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Write On Ottawa: Love fantasy? Read Caroline Fréchette.

By Alejandro Bustos on May 18, 2015

If you like fantasy novels then you should read the work of Gatineau-based writer Caroline Fréchette.  I am a big fan of her Family by Choice series, which revolves around the complex character of Alex Winters, a  brooding young man who can create fire with his thoughts.

Having really enjoyed the first book, which came out in the fall of 2013, as well as the sequel that was published last year by Renaissance Press, it was with eager anticipation that I read Kindred Spirits, the third book in this five-part series.  (The fourth book, Blood Matters, is scheduled to be released this coming October).

Set over a year after the end of book two Brothers in Arms, the third novel is a pleasure to read.  With well written dialogue, excellent pace and interesting characters, it succeeds in creating an intriguing story filled with gangsters, heroes and villains.

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Fréchette, when I ask her how readers have reacted to the series so far.  “I get a lot of positive feedback and reviews, and I frequently hear from strangers how they enjoyed the series. . . . It’s been consistently surprising to me because I really wasn’t sure about the first book when I wrote it. ”

As someone who has read the first three books, I can add my name to those who are giving her praise.

Fans of the series will know about Alex’s ties to the underworld, where he is a young mob boss in the crime family of Mr. Lupino.  Kindred Spirits starts with the young Alex continuing his criminal path.  Instead of presenting a black-and-white picture of cruel mafia thugs, however, we are shown a world in which ruthless killers can also demonstrate surprising moments of tenderness.

Amidst this complex setting is GenEx, the mysterious organisation that conducts research on supernatural powers.  There is also the group of young superheroes that we first met in book two, such as Tom who can read minds, or Julie who has the ability to teleport, who have become Alex’s friends.

When GenEx reappears, Alex and his group receive a message from the future, in which they are warned that the world is on a path towards self-destruction.  In an effort to change history, the motley crew of superheroes sets off on an international quest to save humanity.

Fans of fantasy and sci-fi have a lot to choose from with this fun series.  For my money, however, what I have enjoyed most about the books is Alex’s narration.  (The story is told through his voice using first-person).  In an email interview with Fréchette, I told her that reading her most recent book was like getting together with an old friend who I hadn’t heard from for some time.  (I read the second novel last year).

I also mentioned that when I first “met” Alex in book one I didn’t like him very much.  But as I read through the novels, and saw him grow as a person, I become surprisingly fond of him.  As Alex’s real “mother”, so to speak, I asked her what she thought of how her protagonist has evolved.

Caroline Fréchette

Caroline Fréchette

“I’m really proud of where he is in his life now,” Fréchette replies.  “I think that the reason Alex is hard to like at first is how angry he is; and in my experience, anger almost always is a shield for pain of some kind.  As he grows, and learns to form relationships and get a little more in touch with himself, Alex learns to deal with his pain and face it instead of always masking it as anger.  Since the story is told in his perspective, the fact that he’s getting more in touch with his emotions makes it easier to see what the anger is about, and it makes him easier to understand and relate to.”

Another part of the story that I enjoy is how each book can be read on its own.  While I would definitely recommend reading the series from the beginning, as this background will allow you to enjoy the books more, you can still read each novel as a standalone work.

This got me wondering if the series was planned this way.

Absolutely,” replies Fréchette, who is originally from Montreal but has lived in the National Capital Region for the last decade.  “I knew from the start I would have several stories to tell with this character that would all be connected, and tell a larger story of personal development.  But I also wanted each book to not only be a complete story in and of itself, but also to have a different theme and a different sort of story.  The first one is closer to a horror story (so is the fourth one, in fact, though a completely different kind than Blood Relations), the second one is more of a slow suspense, and the third one is more an adventure story.”