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Author and Book Review From The Past - Elizabeth H. Boyer

Posted Aug 23 2010 12:00am

Having owned a Nook since February (an acquisition worth a blog post in its own right), I became interested in what sort of books are available in e-book format, particularly older books. I’m often surprised (and frustrated) by what newer releases aren’t available electronically, but less so for older books, which probably don’t sell as well, and are therefore low on the priority list.

It was during one such ten minute period of random searching that I started entering a few of my favorite authors of my youth. This included Elizabeth Boyer, who wrote several books I very much enjoyed from about 6th grade on. In particular, The Elves and the Otterskin was re-read numerous times during a period in which I read as much heroic fantasy as I could my hands on.

During those days, getting these types of books was much harder than today, especially for pre-teens and younger teens. Basically, you went to the mall when you had a chance, and perused the three or four bookshelves dedicated to Science Fiction (mostly) and Fantasy (shoved in here and there). Tolkien was always available, obviously, and terry Brooks was starting to take up space, but there were relatively few other choices.

Though not her first book, The Elves and the Otterskin was the first I read. Elizabeth Boyer wrote fantasy that was heavily influenced by Scandinavian culture and folklore. When younger, I had some initial difficulty tracking the various names and places, but much like watching a film with a heavy accent, you catch up with it after a bit. There is no denying Boyer’s talent as a writer. Character development, setting, pacing, plotting - the four books of hers I read (her first four) were all well-written, at least from what I can remember.  In addition, the sense of humor found in her books was superior to most books in this genre - reading her books, you frequently find yourself chuckling.

When I saw that her books were not available on the Nook (no, I really didn’t expect that they would be), I did a regular online search. Sadly, I saw that her books are all out of print, though they are available used. I also noticed via Wikipedia Ms. Boyer ended up publishing 11 books, much more than I had realized. She published from 1980-1995, when she apparently stopped writing (or at least publishing). There was a three-year break in her books from 1983-1986, which means I had probably moved on at that point, after reading her initial four books. Wikipedia notes that she was an early pioneer of "mass-market fantasy," but her specialized writing prevented her from achieving a wider acceptance.

After this bit of research, I scavenged the basement, looking through old paperbacks I’ve kept over the years. The collection gets smaller and smaller, but I did turn up my old copy of The Elves and the Otterskin! None of the others remain, however. I read the book again for the first time in at least 20 years, and it has held up remarkably well. Older now, I can appreciate more the Scandinavian influences and how they enhance the story. This is a book I will definitely encourage my kids to read once they’re a bit older. In the meantime, I may "need" to go on a bit of a quest of my own, to see if I can track down some of her other books, both the early ones I read as a kid, and the later ones I am unfamiliar with.

Poking around the Internet, there isn't much about Boyer.  Several short biographies note she attended BYU, and that she moved to a farm near Atlanta after her writing career.  A short bio can be read here and here .  Also, the reviews of The Elves and the Otterskin on Amazon pretty much say it all, though you can read another description here , that also has a different cover image than my copy.  If I end up reading anything else by Ms. Boyer, I'll write a follow-up post.  In the meantime, I'll simply note that I loved her books growing up, and only wish she were still publishing.

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