| Maze of Blood art
by Clive Hicks-Jenkins,
who says of "long-time collaborator and word-smithing muse,
Marly Youmans, 'Marly takes even the most unnerving
material and stitches it through with the sublime.'"
Maze of Blood
Mercer University Press
May 2016 interview
Interview by Suzanne Brazil for Maze of Blood
at Women Writers, Women's Books
from novelist Midori Snyder - read the whole early bird review here
from Mark Finn, biographer of Robert E. Howard,
It was also nice to see her treating the delicate subject matter of Howard’s suicide with respect and gravitas. Her Conall Weaver isn’t so much like Robert E. Howard as the book goes on. Some of the more outlandish myths around Howard serve the fiction better than the man.
In the end, Maze of Blood is a book I would tentatively recommend to less-sensitive Robert E. Howard fans, and unreservedly recommend to lovers of magical realism and stories about writers telling stories. There’s a lot of layers in Maze of Blood, but it’s that complication that makes the novel so rewarding.
novelist Scott G. F. Bailey, at Six Words for a Hat,
The closest thing I can think of to what Youmans does here is the bit in Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight where, as the narrator V describes Sebastian's various novels, the narrative itself becomes those novels for a few pages. That was a cool trick, Vladimir. Youmans does something different, but it is also a cool trick. I could barely contain my excitement while reading that chapter. Yes, I thought. Yes, this is the stuff.
So "Maze of Blood" is a love story. It's an adventure story. It's mystic in places. It's literary and poetic. It's a Texas Gothic tale. All that is wonderful, but the book does have one hurdle for readers to overcome: The end is at the beginning. Caradog has died, Maybelline is no longer Conall's best girl. And Conall, hero of the tale, has taken a fatal step almost before the plot finds its first complication. Then Youmans writes the story forward from a past point. It's told in first-person in the rich and sometimes fantastic voice of Conall. This may sound confusing, and in the hands of a lesser writer, it would be. But with Youmans, you can count on the entree being just as sweet as the dessert--no matter which one is served first.
from writer-reviewer Suzanne Brazil, at blogcritics.org,
Named as one of their Favorite Books of 2015 at Books and Culture Magazine, Maze of Blood (Mercer University Press, 2015), is a visceral shot to the senses and a fine filament tugging at the imagination that examines the results of thwarted dreams and desires in the life of a young writer. Set in rural Texas in the 1930’s, Marly Youmans uses language as both scalpel and wand to conjure a place and time as real as the abandoned oil wells and as otherworldly as the magical lands of the great epic poems....
To open a book by Youmans is to leap from a cloud and ride the thermals to places unknown yet somehow familiar. Her novels follow no formula or conventional plot twists and still evoke a shared humanity that is weirdly comforting. Each carefully chosen word strikes a precise note and traps the reader in the orbit of whatever tale Youmans cares to spin.
from Jeff Sypeck, author of Becoming Charlemagne (nonfiction),
“But hardly anybody ever stumbles on a buried city or a labyrinth. Nobody ever finds magical snakes sneaking through the ground. Nobody ever tries to steal somebody’s soul.”Maze of Blood is an implicit defense of fantasy. The escapism it inspires isn’t frivolous; it’s rooted in the true lives—the true needs—of writers and readers alike.
“Oh, I don’t know. It seems to me like rattlesnakes are always magically underfoot in Texas. And I don’t know about you, but these gourd-headed people are always sneaking around, trying to find and steal my soul. They want to bottle it up somehow, so that I can’t get out. And labyrinths? Labyrinths are funny places. A job at the five-and-dime can mean being shut up in a too-symmetrical labyrinth, needing to find a way out. A family tree can look like a drawing of a maze, all disorderly and full of dead ends and hushed-up horrors. Even a prairie or a desert can be a labyrinth, if you look at it right. Lots of people are caught in one and can’t find their way out, or don’t like the only path out. Maybe I’m one of those people.”
Maybelline made a gesture as if throwing off unrealistic dilemmas.
What I appreciate most about Maze of Blood is that Marly Youmans doesn’t treat the troubled writer as a testosterone-addled buffoon, nor does she let his strange, fierce attachment to his mother overshadow his complex inner life. Instead, she’s sensitive to the possibility that he’s a kindred spirit in the arts, an inspired storyteller stuck in the absolutely wrong place and unable, emotionally or intellectually, to escape.
from "Wilson's Bookmarks"
Christianity Today, 23 November 2015
from a Barbara Lingens review at Bookloons, 2015
Marly Youmans truly writes a unique kind of prose. This story, which is based on the life of pulp writer Robert E. Howard, could have been Texas dusty and dry, with characters as plain and weak as the mundane world around them. Instead what we get is a wealth of stories based on timeless figures both real and imagined, along with amazing descriptions of nature - all this on top of the plot itself. ...At the end we realize that a very toxic story has been bejeweled and bedecked with magical insights and sparkling prose.
from a Clarissa Goldsmith review at Foreword Reviews, 27 November 2015
MAZE OF BLOOD, by Marly Youmans, is a book to be savored. It is a book that digs deep, with every word of the spare and exquisite prose carrying level upon level of meaning. It is a book that encourages, even requires, both thought and feeling in every line. Though it will capture the reader immediately and never let go, it’s not a book to be taken lightly. MAZE OF BLOOD is a book to read over and over again. As she did in GLIMMERGLASS, Youmans twists time and space to explore the juncture of creativity between the material world and the spiritual. This is the interface Youmans returns to here, revealing the very essence of creativity through the story of one man’s all too brief life.
division page image for Maze of Blood.
on collaboration with the artist,
I never wrote to tell you how much I love Maze of Blood. I was so daunted by its dark beauty and darker psychologies. Daunted by the notion of conjuring a cover for a book that makes a poem of the life of the man known as the 'Father of Sword and Sorcery'. (There will be illustrators that want to kill me for having been given this opportunity!) Daunted by the task of serving you as well as I can, and yet serving myself too. And last but not least, daunted at the task of making images to walk hand in hand with your matchless prose, so that I balked at writing to tell how much I loved it, for fear of putting the challenge onto paper, for fear of frightening off my muse. But now, as I tweak and adjust and make my way to the finishing-line of the cover, I write to say that you never disappoint, and I love discovering the terrains of your books. The interior images are going to be somethin' else, and you are going to love 'em! Just saying!
|First interior division page image. 12 May 2015