Literature / Gossamer Axe
An Urban Fantasy
novel by Gael Baudino, Gossamer Axe
is the story of a Really 700 Years Old
"young" woman named Chairiste ni Cummen who, through various magical means, has survived into the year 1987. In the sixth century, Chairiste and her lover, Siudb, were captured by The Fair Folk
, and trapped in their static, unchanging world for centuries. In the late 18th Century, Chairiste manages to escape, but leave her lover behind.
For two centuries, she has tried repeatedly to win back Siudb from the Fey, following the gate to their world as it made its way around the world, until she ended up in Denver, Colorado. Under the name Christa, she has been passing on some (but not all
) of her skills with the Irish harp to students, when one of them decides to pay her back by taking her to an Yngwie Malmsteen
Christa is so overwhelmed by The Power of Rock
that she throws herself wholeheartedly into Denver's metal scene in order to put together a band and finally defeat the elvish harper to win back her lover.
Gossamer Axe contains examples of
- The Ace: Even as a young girl, Christa was a standout musician, easily outshining everyone around her—people traveled considerable distances to hear her harping even before she received advanced training. When she discovers Heavy Metal, she brings all her talent and discipline to bear on learning a new instrument, and soon becomes an incredible guitarist, gaining the respect (even awe) of everyone who hears her play (Even those who 'know' that girls in rock are only good for looking hot and providing sex for the real musicians—who are all men). Devi also qualifies—she's a highly talented keyboardist who is also extremely knowledgeable about the theory and technology behind her instrument/equipment.
- Aerith and Bob: The band consists of Christa, Devi, Monica, Melinda, and Lisa
- Abusive Parents: Devi's father.
- All Men Are Perverts: With only a handful of exceptions, men are portrayed very negatively throughout the story, with almost every single one displaying large swaths of jerkass behavior, cowardice, outright stupidity, or intensely misogynistic attitudes. The three male characters who show actual intelligence, compassion and tolerance come off as almost saintly by comparison.
- Cool Sword: Ceis serves this purpose for Christa—If she'd been a warrior, she would have had a sword, since she's a Bard, she gets a Cool Instrument: a magical Harp that talks, serves as a magical focus, is a masterwork-level item, adds to the wielder's/players skill, provides knowledge, and might just be able to forsee a bit of the future, since it ensures that Christa's age is dialed back enough for her to fit in at her first rock concert.
- Cue the Sun: After Kevin enters the Sidhe kingdom to bring them change, the sun rises for the first time.
- Drugs Are Bad: Melinda falls off the wagon by hanging out with the wrong crowd in order to make connections for the band, and is nearly destroyed by her quickly-escalating drug use. No one else in the band partakes of anything more than an occasional beer, not even cigarettes, which is wildly improbable for a group of rock musicians, especially in the eighties.
- The '80s: Specifically, the era of Hair Metal—the music, hairstyles, and especially the clothes worn by the musicians are painfully dated by modern standards, but very true to the time.
- '80s Hair: Melinda especially, but Christa too, once she adopts the style of an 80's Hair Metal musician.
- Emotionless Girl: Devi tries to carry this off, but it's only a facade (and a fragile one at that), designed to protect her from the pain of confronting her issues.
- Equippable Ally: Ceis is a sentient, jewel-encrusted Harp, created by the Sidhe, and stolen by Christa during her imprisonment in their realm. It can communicate telepathically (though usually only one word at a time), acts as a focus and amplifier for Bardic Magics, and possesses an odd sort of wisdom and compassion, as well as an innate knowledge of the finer points of musical magic.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Christa is ridiculously talented musically, is possessed of a mysterious demeanor and hidden depths, radiates compassion, warmth and wisdom, and she's insanely hot. Given all that, it's no surprise that she attracts admirers of both genders. Melinda definitely feels the attraction, but Monica, and especially Judith, have loving and sexual relationships with her.
- Femme Fatalons: Christa has long, graceful nails, though for an interesting reason. Wire-strung harps, played in the old style, are played by striking the strings with the edges of the harpist's long nails, not by plucking them. The Fae bard, Orfide, also has long nails, for the same reason. Presumably Christa would have had to trim hers once she started playing guitar, since it's nearly impossible to chord properly with long nails, but it is never mentioned, and she continues with her harp playing throughout, so maybe she's Just That Good.
- Fiery Redhead: Christa spent centuries controlling and sublimating her passions, but they never went away and getting to the rock scene pushes them much closer to the surface.
