that, Lord Arkus is well on his way to becoming the most notorious villain in the entire kingdom. However, when a deal with Prince Kellemar – the supposedly good guy of the story and hero-in-the-making – goes horribly wrong for poor Arkus, involving a raging animal and the destroying of several protective white towers, Arkus is forced to leave the kingdom, and hopefully find a way to protect himself from the monster that’s trying to eat him alive, and meanwhile re-establish his position as criminal mastermind. In an effort to solve his problems, he incidentelly catches a sparkling, a creature often seen accompaning heroes. While Arkus certainly is no hero, the sparkling called Jarvi feels like giving the ol’ lord a shot anyway. That’s when Lord Arkus goes through an adventure that might not only change his life, but his entire reputation as well.

The award for most hilarious villain ever definately goes to Lord Arkus. Whereas he is a nasty fellow who enjoys torturing messengers, doublecrossing princes and backstabbing other villains – but only after they have backstabbed him first, he does have manners – there is quite a noble side to him as well. He is hilarious in the way he describes both himself and his opponents, how he analyzes his own actions and those of others. He is a brilliant character who at times made me laugh out loud. A lot of books try to be funny, but it feels forced and unnatural; that’s definately not the case with My Sparkling Misfortune: this book simply is hilarious, even without trying.

Although aimed at middle graders, the adventure of Lord Arkus and his sparkling Jarvi, may appeal to fantasy fans of all ages. While telling a humorous tale, the story offers some valuable lessons as well. One of them being that a villain must not always remain a villain, and that not all heroes are as good and decent as they might appear. Prince Kellemar is the prime example of this. Although being a prince, and aiming to become a true hero one day, he doublecrosses Lord Arkus in their agreement at the beginning of the book, and continues to do things throughout the novel that made me very skeptic about his worthyness for the hero status. On the other hand, the fact that the sparkling Jarvi sees something in Lord Arkus that nobody else sees, and decides to give him the chance to actually do the right thing for once, also holds a very valuable lesson, namely that sometimes you just need to believe in people to make them do the right thing.

The story is action-packed, fast-paced and highly amusing. The dragons, castles, magical creatures, all make the story come to life, and actually read like a classic fairytale. Lord Arkus and his misfortunes could be standing right next to Cinderella and Robin Hood on the bookshelf. If I had to give a complaint about My Sparkling Misfortune (and the reason why I gave 4,5 rather than 5 stars) is that it’s too short. It seems like the sequel-virus has gotten hold of Laura Lond as well. She leaves an open ending, and hints at dark events in Lord Arkus’ past on several occasions, leaving the path open for a follow-up. I would have liked it more had she made this book slightly larger, and added all the additional facts, and a proper ending to this one. My Sparkling Misfortune is strong enough as a stand-alone novel, and although I would enjoy reading more about Lord Arkus’ misfortunes, I do also like it when a book is nicely tied up.

Although Lord Arkus is by far the most witty, sarcastic and intriguing character in this novel, Jarvi/Tullip is quite the enjoyable fellow as well. He is entertaining, good-natured and kind-hearted, and totally the opposite of the Arkus we meet at the beginning of the novel. That they even get along at al, is amazing. Another nice bonus is that the book is filled with wonderful illustrations of the characters and their adventures. The art looks really good, and it adds a nice touch.

I would advise everyone who loves a good laugh, from middle graders to adults, to read this book. It’s a quick read, and it will make you laugh aloud and forget all about the world around you. Lord Arkus is an admirable character, for a villain, with an amazing writing voice and a hilarious personality. The story itself is anything but predictable, the writing style is amusing, and the premise (a story from the villain’s point of view) is very original. What are you waiting for? Go read My Sparkling Misfortune!

Book Review: Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

6609744Title: Kat, Incorrigible
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Witches, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 304
Publication Date: April 5th 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson may be the despair of her social-climbing Step-Mama, but she was born to be a magical Guardian and protector of Society–if she can ever find true acceptance in the secret Order that expelled her own mother.
She’s ready to turn the hidebound Order of the Guardians inside-out, whether the older members like it or not. And in a society where magic is the greatest scandal of all, Kat is determined to use all her powers to help her three older siblings–saintly Elissa, practicing-witch Angeline, and hopelessly foolish Charles–find their own true loves, even if she has to turn highwayman, battle wild magic, and confront real ghosts along the way!

