Christine Hinwood's novel, Bloodflower, is in the shops now. The cover is striking: rich crimson fabric lying beneath a bloodied arm wearing a leather cuff.
It's thrilling to walk into a bookshop and see copies on display.
It was exciting for me to start reading the book. Christine and I are workshop mates, so I knew what to expect, but instead of encountering her work in small bursts I was about to plunge into her world for an extended period, enveloped in her unique and glorious language.
Little Pin and Cam, her older brother, were not new to me. I loved them already. But it was bliss to begin my journey with them again, right from the start, with Cam recently back from the war, minus one arm, and with a horse too fine for his family's small land holding. And to meet once more the young Graceful Fennister, homely daughter of the richest family in Kayforl, who had been betrothed to Cam, but whose well-meaning father breaks off the betrothal, thinking she could do better than a poor, maimed young man.
Cam left the south as a boy soldier to travel north to war. Of all the town's men who marched off that long ago day, he is the sole survivor - silent, mysterious and damaged. Now, in his restlessness, he reminds me of other returned soldiers who struggle to put the intensity of war behind them and to be content once more with the smallness and petty niggles of home. Cam is unable to settle and we follow him when he journeys northward once more.
Christine has created an entire world with characters to care about - even when they're not likeable - like fat Farrow Gorlance - or complex - like Graceful's father. The sadness and unspoken longing of Ban Coverlast moved me; I cried for Aston Mastow's losses, for the loss of all those Kayforl men.
With prose taut as a drawn bow, Bloodflower is a timeless book that is sure to become a classic.