A&A reviews: Penavese Mosaic

Pevanese Mosaic (Hadley Rille Books)
 by Mark Nelson

Heads up! Mark Nelson is one of the most lyrical writers I know, especially when he’s describing the creative process. In this, his fourth novel in his Pevana fantasy series, he only falters once and early in that it’s obvious how he’s setting up a character for a fall, but the series is marvelous and immersive otherwise.

This is also a standalone novel, so if it’s your introduction to Pevana you’ll suffer no loss. The Pevana universe has gods and goddesses, and Pevana’s patron goddess, Reina, is benign and wants only peace. She speaks to her followers through the arts, especially through inspiring their poets. Despite the fact that there’s very little actual poetry in the entire series, which was a plus for me since I tend to skip those parts, what’s there is is well done. And as for Nelson’s descriptions of the creative process, here’s an example.

He worked quickly to capture the light’s effect, to set time on the surface so that it could pass as it wished in the waking world. Shadow and motion slowed, became fixed in a representation of action suspended yet perpetuated. Hulls took shape in mid-roll, a skeen of sea birds in mid-flight, foam perched on wave tops like frosting on an ethereal cake. He became by stages an extension of his hand, minutely connected to the bristles of his various brushes as he dabbed and stroked order from chaos. He felt the brushes’ touch on the canvas like a caress on his own skin.


The queen looked at him intently. “I am Pevanese,” she said quietly. “And we Pevanese know how to value art. I may be Queen, and a mother, but perhaps above all else, I am one of the poets of this city. Generosity may align with necessity. The people were right, of course, you have eyes that relax when you smile. Welcome to Pevana, Jeril Sandre. Make use of my house. Paint my family. Help me adorn this place with beauty.”


She applied the sharpened charcoal piece and added several flowing lines to her drawing. She took a step back, checked the position of the full moon under whose light she worked, and then began shading and smudging with a will. She worked in a flurry, sometimes inches from the surface, scratching, rubbing, and blowing away excess. Moonlight and her vision combined to transform her into an avatar of creative impulse…

She finished just before dawn, coming back to herself with a blink and a shake, fingers sore, back tight and protesting, leaning into the topmost rungs of the ladder. Sometime during her creative trance, she must have hauled the thing over from the alley. She struggled down in a fog. When her vision cleared, she gasped. From ground to feet below the top of the wall stretched a surreal scene: a vast, multi-limbed oak tree spreading its canopy in full spring depth over a grave fenced in wrought iron.

The image astounded her. She knew of the grave located near the center of the cleared space. But the tree. Never. And yet something hinted at her as she took in the arc of the limned branches.

More than branches. More than a pattern. Something other that suggested memories.

Someone else’s memories.

It’s a marvelous tale. Read it also for descriptions of what it feels like to be an artist, a poet, or a storyteller. Mark Nelson captures those moments with heart-stopping beauty

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