The Magicians – Lev Grossman

Other worlds

Magic school

Slightly offputting

So I just finished The Magicians.  It sounded very intriguing, comparisons to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but also compared to Narnia.  This was a story where the magical world you enter might not be as welcoming and heartwarming as Narnia was.  So I was intrigued, and excited to read it.

My first complaint about this book is virtually the same complaint I made about the Amulet of Samarkand.  I didn’t like the characters.  Any of them.  They were mopey, unsatisfied, undriven, and full of self pity.  All right, so there may have been one character with a little more drive and a little more reader sympathy, but she was peripheral for a good chunk of the book and it wasn’t until the very end that she became multi-faceted enough to really be interesting.

My second complaint is about how similar Fillory was to Narnia.  But it was twisted and dirty.  And while I think this darker version was very well done, it made me question some of the simple and good views I have a Narnia.  I selfishly didn’t like this because I loved Narnia, I especially love Narnia on a very simple and shallow level, yes I know it is virtually one long biblical allegory.  But Narnia, a tale about four kids and a witch and magic lion…that story I love, and I hate that for even a little while this book has made me look for dark, twisty corners in Narnia.

Personally, I won’t recommend this book to fellow readers.  If you want a magical world, go read about Narnia, or Oz, or Hogwarts.  This book left a sour taste in my mouth and I would have rather spent that time reading (or rereading) some other book, some better book.  Or sleeping, I like sleeping and I don’t do enough of it 🙂

The Magicians – Lev Grossman

The Amulet of Samarkand – Jonathan Stroud

dark

powerful

little twerp

Before reading this book I had heard so many good things.  People (both reviewers and friends) raved.  So I was very I excited when I finally got to read this book.

The story is told through the eyes of Bartimaeus, a demon who was been enslaved, captured, in forced servitude, to a young magician.  He’s very pompous and prone to bragging about his power and prior accomplishments.  This is done through footnotes which I never fully got used to, I found them jarring to the flow and frequently unnecessary.

Nathaniel is the young wizard who has captured Bartimaeus.  He, like Bartimaeus, thinks rather highly of himself.  Yet most of his accomplishments seem to stem from luck (and Bartimaeus), rather than skill.  And he happens to be a brat.

You might have already picked up on this, but I didn’t enjoy the book.  I think that if either Bartimaeus or Nathaniel had in some way been even the slightest bit likeable, I would have enjoyed the book.  But they weren’t.  I never rooted for them.  I didn’t care about them.  Because I didn’t care about them, I didn’t care about the story.

However, reading other reviews, it appears I am in the minority.  If you find yourself enjoying books with less redeeming main characters, give it a whirl.  However, if you don’t like it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oh, and there was a very intriguing underlying plot, which no doubt will become more evident in the rest of the trilogy.  And even though I am curious about this plot line, I can’t bring myself to read any more about these characters.  So if anyone has read the whole thing maybe you could give me a brief spoiler.  Or maybe not.  I don’t have a burning desire to know.

Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier

A head’s up, up front, this series started as a trilogy but it has been extended and is now 6 books.

The first book of this series is Daughter of the Forest.  This story is based on The Wild Swans folk tale.  I actually reviewed a version of this tale a while ago, you can find that review here.  It’s a beautiful story about a witch who enchants six brothers, turning them into swans.  Their younger sister has the power to turn them back into humans, but the sacrifices she must make are monumental.

In Marillier’s telling the story is expanded upon.  It’s set in ancient Ireland, where druids still have power and where Celts and Brits seem to ceaselessly battle for lands.

I have absolutely no complaints about this book.  Or this series (what I’ve read, I confess I’ve only read the first four books).

I love that magic permeates the land and the background but that it’s human determination, will, and strength that helps the good prevail.

I love that it’s filled with powerful women, both good and evil.  Especially the first book.  In a setting that is clearly patriarchal it is the women who are the greatest heroes and the biggest villains.  This continues in the rest of the books, but not quite to the extent of the first book.

I love that I’ve read the first three books three times and still can’t complain about the plot, the characters, or the settings.  I’m not saying there aren’t flaws, there very well could be flaws, but I’m so captured by the story that I honestly can’t remember a single flaw.

I think a huge strength of this series is that each book can stand alone.  They are all set in the same family, but the lead character is in a different generation.  So there are references to the previous books’ characters, but making the books jump forward a generation really gave Marillier the freedom to completely change the personality, weaknesses, and strengths of the main characters.  The audience still gets to read about those they fell in love with in the prior books, but we are given an opportunity to meet a slew of new characters.

These books are easy to read, they pulled me in, and two days later I emerged ready to pick up the next book in the series.

I highly recommend these books to fantasy readers.  I would caution younger readers, there is violence, there is also a rape in the first book.  Marillier, however, does a good job leaving the reader horrified by what happened without getting too gruesome or too explicit.

Flash Fiction (21) – Faeries

I heard it too

Check out Quill Shiv to find other stories from this prompt.

Faeries

The girls sat at the table; their feet, unable to reach the floor, swung in rhythm.  They began telling their parents about the fairies they had met in the garden.  Mr and Mrs Freemont exchanged an exasperated glance; this was not a new tale.

“And then Mrs Piddleton.”

