**spoiler alert** This book threads several stories together, and sadly some don’t work as well as others which just pulls them all down. The main sto**spoiler alert** This book threads several stories together, and sadly some don’t work as well as others which just pulls them all down. The main story is great light-fantasy fiction involving kingdoms and wars and power struggles and romance. Magic is incorporated more as a simple type of medieval weapon than a complex fantasy element. This story features a coherent and well developed plot and a strong central female character who’s virtue and common sense has a good influence on those around her, and eventually wins the heart of one in particular (a suitably reformed show-off).
The first sub-plot features a slave belonging to the main evil character, and details his moral dilemmas caused by his mix of admiration and disgust for his evil master. This plot doesn’t really get far, the slave never makes up his mind about his master and continues to serve him in spite of his misgivings.
The second sub-plot gets complicated. It involves a girl recently returned to the homeland of her father (who is the ruler of the evil people) where she discovers he is a misogynist totalitarian whose only concern for her is to marry her off for a good price. It happens that her brother’s wife cannot have children and her life is constantly under threat from her father-in-law who needs an heir. So the dutiful daughter agrees to an arranged marriage in the hope that she will produce an heir and save her brother’s wife. However, since she has secretly learned magic, her father must sell her to a lower ranking man, who though charming and caring, turns out to be homosexual and so won’t produce an heir. A secret group of ‘traitor’ women save the day by rescuing the brother’s wife, they band together with the daughter to form a new land free from the evil of male domination which had led their country into its warring ways and ultimately to defeat.
The main story would have worked well as a novel on its own, the slave’s story offers a different point of view but is not particularly interesting, and the story of the girl in the evil kingdom wanders randomly and comes to developments barely connected with the main story, with a few ideologies thrown in which hardly relate to the central narrative.
As explained above, the story includes some mature themes, but there is very little detail and no explicit scenes. The main disappointment is that the book is great if you skip all subplot chapters, but isn’t really worth reading with them....more
Frankie is a 15-year-old knockout who graduated so recently from geeky girlhood that’s she’s still dusting its dirt from her clothes. With her newfounFrankie is a 15-year-old knockout who graduated so recently from geeky girlhood that’s she’s still dusting its dirt from her clothes. With her newfound popularity comes a dawning ambition for power. She seeks recognition not just for her looks and smart comments, but for her superior intelligence and ability to do what she wants, even if the way is barred.
She became the girlfriend of idolised Matthew Livingstone by falling off her bike, prompting him to gallantly come to her aid. But she doesn’t want a ‘carer’ boyfriend, she wants him to recognise her for her real talents, and to treat her as an equal with whom he shares everything.
So naturally she’s outrageously jealous when she learns about his secret boys' society—a society which has been around since her father’s school days—and immediately looks for a way to go where no woman has gone before.
I haven’t read a book this full of attitude for a while. It’s so full you can feel it looking down its nose at you as you turn a page, ‘What? You're still here?’ But then it opens up again and shows you Frankie’s vulnerable side, like revealing all the trial comeback lines that are squashed before the intelligently winning quip comes out and scores a laugh. Or the moments of weakness when she wants to give up the power struggle and just seek love.
One can identify with Frankie; her motives are good, which makes it hard to write the book off as complete nonsense. She’s good looking and smart and funny, and she wants to be appreciated. But Matthew only wants her as a needy, comfortable, cute companion. Frankie knows that he respects his friends, he admires their courage and marvels at their brilliance, but he doesn't respect her in the same way. Something needs to be done.
Frankie believes the solution lies in power struggle: the struggle between herself and Matthew’s male friends for his time and attention. Sometimes she does it through her power as a girl: tantalising kisses on the cheek contradicted with hard-to-get reserve. Other times it's through her witty comments and carefully unselfconscious ways of showing off. Frankie's triumph, however, is in forging emails from the boys' club leader and surreptitiously directing their pranks without their knowledge. It's only a shame that no one realises it is her.
Once her secret is eventually found out, Frankie is shocked to discover she is not respected for her cleverness, but despised for her duplicity, and by Matthew especially.
Where did she go wrong?
The second-last paragraph of the book offers some insight:
“It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.
"She will not be simple and sweet. She will not be what people tell her she should be. That Bunny Rabbit is dead.”
The question is, is this the best path to happiness? Is loneliness better than sharing life with someone who doesn't entirely understand you? And, more importantly, must the path to happiness be a choice between power and impotence? Is there any other way to help others understand you? Could it be a good thing to follow if you freely choose to do so, and is having a line of followers the only proof of your worth?
True, it is usually better to speak up than stay silent, but if one only blows one's own trumpet, life will probably be lonely. It is also better to open doors than to shut them, but when you open them thinking only of yourself, they're likely to slam in the face of those behind you.
In refusing to be simple and sweet you assume that the simple and sweet are stupid and weak. Kindness for its own sake doesn't gain anything, unless it’s part of the greater power plan. And certainly don’t be what people say you should be, they are trying to dominate you and you’ll only be proved weak again.
It is true that seeking to appear cute and adorable is rather useless, but what’s wrong with developing real sensitivity of character, of trying to be a good friend? If this story is anything to go by, power doesn’t lead to happiness, but to bitter triumph. Yet it seems the book tries to harden you to its bitterness, to deaden your sensitivity, to make you believe that power is worthwhile in spite of the loneliness that surrounds it. I couldn’t agree less.
