Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: Faun by Trebor Healey

Faun by Trebor Healey
Cover Art & Design: Niki Smith
Categorized as queer urban fantasy, Trebor Healey's latest release, Faun,  comes fully equipped with a confused young adult as main character and a sexually charged atmosphere. In Healey's world, Greek mythology, the Catholic religion, and Mexican culture collide in an urban setting where by focusing on ethnic characters and the Los Angeles Latino culture, his tale gains a distinct West Coast flavor.

Introducing Gilberto Rubio, a boy known for his angelic beauty throughout childhood, unfortunately Gil and his mother Lupita are in for a shock when puberty hits the boy hard. One day Gil looks like an angel and Lupita's hopes that he'll go into the priesthood are still viable, and the next the boy literally oozes testosterone and needs a razor. Lupita is afraid the girls will lust after her son, but more than anything she's afraid of her own son's strange, compelling beauty. Gil on the other hand has other, more pressing worries.

Poor Gil! A razor to shave his face is nothing, what the boy really needs are loads of hot wax for legs that every day look more like hairy shrubs. But that's not all, his feet are changing into hooves, and what the heck is it with the pointy ears, the nubs growing from his forehead, the tail, and the umm... new impressive package? What kind of monster is he turning into? The physical changes are bad enough, but confusion intensifies when as he grows older people and animals around him react to those they love or desire by experiencing sexual ecstasy and uncontrollable arousal. He tries to hide behind hoodies and dark clothing, however eventually things get seriously out of hand and adults begin to notice him, even his own mother! Freaked out, Gil runs away and on his way out of LA meets old man Walt, an online acquaintance claiming to have answers to most of his questions.

To begin this review I have to mention what impressed me the most about Faun, and that is how Healey really captures the essence of an immigrant household that still holds beliefs intrinsic to their culture. In my opinion that is key to this story and Healey nails it. I also love how he sets the overall atmosphere by using contrasts in settings as he moves the story between the urban Latino populated neighborhood, Los Angeles as a whole, and the mountains.

Throughout the first few chapters of Faun, Healey introduces his characters and gives them depth by using background details and personal histories to establish distinct personalities, giving the reader a well-rounded idea behind motives that drive the characters' actions. Initially, Healey concentrates on Gilberto and Lupita's perspectives to establish his world. Later, however, other perspectives are also shared with the reader. The result is a somewhat slow beginning frontloaded with pertinent information, but one that sets the rest of the story quite well. After those first couple of chapters the action picks up and flows through to the end.

This is only my second encounter with Trebor Healey's works. The other is Trunk, an edgy short story where he addresses religious beliefs, sexual orientation and the gay lifestyle. In Faun, through Gil's search for his place in the world, Healey explores the confusion that comes from being different, religion, ignorance, and queer themes. He features various characters and relationships -- straight, gay, trans, polyamorous, and both young and mature love. Along the way, some experience or battle lack of control and confusion, others, however mistakenly, attempt a reconciliation between deeply held religious beliefs and love, while most search for acceptance, knowledge and that all illusive happiness.

Woven throughout the story there are highly amusing moments and some favorite scenes. Chupacabra? Poor Gil! There's a high school classroom scene that became a favorite, and well... there's the whole "nutting" bit which was a bit over-the-top and had me in stitches -- now you must read the story to find out what this is because I'm not about to explain. And talking about favorites, from the secondary characters my favorite is old hippy dude Walt, and the moments Gil spends with him on the mountains surrounded by nature are some of the most beautiful in the book.

Faun by Trebor Healey is categorized as queer urban fantasy, but with its excellent characterization, atmosphere, and blend of Greek mythology, religion, and Mexican culture, by the end of the story I thought of it as a beautiful contemporary urban fable. Now, if I could only hear Gil really play that flute, again. . .

Recommended for mature young adults and adults.

Category: LGBT/Queer Urban Fantasy
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/October 1, 2012
Source: Lethe Press
Grade: B+

Visit Trebor Healey here.
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About the Author: Trebor Healey is an American poet and novelist. He was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and studied English Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He spent his twenties in San Francisco, where he was active in the spoken word scene of the late 80s and early 90s, publishing 5 chapbooks of poetry as well as numerous poems and short stories in various reviews, journals, anthologies and zines. He received both the Ferro-Grumley Fiction Award and the Violet Quill Award for his first novel, Through It Came Bright Colors, and his story "Mercy Seat" was named one of the top ten online stories of 2004 by StorySouth. He lives in Buenos Aires.

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