**spoiler alert** When I first read this book, my only caveat was what I thought of as the protracted, sagging middle of the story, in which the trio**spoiler alert** When I first read this book, my only caveat was what I thought of as the protracted, sagging middle of the story, in which the trio travel around the country, trying to figure out what to do without really doing much. They break into the Ministry, they revisit Godric's Hollow, they obtain the sword of Gryffindor, but mostly they just relocate, camp in the woods, and try to interpret the intentions of the dead and departed, or deal with their legacies by interpreting the artifactual evidence they left behind. Regulus and the locket; Grindewald and Dumbledore and the fragments of their story indirectly derived from Belinda Bagshot; Lily's letter to Sirius; the deer patronus; the anonymous missives of support left at the grave of Harry's parents in Godric's Hollow; learning about the DA and the Order through the Potterwatch broadcasts, etc.
One example of this was the scene at the Lovegood's, when Harry discovers Luna's private mural of himself, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny, intertwined with a golden ribbon of the word "friends" repeated over and over. There were some other important narrative elements introduced in this scene, and some action, but the description of this mural had me tearing up. As I read that passage, Luna transformed from an adorably oblivious but ultimately irrelevant side character to this formerly lonely, abandoned human being for whom the DA's friendship was as novel as it was profoundly essential. And I was actually filled with grief that Harry learned this too late, that this crisis was exposing the unbreakable strength underlying all Harry's friendships too late to acknowledge and cherish those bonds for what they were worth.
Except... it wasn't too late, because Luna and many of the others were still alive, and still fighting. So why did I feel like they were dead? This brought to mind a passage from Netherland (which I now feel more inclined to finish):
An ancient discovery was now mine to make: to leave is to take nothing less than a mortal action. [...] after Mama's cremation I could not rid myself of the notion that she had been placed in the furnace of memory even when alive and, by extension, that one's dealings with others, ostensibly vital, at a certain point become dealings with the dead.
For me, this cast the middle section of the book in a completely new light. Now it became an examination of the way the departed, both dead and alive, continue to touch us and affect our lives through the memories and thoughts they leave behind. In Netherland, O'Neil was pointing out the tragedy of this, how even the living can become as distant from us as the dead, but I think Rowling wants the reader to see this as a profoundly important part of being alive, that seeking out and understanding these kinds of evidence makes bearable the void left by the absent. The influence of the dead is important throughout this book and throughout this series, but in this seemingly humdrum plateau of the novel, I think it becomes paramount.
There are lots of other incoherent things I could blather on about, mostly the difference between self-sacrifice and martyrdom and the merits of happy endings, but this review is approaching the edge of "long" with "pointlessly long" well in sight, so I'll finish. I loved this book as I love the whole series, and its existence has made my life better....more
This book holds together better than I remembered. The first three books contain some of the finest cartooning and the most engaging all-ages storytelThis book holds together better than I remembered. The first three books contain some of the finest cartooning and the most engaging all-ages storytelling you're likely to find. I just read the first Castle Waiting a few weeks ago, and the contrast is incredible. Bone is dynamic, filled with action and emotion that imbues the characters and the artwork. Smith is also a cartoon master: he knows when and how to abstract the appearance of his characters, and his landscapes. I'm always in awe of his broad scenes, whole valleys and forests and mountain ranges suggested with fine but simple leaves and ridge lines. Amazing stuff. And the writing! Even though I knew every joke was coming I was still cracking up.
The plot is wonderful, at first, but eventually disintegrates into cascading deus ex machinas (Mim the Dragon? Crown of Horns?! Where do these things come from?). Almost the entire Rock Jaw sequence could be cut with no real loss to the story. The subtraction of excessive cutesy orphan animals would be a bonus effect. These elements seem like evidence of the author trying to stretch out his original material. I think a bit of editing could have made this unqualifiably great.
Nevertheless, the central characters are full and satisfying, and more than enough to keep you reading. Phoney's a greedy schemer, but he still loves his cousins. And he can cook! Grandma Ben's a sweet old lady who races cows, but holds some interesting secrets. Even Fone Bone, our plucky, innocent, mostly harmless protagonist has a ridiculous love-poem-writing side, and might have some unspoken inner turmoil over his Boneville-bred scientific skepticism and the clearly fantastic world of the valley. All great stuff....more
Castle Waiting is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Jeff Smith's Bone series, so I've always wanted to check it out. Like Bone, it's kid-orieCastle Waiting is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Jeff Smith's Bone series, so I've always wanted to check it out. Like Bone, it's kid-oriented fantasy with likable characters and harmless banter, but unlike Bone, there's very little mystery, none of the darker themes that leave lasting imprints, and, well, just not a lot of the kind of magic that makes comics special. Why is the protagonist pregnant? Why does her kid of a pig nose? What exactly is wrong with this world, or everything just hunky dory all the time? I probably won't continue reading to find out....more