Even though this book is marketed as a young adult book, I’d recommend it for an 17+ readership. There is little graphic detail, but the themes themseEven though this book is marketed as a young adult book, I’d recommend it for an 17+ readership. There is little graphic detail, but the themes themselves are serious: jealousy and betrayal leading to murder, a physical relationship before marriage justified by their love for one another, despair and suicide when everything becomes too much. But there is also a message of hope, and forgiveness, which subtly reforms a tragic situation.
The story is well-told through two interwoven narratives, the first takes us back to World War II with a group of British spies landing in Holland, the second acquaints us with a family in modern England, descendants of the original protagonists. While we are exploring the historical narrative we are also accompanying a modern teenage girl who is trying to understand why her grandfather recently suicided, leaving her a tin of items including a map which she thinks will explain.
There is an even balance of action and mystery with character development, more a book for those who like realism and historical fiction rather than those who prefer people stories. It’s not one to read when you’re feeling sad, but a worthwhile investment of time....more
Permit a philosophical review, for it is a philosophical book. It is a superbly written story that immediately submerges the reader in lyrical prose.Permit a philosophical review, for it is a philosophical book. It is a superbly written story that immediately submerges the reader in lyrical prose. The style is perfectly suited to the poetic theme which has the echo and poignancy of an age-old fable. Style and structure gradually build the narrative and leave the reader in anticipation of some great event, of some significant and completely transforming act.
My hope was that it would glorify complete selflessness, and show the beauty of giving everything in order to be open to the gift of others. This story got only half way there. Suffering was present as the purifier of selfishness and herald of coming greatness. And there was selflessness, but it wasn’t complete. Both of the main characters managed to keep their deepest selves to themselves. I wasn’t expecting them to renounce their identity. But one can give everything without renouncing one’s identity. Ultimately it is their lack of genuine communication (which is what mutual self-giving consists of) that brings them both to sadness. They say they love, but really they refuse to love.
The story then fades away like a wave on the sand, gliding back to an unnatural peace. Unnatural because where there was once such passion, there is now only ‘contentment’ in accepting that the passion and idealism will never be satisfied. There is some truth in this, for passion and idealism are never fully satisfied. But it is not the whole truth. So many wonderful stories show that through purified passion it is possible to attain a happiness far deeper than contentment, that in giving more of oneself one can be open to receiving from others. This is very different to the lonely contentment each character is left with in this story.
All of that was to say that this is quite a depressing story, perhaps more aloof than bitter, but deeply unsatisfying....more
Lawhead's Taliesin is the first of the Pendragon Cycle, an epic blend of history, mythology, faith and fiction. It is set in early Great Britain exploLawhead's Taliesin is the first of the Pendragon Cycle, an epic blend of history, mythology, faith and fiction. It is set in early Great Britain exploring the beginnings of the Arthurian legend, a world that is both barbaric and beautiful. It also shows the early development of Christianity, illustrated in both a socio-historical and a personal way through characters who demonstrate great beauty of soul. It is a very human and a beautifully poetic story, a grand epic....more
The second instalment of a completely re-imagined epic of the man known as Robin Hood—told in a far more eerie, earthy, and elemental way than ever beThe second instalment of a completely re-imagined epic of the man known as Robin Hood—told in a far more eerie, earthy, and elemental way than ever before.
Lawhead’s tales are full of rich, colourful characters that know how to appreciate the warmth of home even as they brave the danger of battlefields....more
A complex work of great scope that I will need to read a few more times. Chesterton uses metaphors to explain the meaning of his theses, and the read A complex work of great scope that I will need to read a few more times. Chesterton uses metaphors to explain the meaning of his theses, and the reader must work to comprehend what they signify on different levels. I find it amazing that this was first published in 1908. Its ideas refer to - but are so independent from - the philosophies of that time, as though it were written today looking back on them rather than their contemporary.
I'll not write a comprehensive review, but just wish to list some of the things that particularly impressed me on first reading. Chesterton asserts that the only fitting way for us to consider the world is with a sense of wonder. Thus the world of fairy-tales with its magic and mystery is closer to reality than the most naturalistic world described by science. I agree! I need to think about this some more.
Then rather than focusing on the limitations placed on us in the world, we should consider the greatness of the world that has been given to us - with this whole world at our disposal, is it not natural that there should be a limit, the very boundaries of which ensure that we can 'dance and play on the top of the hill without the worry of falling off the cliff' - boundaries which allow us to live most fully and without fear?
On another theme he asserts that the problem with contemporary literature is that it is often centred around extraordinary, strange protagonists who do even more strange things, and so the reader finds them uninteresting because they cannot relate to them. The classics, he counters, wrote about ordinary people who did extraordinary things, and so they are interesting and the reader can relate. The same thought had occurred to me when bored with a contemporary novel, why does the protagonist have to be so strange? And the contemporary stories I love I now realise are often based on an ordinary character who has the courage to do something extraordinary. This would be worth exploring further, an article perhaps.
And I loved the last chapters when he writes with wonder of the person of Jesus shown in the Gospels, a God who is not afraid to let his tears be seen, and sometimes his anger, and yet who has a certain shyness and reserve that gives him an intriguing, attractive depth. I've often thought the same.
And so many more ideas that I'll need to consider slowly......more