Our gay men’s book club recently read “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach (I know, I know–a sports book?!), and the subject of plagiarism came up due to the allegations surrounding the book. This led to a discussion of tropes in genre literature, including the “big game” climax of these sort of books. Rachel Spangler’s wintry tome, Edge of Glory, hits all these tropes and works itself up to the big game (or in this case, Olympic skiing/snowboarding heats) with well-choreographed precision. So, what prevents it from being just-another-sports-book? Characters.
Injured Olympic skier Elise Brandeis is looking to get her form and place in history back after a disastrous, career-ending injury. She can’t afford any distractions, but Corey LaCroix, a fellow Olympian in snowboarding, proves to be just that. Elise’s icy exterior and Corey’s exuberance mask the passion they both feel for each other, but those feelings eventually emerge. Their timing could be better, as both Elise and Corey have something to prove–to themselves and to each other.
The peaks and valleys are all here, as are the ancillary characters–the coach/buddy, the younger and hungrier teammate, the capable assistant–and the whole map is plainly visible. However, Spangler finds the heart of these characters and writes them with such intensity, you end up caring more about them than they do themselves at some points. She has fleshed out both Elise and Corey and has, apparently, internalized both skiing and snowboarding tech so that it makes sense when she spits it back during the action sequences.
And what action sequences they are. Tight, tense, and suspenseful, they not only sound great technically, they move down the mountain as speedily and surely as do Elise and Corey. I thought Spangler was either a skier or a boarder herself until I read the acknowledgements. Nor is she content to keep the plot map the same as others in the genre. Here, she delays that big fight between the two lovers until nearly the last minute. I kept looking for it three quarters of the way through, but Spangler once again subverted my expectations. In a good way.
Edge of Glory, then, will have you on the edge of your seat and still reward you with the heartwarming feels you’ve come to expect from the genre. The book pops, and that’s no lie.
© 2017 Jerry L. Wheeler