Indie Book Review: “Sophie’s Key,” by Jodi Jensen

When I first thought about reading a Romance novel, I shrugged off the idea as quickly as it manifested itself in my mind. Even my choices in film veer away from the Romance genre save but a few. But, some weeks later, I saw promo announcements / Tweets for the release of “Sophie’s Key” by Jodi Jensen. I have known Jodi Jensen to be a friendly and fun person to commune with over the vast distances of cyberspace. Dutifully, I purchased a Kindle copy and here is my spoiler free review.

Characters: The main character is Sophie, as the title would suggest. Through Sophie we get the classic “fish-out-of-water” character. Through which we have some comical and / or embarrassing moments. Along with Jacob and the child Meri, Jodi offers us a main and two strong secondary characters. Together they comprise a sort of trinity of wholesomeness. Of course, as design would have it, we also have an unholy trinity of antagonists.

Plot: The storyline is wonderfully solid and follows a logical progression with some decent surprises. These surprises create fair conflict and do not feel as if they were ‘parachuted’ into the story. Jodi Jensen methodically planted her conflict seeds without a formulaic feeling. No reader should feel the need to second-guess or discover a path of lesser resistance for Sophie or any other character.

Writing: Incredibly neat, clean text. I did not spot any typos or convoluted sentences. Also, there seems to have been keen observance for preventing other amateur slips, like repeated catchphrases, body language or facial expressions used to the point of nausea. Therefore, let us say that both the writing and editing were done with the proverbial fine-toothed comb.

The dialog is professionally written with a natural feel for flow. I am especially grateful for the lack of “info-dumps.” In “Sophie’s Key”, the characters are doing the talking. For example, Jacob is an observer of people and a man of few words. He is somewhat blunt and gets his point across with brevity, and then he reads reactions. Which of course befits and speaks of his background.


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Put “Sophie’s Key” on your Kindle or Nook


Conclusion: After two chapters, one aspect of its appeal became clear. The scant Romance Films I enjoy share elements with Sophie’s Key, first, a magical quality and second, a multi-genre appeal. Think about classic films like “The Bishop’s Wife” or “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.”

Is “Sophie’s Key” a romance? A western? A crime thriller? Or A magical Tale? Of course, it is a romance first, but Jodi Jensen weaved all these other elements in, like a great chef combining ingredients. Jodi pulled off this neat trick without her final product looking like a random hodgepodge of disparaging elements.

Do yourself a favor, read “Sophie’s Key” and let me, and Jodi Jensen, know your thoughts.

History in a Fantasy Novel

The history of your world should play a major role if you are writing a fantasy or even a Sci-Fi novel. Imagine how a reader will feel when they are dropped into a civilization or a post-apocalyptic setting without any knowledge. Surely this scenario can make anyone feel like a stranger in a strange land. History is an essential part of world-building.

Of course, one has to naturally avoid long-winded historical passages when world-building. After all, it’s a fantasy novel not a history textbook. Earlier, I discussed the use of Technology In Your Fantasy World. Dropping such hints tells us where a civilization or society currently stands, but it doesn’t speak about how they got there.

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Reflect for a moment upon Gandalf returning to Bag End to impart his knowledge about the Ring to Frodo. The scene plays out with a sense of urgency rather than seeming conveniently dropped into place as world-building filler material by Tolkien.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, Storm of Divine Light, I only delve into several great ancient battles and religious history. Both are incredibly linked to the main plot and the mystery at hand for the main character.

Another “history” would be backstory for characters. I used some of the same techniques and will discuss the in a future post.

I cringed at the thought of writing a chunk of history and sweated profusely when chapter 3 “Religious Relics Are People Too” was read at a critique. Oddly enough it passed with flying colors.

The trick was to “seed” the history in the previous chapter.

In chapter 2, there are sub-characters discussing and comparing historical notes. The main character listens and sometimes get frustrated by their knowledge. He wants to jump in and ask questions, but feels foolish. Later, he’ll accost one of them alone for the information he needs. His sense of “itching” for more information transfers to the reader. A sense of urgency made everything in chapter 3 flow without the aforementioned “contrived” element and seems perfectly plausible.

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History and backstory have to be present in order for a complete world-building experience in a fantasy novel, but many feel intimidated by it. How about you? How are you handling history or backstory in your novel?