I picked this up as an ARC at the 2015 ALA convention and read the whole thing on the flights home. It knocked my socks off and made me immediately waI picked this up as an ARC at the 2015 ALA convention and read the whole thing on the flights home. It knocked my socks off and made me immediately want to rewatch all my Hayao Miyazaki DVDs. That's a good thing.
Saki is a typical girl in middle-school obsessed with fitting in with her cohort and making sure she has enough bars on her cell phone. The last thing she wants to do for her summer vacation is travel out to her grandmother's place in the country for the ancient, traditional Obon festivities, which will necessitate being out of touch with everyone she knows except her annoying brother and doing lots of chores. In an attempt to fit in with the local popular kids, she gets tricked into a relatively minor act of desecration in an old cemetery which nevertheless invokes a Death Curse for which Saki is pulled for three nights into the spirit realm on a quest to set things right.
There is so much to recommend about this novel. First off, it's a wonderful adventure story, rich to overflowing with fantastical (and likable) characters. Also, Saki herself makes a great gateway for any children interested in Japanese culture. She's western enough that American readers can easily identify with her, and through her they can experience both traditional Japanese life and the richness of Japan's mythological landscape.
Saki is also an interesting character in her own right. She's neither a horrible, entitled brat, nor is she a goody-two-shoes. Instead, she starts right on the line between being a reasonably good kid and being insufferable, giving her emotional journey both a direction to go and danger to be avoided.
Loved this book. Now I've just got to figure out who to give my ARC to next. ...more
In book 1 of this series, Laini Taylor hits home runs right from the start and doesn't really slow down. Karou is one of the most original charactersIn book 1 of this series, Laini Taylor hits home runs right from the start and doesn't really slow down. Karou is one of the most original characters I've come across in teen fiction, and the world she inhabits feels like something Neil Gaiman and Guillermo Del Toro would have come up with during a round of drinks. Karou's life (going to art school in Prague while living with magical chimerae and traveling around the world to collect teeth for a sorcerer) was so interesting I wouldn't have minded staying there for the whole novel - but of course that can't happen and things go south once the angels attack. What I love most about Karou is that she doesn't waste a single page moping about her situation and waiting for someone else to make decisions. She takes action and sets the rest of the story in motion in her attempt to get home.
Then, suddenly, all the mysteries are answered. The completeness of the revelations that follow in the second half surprised me - I expected the author to drag out the mysteries for as long as she could. The answers to the questions raised in the first half of the book all made perfect sense and were quite satisfactory. They did, however, slow the story down just a notch. Still, looking forward to book 2....more
I really enjoyed this book, but somehow I feel manipulated – as if this novel was designed specifically to tug at the heartstrings of nerdy outcasts wI really enjoyed this book, but somehow I feel manipulated – as if this novel was designed specifically to tug at the heartstrings of nerdy outcasts who grew up as SF fans and disliked the dreary real world they were forced to live in. I gather from the introduction that Among Others is more than a little autobiographical, so I guess we can let that slide.
Anyone looking for a traditional genre-style plot should probably move along, because they won’t find that here. Instead, Among Others focuses on the aftermath of the heroine’s Great Adventure – that left her scarred for life, “orphaned” from her twin, and an outsider from her own family. She finds refuge in her beloved SF novels, and since the protagonist is only five years older than I am she read a lot of the same things. (I’m particularly encouraged by her love of Samuel Delany.) It’s a story of healing and learning to reconnect with the world, but it’s couched in terms of magic and name-checking every great science fiction author of the 60s and 70s.
(Odd, though, that Star Wars only gets a cursory mention and Doctor Who none at all – even though this is set in Britain in the heyday of Tom Baker. If there’s anything that’s slightly unbelievable about the main character, it’s that she’s a little too well read – too much literature, not enough trash. But maybe that’s just me.)
It’s strange for a book to feel like a literary masterwork and a guilty pleasure at the same time. For the older SF fan there's an awful lot of self-confirmation here that’s sure to bias any evaluation of the book, but you know what – maybe we geeks need that once in a while. If anything, this book makes me want to read SF better. There’s still plenty of Delany I haven’t got to – maybe now’s the time....more
Hats off to IDW for producing the most beautiful graphic novel of 2010. The adaptation of the novel is faithful and spot-on, and the artwork invokes tHats off to IDW for producing the most beautiful graphic novel of 2010. The adaptation of the novel is faithful and spot-on, and the artwork invokes the feel of a fairy-tale and captures Beagle's toung-in-cheek whimsy without ever becoming too cartoony to obscure the deeper emotions that run through the story. The unicorn herself practically leaps, and glows, right off the page.