- The Fundamentalist: Christa's mother, in ancient Eire, is an enthusiastic follower of the 'New' religion—Christianity, and tries to force her daughter to follow their ways—arranged marriages instead of following her heart (especially when that means loving another woman), and staying at home to serve and obey her husband instead of pursuing her dream of becoming a Bard and magician. This results in Christa running away with her lover to attend the college of musical magic, with her Pagan father's blessing.
- Kevin's family are even worse examples of this, being intolerant to the point of disowning their youngest son when he reveals that he is gay.
- Girls Love: Chairiste and Siudb. Also, Christa and Monica as well. In both cases it is portrayed as a perfectly natural, joyous, and positive thing.
- Good Old Ways: Despite living for centuries in Europe and modern America, Christa holds on to the traditions of her fifth century clan. Understandable, given her isolation, but she often falls into dismissive contempt of most things modern.
- Hot Witch: Well, more of a Hot Bard, but Christa has more than enough beauty and magic to qualify.
- I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Nearly every male musician in the story has this as his default setting.
- Magic Music: All the magic we see is generated and channeled by music, although according to Christa, the ability to access that power is inherited, and you either have it or you don't. Malmsteen and his band produce huge amounts of magical energy during their concert, but can neither see it or use it, while Kevin and Devi, working alone, both manage to produce tangible magical effects. Orfide, with only his small, unamplified harp, is more skilled and powerful than any single mortal could ever be.
- Musical Assassin: Christa can and will kill you with nothing but her music, if pushed to it.
- Noble Savage: Christa thinks of her clan in this way—rough and unrefined, but possessing an inherent nobility and strength that she finds lacking in the inhabitants of the twentieth century.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The lineup of the band bears an uncanny resemblance to the all-girl band Vixen. The book was published a couple of years after the band's debut album, but is set a year before it's release—in 1987, thus avoiding the awkwardness of the fictional band being aware of the real one.
- Not So Stoic: Orfide, the Sidhe harper, is a seething pile of bottled-up emotions.
- Power Incontinence: Although she's long since mastered the ways of Harp-based magic, when Christa first begins adapting her abilities to a guitar-powered mode, there are a few accidents. Like partially shifting a music store into another dimension.
- The Power of Rock: Christa's secret weapon against the Sidhe harper—She realizes she can never match his flawless technique, so she resolves instead to simply overpower him with the joy, anger, and VOLUME of mortal rock and roll.
- Present Tense Narrative: All the scenes that take place in the Sidhe kingdom are narrated in the present tense to show that time does not pass for those trapped within.
- Rapid Aging: Without the aid of magic, the years spent in the Sidhe world catch up to those leaving all at once. This includes death and decay.
- Sensual Spandex: Everyone in the band embraces the Metal fashions of the day—Multiple belts, studded bracelets, and lots and lots of Spandex. Lampshaded when a Jerkass spells it out for Christa: 'Guys dress power, girls dress sexy'. She accepts that this is the way of things, but never, ever allows the boys to treat her like just another piece of pretty fluff.
- Really 700 Years Old: Christa and Judith are both around fifteen hundred years old (and look eighteen).
- Red-Headed Hero: Christa—her fiery mane isn't quite Rapunzel length, but it's striking enough that it's the first thing anyone notices about her, and is commented on throughout the book.
- Ritual Magic: When attempting a large magical working, either for combat or healing, the musical equivalent of a Ritual is needed—A Concert. Melinda's healing takes place on stage during a club appearance, and the final battle against Orfide requires the band to set up their gear in the Colorado wilderness, complete with portable stage and lighting gear. It's a bit unwieldy, but the results are impressive.
- Secretly Wealthy: A very mild version. Christa isn't a multi-millionaire, but centuries of thrift and savings have left her with a very nice house and a larger nest egg than someone of her apparent age should have accumulated.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Christa (though the steel shows through more and more as she sets aside her gentle harper persona and embraces the rocker).
- The Stoic: The elves, with few notable exceptions, do not display emotions at all.
- The One Guy: Kevin Larkin, Christa's friend and guitar teacher (though she rapidly surpasses him).
- Title Drop: Guess what Christa's band is named?
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: When Christa realizes the next chance to rescue Siudb will be her last she decides that, win or lose, she is going to let herself grow old and die.
- Year Outside, Hour Inside: People and events are all but unchanging in the Sidhe realm; thus what feels like one neverending night there equates to centuries in the human world.