“She’s the blue faery,” Carol, the younger one chirped in.

“They already know she’s the blue faery.  Mrs. Piddleton, the blue fairy, told us that we were faeries too.  Only the faeries traded us when we were just wee babies.  They took your real kids and left us in their place.  And Mrs. Havershank,”

“She’s the red one,” another interruption.

Suzie kept going, “Mrs. Havershank, the red faery, said that if we wanted they would come and steal us away.  We could spend the rest of forever dancing in pretty dresses and drinking honey all day and talking to the birds and butterflies, but not the dragonflies because they’re ornery.”

“Then Anna came into the garden.”

“So Mr. Wembledon,” Suzie continued the story, “the green faery, tipped his hat at us and they all disappeared.  But first Mrs. Piddleton winked at us.  Anna wanted to know what we were doing, so we said we were playing cat’s cradle.”

“But you can only play with two people.”

“So she had to leave or someone would be left out and she didn’t want to go but if she had stayed the faeries wouldn’t have come back.  So we made her leave.”

Mrs Freemont interrupted the story right then, “You were mean to Anna?  Tomorrow you two will go straight over to her house and invite her to play.  And you are not to be mean to her again, especially for your pretend games.”

“But mamma, they’re not pretend.  Zecelia said, she’s the pink one and she’s in charge, and she came back after Anna left, and she said that they would come for us tonight, then she kissed our thumbs.  She said it was to mark us so the hobgobs…”

“Hobgoblins,” Suzie corrected her sister.

“What?”

“Hobgoblins, that’s what she called them.”

“Oh, she kissed us so the hob…”

“Goblins.”

“Would know who to grab.”

“Otherwise they might grab Anna instead!”

“And if you look at our thumbs there’s now a little tiny mark on them.”

“Right where she kissed us.”

“And it looks like a strawberry.”

Mr. and Mrs. Freemont had heard quite enough of these fairies.  The girls had been talking nonstop about them for weeks.  They had blamed the fairies for any disobedience, this being mean to Anna was only the latest in a string of incidences where the girls had been rude, unthoughtful, mean, or sneaky.

After dinner and baths and quick goodnight kisses the girls were in bed and the parents were downstairs cleaning up dinner.

Mr. and Mrs. Freemont could hear the girls up in their room.  Between cracks of thunder their peals of giggles wound down the stairs and tickled the parents ears.

There was a particularly large clap of thunder and the neighborhood dogs started barking.  The dogs stopped barking, the storm instantly died, and the girls were utterly quiet.  Mrs. Freemont was the first to notice the complete silence.  She looked at her husband, his voice broke through the silence, “I hear it too.”

It was foolish, both Mr. and Mrs. Freemont knew their girls were upstairs, they probably fell silent because they fell asleep.  But the parents needed to see their baby girls just to release the foreboding feeling that pressed down on their chests.  They swiftly went up the stairs and quietly pushed the bedroom door open.

The girls’ beds were empty, the sheets tossed about the room.  The window was open and the curtains rippled in a soft breeze.  There were two tiny strawberries on the window sill.

No Flying in the House – Betty Brock

Cute

Fantastical

Imaginative

What better way to entertain young kids than a story with a tiny talking dog, a girl who doesn’t know she’s a fairy, and a family reunion?  This is a very sweet and imaginative tale about a young girl who learns she has powers.  But will keeping these powers be temptation enough to keep her from wanting a mom and dad?

Annabel has a tiny, talking, trick-performing dog named Gloria instead of parents.  She loves Gloria but what she wants more than anything else are parents.  One day she learns she is a fairy (and she can fly!) soon she has to make a choice.

This is a delightful tale about love, honesty, forgiveness, sacrifice, and family.  It’s a perfect book for snuggling two to a chair and reading aloud, preferably with homemade cookies and a warm drink.  I would definitely recommend this book to readers young and old alike.

No Flying in the House, fairies, Betty Brock, family

Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

Charming (enchanting seemed too punny, even for me)

Sweet

Delightful

This is a very cute Cinderella story.  Unlike the original Cinderella story, this Ella doesn’t sit around wishing and hoping for things to happen.  She stands up, jumps in, and takes charge of her life.

I think one of my favorite things about this book is how clueless Ella is that Char (the prince) has a crush on her.  Char drops hint after hint after hint, but Ella retains her naivete until Char spells it out for her.  It was refreshing to have a female character who doesn’t spend the entire book either chasing a boy or waiting for him to save her.

Ella Enchanted, Ella Enchanted book, book, Gail Carson Levine

This is definitely a children’s book, so if you’re looking for great literature go elsewhere.  But if you (or your kid) wants to whittle away an afternoon in an immense fairy tale this may be your book.

Witches by Roald Dahl

Scary

Imaginative

Amazing

This isn’t so much a review as a reminder.  Roald Dahl’s books are so much fun to read.  Everybody, man, woman, and child, should read some of his books.

A quick reminder, this book, Witches, is actually quite scary.  It talks about witches getting rid of children by all sorts of horrendous means.  Make sure your child is old enough to read this without getting nightmares.  Oh, and make sure you can handle this without nightmares (I made sure to read it on a week when my fiance wasn’t leaving town 🙂 ).

witches, roald dahl