Just this last weekend, I did something I haven’t done in a really long time. I read four books in two days. I just pulled out the Kindle, made myself comfy, and started reading. It was kind of spectacular.
One of the books I chose to read is Edge of Glory by Rachel Spangler (Bywater Books). I’ve read a number of Spangler’s previous novels and, I’ve got to say, I think this is her best yet.
The clock is ticking as two champions face the run of a lifetime . . .
Corey LaCroix is Boardercross royalty, but Olympic medals and World Championships only carry you so far when your knees ache and you’re suddenly an underdog for the first time in your career.
Elise Brandeis doesn’t need a training partner, especially an unorthodox has-been snowboarder with a devil-may-care attitude. But Elise has already lost a full season to injury, and she’s struggling to regain her form in time to make the Olympic ski team. Teaming up with Corey might give her the edge she needs to go for gold, but the snowboarder’s cocky smile and rock-hard abs might prove a distraction she simply can’t afford.
Corey and Elise put their broken bodies on the line as they fight the competition, the clock, and the frozen terrain for one more chance at glory. But this time, as they ride the razor’s edge between victory and defeat, the stakes are steeper than any mountain they will ever face when legacies and hearts collide.
This is Spangler’s third Bywater release. Each one been better than the one before. It’s impressive and very clear that Spangler has been working diligently on her craft. The depth and range of her characters is quite excellent. The research behind the story is very evident and woven nicely into the story. Her narrative description is evocative and avoids falling prey to information dumps.
If you’ve read my reviews in the past, then you know I’m a sucker for great, three-dimensional characters. In this, Spangler does not disappoint. From the outset of the novel, Spangler wastes no time letting us know exactly who our two main characters are – Corey, the cocky, fun-loving snowboarder and Elise, the focused and far-too-uptight skier. We learn enough about their backgrounds right off the bat to give us a bit of grounding and preparation for what’s to come. It sets us up wonderfully for the moment these two very different women meet. And what a first meeting it is! (I’m not going to give more detail than that – I do all I can to avoid spoilers.) As Corey and Elise travel in each other’s worlds, we see how their personalities and past experiences create a wonderful push and pull as they get to know each other. Corey slowly chips away at Elise’s stoic work-ethic and elitist views. Elise gradually – and sometimes indelicately – gets Corey to narrow her focus. All the while, they begin to form a friendship. And that’s what I really like here – the friendship. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely attraction and sexual tension. And it’s lovely. But at the core for these two is the friendship they form. It’s what sustains them.
The changes in their attitudes and outlooks happens gradually. There are no radical shifts in their mind-sets. There are no “light bulb” moments of clarity. No, those would be far too unrealistic here. Spangler takes us firmly into the thought processes for these two characters. We get to understand how they tick. We experience the changes with them. We’re given the opportunity to really get to know how Corey and Elise think and what makes them tick. We learn about what’s driven them in the past. We learn what drives them in the present. We’re with them as they realize how their drive has been influenced by each other. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
The secondary characters are all sharp and distinct and decidedly necessary for the story. No one is superfluous or gratuitous. Everyone has a part to play in Corey’s and Elise’s lives. They all influence how Corey and Elise view their futures. Remove just one of them and Spangler has a very different novel on her hands. What’s really fabulous is that these secondary characters change and grow with the story, as well. They are in no way stagnant. My favorite secondary character? Tigger. Read it. You’ll know why.
Now, I’m absolutely no expert when it comes to winter sports. I know enough about skiing and snowboarding to not be completely in the woods while watching them on the Olympics. That’s pretty much where it ends for me. So, to say that I know more about these two sports now than I did before reading Edge of Glory is an understatement. It’s clear that Spangler put in the time and did the research. She appears to have a real grasp on the details of the sports – necessary techniques, rules and regulations, what it takes to be an elite athlete. And she doesn’t skimp on those details in the novel.
But what is really impressive is that we don’t get long narrative dumps spewing all of this technical information. Instead, we learn through the characters, their inner thoughts, their conversations. That really makes for a much more interesting story. We’re given the information in various ways, through various voices. It allows the reader to latch on to the voices that make the most sense. From that, the reader is able to form a more complete picture in her mind. And it avoids the trap of laying out a bunch of technical information in non-creative ways.
All of this is not to say that narrative description is lacking. Oh, no. Rather, the narrative description is more visceral. We experience less about blade angles and turning speeds, and more about the sights, sounds, and feelings of flying down a mountain. The exhilaration. The strain. The weightlessness. The anxiety. It’s all there and it’s all palpable.
Edge of Glory is, in my very humble opinion, one of the books to read in 2017. In fact, it’s probably one of the best I’ve read in two or three years. This is Spangler’s 11th published novel. And I really think it’s her best. If she continues to challenge herself and grow as a writer, we can expect even more amazing offerings from her in the future. I, for one, am looking forward to that.