Most readers are familiar with Daniel Wallace’s style and work without realizing it. He published his most famous (and first) novel, Big Fish, in 1998. Many reviewers described it as a fairy tale for adults. The film adaptation was directed by Tim Burton in 2003, and was nominated for four Golden Globes and one Academy Award. Since then, Wallace’s first novel has been adapted into a Broadway musical that will premiere this fall. (Wallace also turned the story into a haiku…kind of.) Regardless of the medium, there appears to be a demand for fairy tales that appeal to adults. In his upcoming novel, Wallace writes and creates just that. The Kings and Queens of Roam is a story that is unexplainable, yet unbelievably convincing and touching.
I’ve read all four of his other books and I’ve come to expect the unexpected concerning where his stories will take me. I am in no way disappointed with Daniel Wallace’s fifth novel. The story transports you to a world that is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful, while managing to steer clear of being overly sentimental. Wallace has dealt with complex family relationships (father/son, mother/son, husband/wife, etc.) in his previous novels, but in The Kings and Queens of Roam, the story revolves around the two McCallister sisters, separated by both age and appearance. Rachel is completely blind, trusting, and gorgeous. Helen is hideous, manipulative, and jealous. She is also Rachel’s eyes. She begins to describe the world and its surroundings to her, giving her the opportunity to create a new world: one in which Helen is beautiful, and Rachel is not. Using a variety of characters that range from dogs to bartenders to lumberjacks, and a town that feels all too familiar and anything but ordinary, Daniel Wallace has crafted a story of loss, love, life, and lies. It’s a story that challenges our perceptions of what it means to feel beautiful and loved, and what it means to truly see.
What I found particularly fascinating about reading this book is the fact that I was interested in each character, even the ones I did not like as people. But what was important is that I actually cared about them. They were interesting. There was something to read about, something to learn about, something to figure out, and a reason to figure it out. I wanted to know what was going to happen in their lives. And it wasn’t just the people, but also the town of Roam itself. I wanted to learn about how it functioned. I wanted to learn about its surroundings, its landscape, its history, and even its future. In my mind, the town became a character. Each page of this book left me wanting to know more about something, someone, or somewhere. Fans of Wallace will notice some recurring symbols from his earlier work, and some new ones I hope to see again.
I highly recommend this book. Whether you are a writer, a hardcore reader, a casual reader, or just looking for something to read on the plane, it will be worth your time.
The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace will be available May 7th, 2013