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Wednesday Writerly Stuff: A Review I’m Proud Of

Kosingas in EnglishI was going through some of my old texts yesterday, to see what I could put in my portfolio, and ran into this book review I’ve written a few years ago. It was originally published at Suite101, which no longer exists (well, it exists, but it’s more like a blogging platform now). It attracted a Polish editor’s attention, he found me on Facebook, and asked for the book author’s contact info, or his publisher’s. And the book got translated into Polish, which made both the author and the publisher happy. Now when I look at it, the review could have been better, but hey, even as it is, it accomplished something great.

Since the review no longer exists at Suite101, I’ve posted it to Goodreads. If you’re curious, you don’t have to go to Goodreads to see it: you can read it below. The review is for the English translation, so you can read the book too, if it looks like your cup of tea. Enjoy!

Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon by Aleksandar Tesic – Book Review

Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon by Aleksandar Tesic is the first book in the Kosingas trilogy (the third book really is the last one, it’s not a start of an endless series of books), a trilogy based on Serbian legends and folklore, but with the basic story recognizable and lovable by all, a story of a man becoming a hero of legend and protecting his people from evil.

A year before the famous and controversial battle of Kosovo, monk Gavrilo, the kosingas (leader) of the Order of the Dragon, meets with Marko Kraljevic (“kraljevic” means “son of a king”) who turns out to be the Warrior from the prophecy of the Oracle of Fire, the one who will lead the knights of the Order of the Dragon from all over the world against the hordes of Hades.

At the time of their meeting, Kraljevic Marko is more of an arrogant nobleman than anything else; he is not a bad man, and he has a weak spot for children, but he is arrogant and ignorant of many things. It is up to the monk Gavrilo to teach him better, and to prepare him to inherit the position and the duty of kosingas.

Accompanied by Lazar, the ruler of Serbia, they go to an oracle to find out more about what to do next, an oracle who is actually much more than an old woman with a gift. After the visit, Lazar goes to prepare the Serbians for the fight against the Ottoman empire, and Marko and Gavrilo go on a quest to find the legendary weapon Marko became famous for in the Serbian folklore.

On their way, they will encounter mythological creatures from Hades, but also friendly ones, some from Serbian mythology, some known in other mythologies too, like a centaur. They will also go through Serbian country, and the readers will get to know a lot about (very) old Serbian custom, some of it cruel, such as a custom of a village of miners to throw most of the female babies into a pit, for girls can not become miners.

As in all good books of this kind, Marko will grow as a person, learning more both about himself and the people he rules and will one day protect from the hordes of evil. He will also learn much more about the old religion and old gods, for even though he is a Christian, help from the ancient Wolf deity (the legend says that the wolves are ancestors of Serbians) Strahor will prove to be necessary.

This novel is set in the 14th century Serbia. An avid mountain climber, Aleksandar Tesic has visited all the places in Serbia he describes, and it shows in detailed and colorful descriptions. He knows exactly what they look like, and he asked around about the old custom too – some of the old beliefs (you should do this, you shouldn’t do that) is still there.

While the Serbian folklore and legends are rich, very little of it is known even among the Serbians themselves. Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon tells a lot about them, though never in an overwhelming way, it just comes natural through the story. In the middle of the book there are some high quality illustrations, mostly showing mythological creatures Marko and Gavrilo encounter on their way.

A silent war between Christianity and old Slavic faith is being fought in the background of this world. While not as powerful as before, the old gods are still very much present, and not happy about being neglected. Some peace between the old and the new faith will have to be found, or the world itself might be left in ruins.

Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon is Tesic’s first novel, but he gives a very mature book about heroes and monsters and legends, about gods old and new, about good and evil. Folklore and country and history were thoroughly researched prior to writing, but in spite of a lot of data, the novel manages to be an intriguing and a fun read.

Publication Details

Tesic, Aleksandar

Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon

Translated by: Ljiljana Radenkovic

PortaLibris

ISBN: 978-86-7818-121-4

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My 2011

I did some work before I fell asleep, really!

This has been a tricky year for me. At the very beginning of it, I was left without job; not only was I left without my income (which wasn’t much to begin with, but still better than nothing), I was also no longer writing for a living. Although, truth be told, I was more concerned about the income.

Some start of a year.

A friend helped me, she found a guy who needed a book translated from Croatian to English, a crime novel. I’ve never translated an entire novel before that, but hey, there’s a first time for everything, and I made it. After that, a publishing house hired me to translate Graceling by Kristin Cashore and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. More work, yay! And then, there was translating The Man from the Diogenes Club by Kim Newman with a killing deadline — a new challenge, and a great experience; I’ll be translating another book by Mr Newman, the one which nobody dared to publish.

So, within a year, I have translated four books — is it good, bad, average? I’m not sure.

I’ve also managed to finish a short story collection (ghost stories), I hope it will get published sometime next year.

Not to forget: I’ve written some reviews for Suite101, and one of those reviews helped a book get translated into Polish. I’m really proud of that.

All the time, there’s the economy crisis (although, there’s always some sort of a crisis here), lousy health mostly due to stress (both me and SO).

Did I do well this year? Or bad? Something in the middle? I don’t know, but we survived. I guess that counts for something.

What was your year like?

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The Great Belgrade Book Fair, Part III

Jelena Đurović signing her book

Sunday was the official last day of the Belgrade Book Fair, but my last day there was Friday — there was too much work after that.

My intention was to go to the promotion of the 30. februar novel by Jelena Đurović; she’s a colleague dramaturgist, and also a young politician trying to make things better. Unfortunately, I was late, and only got to the end (public transportation, what can I say); I still managed to make some pics of the promotion, and to get my copy signed.

After that, I went to another promotion; it partially overlapped with the first one, but I managed to see a part of it; it was about a new edition of Goran Skrobonja somewhat cult horror novel Nakot (it translates to The Spawn, it’s a hard-core horror about a bunch of monstrous babies being born and overtaking the world), and also about the Naked Heat by “Richard Castle”. Other than being a writer and a translator, Mr. Skrobonja is also a publisher, and the talk was about his editions and some of his publishing plans; it wasn’t mentioned there, but those plans include The Man from the Diogenes Club by Kim Newman which I’m translating right now (yay, working again! darn British slang and the wardrobe from the seventies and the writer who pays much more attention to what people are wearing than I do! still, the book is great, it will be really hard work because of the very short deadline, but hey, it’s fun!).

Then there was some more walking through the Book Fair, buying a few more books (the already mentioned Naked Heat, The River of Gods by Ian McDonald, The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk by D.T. Suzuki, and something else I can’t remember right now), and seeing some nice people, fellow writers promoting their stuff and signing their books. One of them was Mr. Aleksandar Tešić, the author of Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon and its two sequels. His publishing house brought some knights to entertain the audience (well, they’re not really knights, they’re a society for preservation of the old Serbian skills and arts, and a part of it is training with the equipment the real Serbian knights of old were using — when they went for a walk, I tried the sword, and I can tell you it’s quite heavy, and so is the chain-mail; it really takes a lot of strength and stamina to be able to move in that all day and then take part in battles, and the guys from the Society go and have tournaments in it; the girls usually just wear those pretty medieval dresses, but there’s one of them who fights with the guys).

Me with a sword (which I have no idea how to hold properly)

And so my last day at the Book Fair ended with me wielding a real sword, which is great; and I managed to do some business, that is, to get another translation to do (and a challenging book at that!), which is also great. The experience was somewhat tiresome because the Fair is so huge, but I loved it, and wish for more events like that.