This is a problematic book to review, because it is not what it seems to be: a children’s story. It is too long, the plot moves far too slowly, and the multiple themes are too complex for immature readers.
Deep Into the Heart of a Rose is set in a magical land in the “Through the Looking Glass” tradition, populated by characters who are not quite human, but who are wonderful in their humanity. It is filled with magical beings and with ideas that have such power that they anthropomorphize into characters.
Mr. Cozzlebottom and Mizz Wimbish live as neighbors but rarely speak. Mr. Cozzlebottom decides to remedy this situation, and pens the Letter With the Emerald Seal, which becomes the fulfillment of a prophecy and a character in the story. Due to the intervention of the Dark Brotherhood, the letter is not delivered to his love.
Likewise inspired to change her life, Mizz Wimbish leaves on her own journey of discovery, going clockwise around this time-oriented world, while Mr. Cozzlebottom seeks her by following a more conventional counter-clockwise path. As you can see, there are many levels to this allegory.
During their epic journeys, our heroes meet various characters of both the realistic and the magical type. Cozzlebottom is hijacked, body and soul, by the Dark Brotherhood and used in the hunt for the fabled Ubel, whose heart and tusks contain the elixir for life everlasting.
I won’t be giving much away when I tell you that the lovers are reunited for the final battle against evil, and that their new knowledge of the nature of Time and Light allows them to save the day. It’s that sort of story.
The problem this author has is in treading that fine line between childlike and childish, between wondrous and cutesy. For example, creating an individualistic style is a delicate balance between accepted usage and actual error. For the most part, Denny’s style is delightful:
“Ezzy Wimbish was an accumulation of eloquent drifting laughs, startles, and sighs. All of which floated through the rooms of her cottage until they passed to some still corner amongst the shadows and finally, left alone, evaporated.”
On the other hand,
“Commands were given, by which the chase was begun.”
Enough said. I was also bothered by the continuous point of view switches that rob us of the chance to connect fully with any one character’s feelings.
What Mr. Denny needs is a tough editor to take him in hand and tell him when he has crossed over the boundaries he is pushing. His main error as a writer is to intrude too much of the author into the story. The most obvious example: a completely new character who takes up the whole last chapter of the book. This distraction is unconnected to the plot, and placed there strictly for thematic reasons. No, Mr. Denny! Bad, bad, author! Go hide in your corner out of sight of your readers!
Another strange decision that an editor should slap his wrist for; he has written so much interesting and (I assume) original poetry for this story, I don’t understand why he lifted John Godfrey Saxe’s poemThe Blind Men and the Elephant pretty well complete for his description of the Ubel.
A key to understanding Mr. Denny’s intentions comes from his author bio, where he says he writes for “all those who were children once.” This is a book for those who love the nostalgia of the old style of children’s books, which were not just written for children, but mainly for the adults who read them aloud to their families. Mr. Denny has the feeling of this genre nailed. All he has to do is polish up the details.