Published December 2015 by Reuts Publications
The Untold Tale by JM Frey tells the story of Lucy Piper, a young, bookish hero who travels through a portal to a much beloved literary world, and undergoes a journey wherein she interacts with the characters she has been fascinated with for years. On the surface, this is one of those fun, self-aware types of stories that get told from time to time – think of classics like The Neverending Story, or Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). If one digs a bit deeper into Frey’s novel, however, we see that it goes beyond the meta-analysis that is usually a feature of this type of story.
One of the obvious elements of the story that Frey wishes to address with The Untold Tale is the ongoing and needed conversation that science fiction and fantasy fandom is having with itself regarding ongoing and historical sexism and racism in many otherwise beloved works. Through the character of Lucy, Frey explicitly addresses and rebuts many of the unspoken assumptions fantasy characters make regarding women and their role in the societies presented in fantasy literature. While many authors attempt to address sexism do so by just slapping a sword and suit of armour on a character, Red Sonja style, Frey goes deeper than that, taking the traditionally-masculine idea of the hero and looking at whether or not that in and of itself is an admirable archetype. Throughout this analysis, it’s clear that Frey and Lucy both have a great love of the genre, and that love is what inspires them to want to make it even better than it has been in the past.
Part of this analysis occurs through the experiences Frey subjects her twin protagonists, Lucy and Forsyth, to as they go on their heroic quest. Throughout their experiences in the novel, she addresses important psychological issues that often plague literary heroes but not genre ones, such as post-traumatic stress and immobilizing self-doubt. The challenges that they face in overcoming these issues fill the novel with a sense of actual realism: not the type of “realism” that is often just disguised pessimism and gore, but actual realism that makes the characters recognizable as tragic, flawed people that just happen to be undergoing fantastic experiences. Exemplifying qualities such as intellectualism, compassion, and cleverness, the heroes of The Untold Tale force us as readers to re-evaluate how we define the traditional heroic figure, and how those characters would often not represent values we would want to live by in real life. By making these issues so real, and so deeply personal, Frey has created characters that readers will be keeping in their thoughts long after they finish reading the story.
Funny, exciting, psychologically and emotionally complex – throughout The Untold Tale, JM Frey takes readers on a fantastic journey that covers many familiar tropes while encouraging them to rethink how they feel toward beloved genre classics.
(Note: Special thanks to JM Frey and Reuts Publications for providing a copy of The Untold Tale for review)