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The Bondmate Chronicles
      Haze of Joran
D.J. Sutherlin
      D.J. Sutherlin
Xlibris, 553 pages
      Xlibris, 173 pages

The Bondmate Chronicles
Haze of Joran
D.J. Sutherlin
D.J. Sutherlin is an American painter and author, holding a BA in Art from Central Missouri State University. Most well known for her paintings of the mythical horses, she has written two novels: The Bondmate Chronicles and Haze of Joran. She attends at least one SF/Fantasy or Gaming Convention a year. Her artwork has been displayed at Science Fiction/Fantasy and Gaming conventions and various galleries in the Midwest and southern US. She is best known for her paintings of mythical horses, Unicorns and Pegasi. Her first series in 1996, The Biblical Unicorn, was based on the 8 scriptural references to the unicorn in the King James Version of the Bible. The Bondmates series of paintings are based on this novel. The Prophecy series comes from her lifelong fascination with eschatology. Neither series is complete, but both are well under way. She is also an award-winning songwriter. Currently she has 3 more novels in-progress. Her artwork is displayed at the Flyinghorse Gallery. D.J Sutherlin lives in Union Grove, Alabama. She is a full time wife and mother, home-schooling 2 children. The family has a retired pony, 2 dogs and a cat, (who is convinced he is a dog).

ISFDB Bibliography
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Being self-published and having a title like The Bondmate Chronicles one might have expected some sort of twisted Gor-like S&M-meets-fantasy novel, but while some non-gratuitous sex does occur, it is predominantly a standard fantasy novel with incredibly evil wizards trying to take over the world and nice wholesome humans and cute elves and the like stopping them. Similarly, in Haze of Joran, a science-fantasy novel for the juvenile market, nice non-rebellious teenagers (!!!) save their new planet of domicile from the evil mining conglomerate.

Given the fact that these are first and second novels and self-published, I wasn't expecting to read a new Tolkien or Bradbury, or find an incredibly original plot. Indeed, both books could have used an experienced fantasy/SF editor. Sentences like "The sound of the storm increased by decibels," (in The Bondmate Chronicles), while perhaps technically correct were fairly grating in a fantasy setting. Similarly, dialogue like the anachronistic exclamation "Well I'll be encoded in Basic," (they have light speed travel and still program in Basic?) and the "What in the name of black holes is going on?" (reminiscent of the 20s and 30s space operas of Ray Cummings and E.E. "Doc" Smith) in Haze of Joran are fairly grating to a science fiction reader -- even one who like myself enjoys old pulp SF.

Some of the dialogue in The Bondmate Chronicles was outright silly and melodramatic, the use of capitalization inconsistent, and -- what is it with fantasy writers anyway? -- there was the token character with an apostrophe in his name:

    "Why did you choose me?"
    "It was destined. I did not really choose you. The Great Spirit chose US, bondmate. HE arranged for my perfect bondmate to be nearby when my birth became difficult. There are different ways to look at it."
    "Oh, N'edar, does this mean I will lose you?"
    "We will never lose each other. We may separate someday, but even our separations will not be permanent. When the Great Spirit chose us, He [sic] gave us a gift; each other. You have helped me in many ways, bondmate. I know the Great Spirit chose carefully."
    "Oh, N'edar, I haven't much to offer you, just my loyalty and my love."
    "Who, my bondmate, could ask for more? We should sleep now."
Compare this with a snippet from William Hope Hodgson's flawed horror-fantasy classic The Night Land (1912):
"And I lookt something slowly upon her; and she to know that I would ask whether that she did be harmed anywise; and she to be all slain in the heart, because that I did be so hurt; but truly I had fought a good fight, and did lack only to know that she come to no harm."
H.P. Lovecraft commented on The Night Land in his Supernatural Horror in Literature (1945): "It is serious marred by painful verboseness, repetitiousness, artificial and nauseously sticky romantic sentimentality, and an attempt at archaic language [that is...] grotesque and absurd." While I might not go as far and be as adjective-prone as Lovecraft with respect to Sutherlin's two books, certainly this is their major flaw. This, in part, is likely because Sutherlin, while involved in fantasy and science fiction art, has probably only read a limited number of standard works from the history of fantasy and science fiction, dooming her to repeat if not the errors of the past, then to use plot devices rendered clichéd in the first half of the 20th century.

So why go on with this review? Well, in spite of its fairly serious flaws, I found the books a fun read. The characters were likeable if bordering on cutesy, and the plot, however clichéd, moved forward at a good pace and with plenty of action. Sure, the book didn't have me considering deep philosophical questions about man's presence in the universe, but sometimes one needs to switch off PBS (or the CBC for we Canadians) and watch some Walker, Texas Ranger.

In The Bondmate Chronicles, the story tells of Lehloni Snowwolf, a maiden of a Native American-like tribe who is psychically bonded with a young adult unicorn, N'edar. The evil Achnor, in league with the even more evil Black Mages of Xitus, has her and her bondmate branded and exiled from her tribe, which is later wiped out, along with a large herd of unicorns. They meet up with Enky the ebullient empathic Morphan healer, Kolander the brawny innkeeper/warrior, Cagin the human/elf halfbreed, and Truana the elf-woman released from a crow's body when her Mage master is killed. The group with occasional tag-alongs revive a sleeping knight and, of course, go on to defeat the bad guys. Haze of Joran similarly has a young woman psychically linked, this time to Haze, a dog-native Joranian coyote hybrid, fighting a corrupt mining consortium along with helpful Pyro-lizards (your basic small Joranian dragon), and a teenage technological wizard, amongst others.

Thinking back -- my goodness, it's been THAT LONG! -- these are the sort of books I probably would have enjoyed when I was about 15. While the author herself doesn't recommend The Bondmate Chronicles for younger readers, personally, I think that the non-prurient and tame portrayal of sexual relations between two loving young adults would only be offensive or corrupting to those who banned Burroughs' Tarzan books on the basis that Tarzan and Jane were unwed and living in sin (they were wed in a native ceremony, not a Judaeo-Christian one) -- get a life, folks. Lehloni even has the good sense to use an oral contraceptive, a real 90s kinda gal. Come to think of it though, how is it that fantasy characters never catch STDs? but we'll leave that one for another day. Haze of Joran has no such possible limitations, the teenage characters are too occupied saving their friends' and their own skins to have time for much romance.

Thus overall, The Bondmate Chronicles and Haze of Joran are fine as reading fodder for younger teenagers, but, given the technical flaws, not something most adults could digest very easily. Likeable characters and a solid fast-moving plot are certainly good building blocks for such writing, but Ms. Sutherlin needs to find herself a good critical editor who is well versed in imaginative fiction and can steer her clear of her current weaknesses, yet maintain her creative and imaginative potential.

Copyright © 1999 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

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