What Do You Say To a Naked Elf?, by Cheryl Sterling

>> Wednesday, April 27, 2005

After reading the AAR review of What Do You Say To a Naked Elf?, byCheryl Sterling, I didn't know if the humour was going to work for me, but the very idea of the book sounded so unique that it was irresistible. Luckily Jennifer saw it on my Wish List and was kind enough to send it to me, for which I owe her a huge thank you!

Plain Jane Drysdale supplements her uninteresting day job by selling sex paraphernalia at what are basically erotic Tupperware parties. One dark night as she is speeding home, she brakes to avoid running over a rabbit and crashes her car. Woozy and hurt, she is taken away by a group of men. As they walk deeper into the woods, one of her rescuers, Charlie, tires of her questions, drugs her, and slings her over his shoulder. When she awakens, Charlie shares a few choice pieces of information with her: she has gone through a portal into another world; he has half elf, half fairy, and he'll be representing her at court for the murder of Tivat, a shape-shifter who happened to be the rabbit she ran over. Jane not only adapts to her new world, she also effects miraculous changes in it as it begins to change her.
This book was Fun with a capital F. I did think the story got a bit out of control near the end of the book, but for the originality both in setting, plot and characters, and for the wonderful humour, I'd grade this book a B+.

As I said above, I had my doubts about the humour. Books that are intended to be humourous don't tend to work that well for me, and the ones that make me laugh out loud are usually the supposedly serious ones which sneak bits of humour in unexpected situations. While I didn't find WDYSTANE? (some acronym!) LOL funny, I think I spent most of the time I was reading it smiling at particularly witty and amusing tidbits... and there were many, many of them.

Something else I had my doubts about was the pop-culture references Blythe mentioned in her review. I probably know more about US popular culture than 99% of my compatriots, but well, I've lived all my life in Uruguay, so I probably wouldn't get most of them. And at first it did seem that they might get out of hand. I mean, in the first few pages, I was scratching my head. "Cough it up, Keebler", "You really need to buy a contraction or two, Vanna" Keebler? Vanna? What, who? But luckily, this didn't continue for the rest of the book. There were less references, and the ones that did show up were less obscure to me, so this ended up being a non-issue.

Back to the story itself: Sterling has a truly amazing imagination. The whole concept of the book was great, and I loved the attention paid to the little details which made this world come alive. It did feel like a fairy tale world, with very fun twists and a modern sensibility.

And I really enjoyed the protagonists. Jane was great. She reminded me a bit of MaryJanice Davidson's wise-ass heroines, only Jane knew when to lay off the one liners and was a much deeper character. And I liked most things about Charlie. I'm usually fond of stories about stuffy heroes who get loosened up by their wilder heroines, and this was very much the case here. The only thing I didn't like about Charlie was that he was a little too prone to being judgemental and he kept blaming Jane for stuff. His first reaction at anything going wrong was assuming Jane had screwed up something. Still, I had fun reading their relationship, which was surprisingly steamy. Whenever Jane touched Charlie's wings.. phew!!!!

The only reason I'm not giving this book an A is that I thought the whole storyline went out of control near the end, with huuuge coincidences galore and plots and subplots which didn't make much sense and Jane uncharacteristically becoming a born-again fatalist. I also wasn't too crazy about the excessive neatness of the big revelations about both Jane and Charlie.

Well, whatever. This is very much the "something different" I'm always wanting to read, and I'm looking forward to see what this author comes up with next. BTW, I googled her but came up empty handed, does anyone know if she has a webpage, or if anything is known of what's next for her?


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