Sunday, March 13, 2011

Warped, by Maurissa Guibord

"Tessa doesn't believe in magic. Or Fate. But there's something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa's own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa's life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy."

The premise appealed to me on so many levels: Fantasy, Unicorns, Tapestries, and the 16th century nobleman. HOT, 16th century nobleman. I'm a history fan-geek. My kids hid my "Six Wives of Henry VIII" CDs because they were sick of listening to them in the car (not a problem as I replaced those with "The Duchess, Life of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire)... I have Unicorn Tapestry replicas in my house. I was ready for this book, or so I thought.

I realize that WARPED is fiction, not the Simon Schama, Allison Weir, Antonia Fraser, etc. that I'm so fond of, but still, I expected myself to be transported back in time in some way when I started reading. What I didn't expect, was to find myself completely smitten with Will. The fifteen-year-old girl in me (I have this theory that we encompass all the ages we've experienced. Why else would I have a child like obsession for butter cream frosting--I'm one of those people that HAS to have the flower on the cake...) L.O.V.E.D. Will. Loved him! He's haughty, but sensitive. Brave, but with just the right amount of fragility that you just love in a guy (hence the sensitivity). He's beautiful. He can dance (more on that later).

I don't think I'm alone in saying that a book becomes a keeper when the reader sees the characters, fantastical or not, as real people--you hate them, want to be friends with them, or just completely fall for them. WARPED did this for me.

Tessa is tangled up in a problem discovered by the Norn (the three Fates) who weave the tapestry which guides all life. There are threads missing, and when Tessa comes into possession of a tapestry that contains some of these threads,  she finds herself accused of being the thief. The story takes place over a short period of time (how long could you hide a stranger in your house--let alone one that materialized out of a tapestry?) and moves at a quick pace. And while I wasn't as obsessed with them as I was with Will  (his transplanted 16th-centuriness--his "swear" word of choice, "Jesu!" and lifting Tessa up in a Volta--was so well done), I also liked Tessa, and maybe even more, her friend Opal. A quick aside--if I were to tell MY best friend that a gorgeous guy just "appeared" in my bedroom a) she would come over and investigate right away, with or without an invitation and b) like Opal, would have believed me in the first place. I liked Opal--this is the kind of friend you want to have. But what happens to this friendship and Tessa's other relationships twists and turns--I was surprised multiple times before I finished.
I'd read that Maurissa Guibord had been inspired by the Unicorn Tapestries in the Cloisters Museum in New York when she wrote WARPED, and I was thrilled when she agreed to talk to me about this:

NAT: Did you see the tapestries in person? I'd love to hear the story--not many people go to the Cloisters as a destination.

MG: I saw the tapestries in person, but only after Warped was finished. They were so amazing- not only in the beautiful details but just the idea of something so old being so vibrant and for the most part, well- preserved. I enjoyed imagining the people five hundred years ago, working on such a project. I wonder what they would think if they could see their work being displayed today.There are many examples in the museum of what the human hand can craft- which is rather astounding to think about these days- in our machine-made lives. The Cloisters itself is a very beautiful, gothic structure with a cool, dark and somewhat gloomy interior and surrounded by exquisite gardens. Very inspiring!  And also rather mysterious--as you know, you aren't allowed to take pictures of the unicorn tapestries.

NAT: What about the tapestries inspired you to write WARPED?

MG: I read a book by John Williamson called the Oak King and the Holly King. It's a scholarly work- all about the symbolism contained in the unicorn tapestries, and in the story of the hunt for the unicorn. Which is amazing. I mean we all know the idea of the unicorn being lured by a virginal maiden and then captured. But there is so much contained in those images beyond an exciting story of a hunt for a mythic creature.There are Pagan and Christian meanings to the hundreds of animals, people, plants and flowers. For example the holly plant is prominent in several panels. The holly stays green and bears fruit in the winter- when everything else is dead. It can seen as a symbol of immortality, rebirth. The unicorn itself is a symbol of purity, sacrifice and immortality. To some, it represented Jesus Christ.

The idea of the unicorn being a sacrifice of some sort, within the tapestry led to me thinking about a young man being trapped inside. And the idea that his life was sacrificed for the gain of another.

NAT: Was there one in particular that "spoke" to you? If so how?

MG: No there wasn't one panel that did it- I think it was just a collective impression of all these hidden meanings and perhaps messages contained in the beautiful images. I find that fascinating- and I think the tapestries probably have lots more stories to tell.

NAT: As you can see, I'm a real fan of the Cloisters and the Unicorn Tapestires there. A have a replica of this one hanging in my family room:
I try to make at least one trip up there every year; every season has something different  to offer. I really enjoyed WARPED, and will definitely have the book in mind the next time I wander through!

MG: I loved them too--I think I may have to go back soon and get inspired for another story!

Hmmm... the potential for further Will-iness (or something more?)? It soundeth good to me!


  1. LOVE this! Wonderful interview ladies. Natalie - I totally agree with you on all fronts about this book. I LOVED IT!! Really, I fell hard for Will also, and I loved the best friend too. Such great surprises in this story! I've been gushing about it since I read it. Can't wait for another one!

  2. Thanks for stopping by Terry! I've been gushing too, but I really REALLY liked it--and would love to see the further adventures of Will and Tessa (was it me, or were there hints that something more could POSSIBLY happen at the end?)