The thing that lured me into reading this novel was the cover. Don’t you just love it? It has this cartoony, childlike feel to it that reminded me a bit of The Sword in The Stone, the Disney movie about King Arthur and Merlin (especially the scene where Merlin made the tea cups and dishes float in the air, and then made them bounce and dance) and instantly made me want to read this book. I’m glad I did, because I thoroughly enjoyed Kat, Incorrigible.

Kat is a twelve-year old girl with a nice sense of humor but an unfortunate habit of always getting into trouble. With her two older sisters breathing down her neck, and her stepmother always poking her nose where it doesn’t belong, Kat often finds herself being lectured by either her siblings, or the aforementioned stepmother. Things aren’t looking up for Kat’s family, especially not since her oldest sister, Elissa, is to be married to a horrible man who supposedly killed his first wife. On top of that, her other sister Angelina, is messing with magic she doesn’t understand by practicing spells from her mother’s old spell books. Like that isn’t bad enough, Kat herself gets dragged down into a magic world during a nightly excursion, and barely escapes. But she does find some useful information: she is a Guardian, a talented magician. Now she must use her new-found powers to help her sisters, which leads to a lot of dreadful but hilarious situations.

I can’t remember the last time I had so much FUN reading a book. Kat, Incorrigible really is a hilarious book, but it also has a lot of action, adventures and interesting characters. While aimed at middle graders, I thoroughly enjoyed the humor and the storyline in this novel as well, and I’m pretty sure it will appeal to young adults and adults as well. Although the storyline is pretty balanced, with “the good guys” and “the bad guys” and it might be a bit predictable here and there, this is still one of the best MG fantasy books I’ve ever come across.

Although Kat herself encounters no love interests whatsoever in this book (which is a big yay for me, considering she’s only twelve, and not every heroine has to find herself a proper suitor), there was plenty of romance between Kat’s older sisters and their love interests. Kat was pretty much spending half her time playing matchmaker, and the other half trying to save both of her sisters from a horrible future. I liked these themes, and the cute and giggly undertone of the novel as Kat hopped from matchmaker duties to Guardian duties and sisterly affairs.

I also liked the fact that this book isn’t set entirely in some mystical made-up world, but actually is situated in our very own Regency England. Although there might be some time inconsistencies, and the way the characters talked wasn’t really what one would expect from proper ladies in Regency England, this didn’t bother me at all, especially not considering the fact it is a MG book, and that not everything has to be spot-on or historically correct to make a novel entertaining and amusing.

It surprised me a lot to see that practically all the characters in this book, even Charles, Kat’s always-absent but often-mentioned brother, have interesting and distinct personalities. I loved how Kat’s older sister, Elissa, seems like she just stepped out of a Jane Austen novel. A lot of the characters seemed like mismatched, or cynically-addressed Regency novels archetypes, and I had all the more fun reading about the madly in love student, or the mischevious highwayman who acted out of love. Of course, Kat was my favorite character. Wicked, clever, funny and witty, headstrong, stubborn and undeniably intelligent, she is a heroine I would like to see more of. She totally charmed me over, and if I had a kid sister anything like Kat, I would be terribly proud – and probably, terribly annoyed as well! She is exactly the kind of character ever reader has to root for, whether they want to, or not.

Stephanie Burgis’ writing style was very impressive, especially considering this is her debut novel. She describes places and scenes beautifully, but doesn’t spend too much time on the details, so there’s enough action to keep you turning page after page after page. The plot is full of twists, unexpected happenings and some more predictable occurences. It would be nearly impossible to get bored while reading this novel, because the storyline is so fast-paced, original and hilarious.

Picture a lighthearted, cheery and hilarious fantasy novel set in Regency England. Add sinister villains, doublecrossing magicians, love-struck older sisters, a stepmother deadset on climbing the society ladder and a total improper 12 year old girl with impressive magical powers, and you’ll get a nice idea of what Kat, Incorrigible is all about. Please come back soon, Kat, and entertain me some more with your hilarious adventures and your heartwarming and utterly charming attitude.