After reading and absolutely falling in love with the Blue Sword, I knew this second book (a prequel, rather than sequel), was going to have a tough aAfter reading and absolutely falling in love with the Blue Sword, I knew this second book (a prequel, rather than sequel), was going to have a tough act to follow.
The first half DELIVERED. Aerin and Talat turn this into just about the best girl/horse story I've ever read, and I've read A LOT of them (they don't come much horse-crazier than me). Talat doesn't use words but he has such personality, I just marvel at how McKinley accomplishes this. Both Aerin and Talat are sort of like Royal rejects, not quite making the grade, almost (but not quite) given up on by the rest of the Royal court. So they band together and....
Sorry, can't give it away.
The second half of the book... it almost felt like two different books? Just like in the Blue Sword, the scenes with Luthe confused me. Maybe I need to read it again? I KNOW I'll read it again. But the whole section about Luthe and Aerin's mother and Agsded didn't quite click together.
The ending recovered a lot of the wonderful feel of the first part of the book, though my heart went out to Tor... I lost a lot of sympathy for Aerin. (view spoiler)[I wonder if she ever managed to be honest with Tor about her little interlude in the mountains? (hide spoiler)].
On the other hand, loved how Aerin's method of riding Talat sets the stage for the Riders in the Blue Sword, and how the great cats and dogs came to be allies with the Damarians.
And, I loved the dragon Maur in the way you love Smaug, because he's so awesomely evil, and Maur is so awesomely evil in such a - well, awesomely unexpectedly evil way.
I do wish there had been a bit more about the kelar though, the unusual Damarian magic. It played so prominently in the Blue Sword, I expected more of it in this book. And I expected some sort of confrontation between Aerin and Galanna, after the author spent so much time building up the animosity between them.
Also, I had a certain impression of Aerin after reading the Blue Sword where she doesn't play a big role, but she does play a very distinctive role. The Aerin in this book does not fit the Aerin in the Blue Sword. They felt like completely different characters. It's almost like there needs to be a third book to bridge the gap between Aerin as she starts as out and the confidant, somewhat wild Aerin in the Blue Sword.
So, yeah, a lot of mixed feelings about this book but it was wonderful to revisit the land of Damar and I'd read a dozen more books about this place if I could!
I tried to find a short excerpt that captures the wonderful dynamics between Aerin and her horse:
She heard Talat's great ringing neigh, and he galloped up to them, coming to a sliding halt at the last minute (Luthe muttered something that sounds like "Show -off"), and slobbered green and purple down her shirt. "Horses," said Luthe in disgust; but she took a step away from his steadying hand to wrap an arm over Talat's non-existent withers.
"Here, then," said Luthe. "You can be of some use." He boosted her onto Talat's well-rounded back and walked off. "This way," he said over his shoulder, and Talat pricked his ears and followed docilely. But Luthe's long legs covered the ground at a good pace, and Talat had to stretch himself to keep up, for he would lose his dignity if he broke into a trot; and so his ears eased half back in disapproval of so rude a speed. Aerin laughed her small half-laugh.
Easily makes my top-ten list of best fantasy and is a book that makes me salivate to see turned into a movie (though it might be even scarier than MorEasily makes my top-ten list of best fantasy and is a book that makes me salivate to see turned into a movie (though it might be even scarier than Moria and Mordor combined in Middle Earth).
The world building takes 2nd place on my list (my #1 devotion to Lord of the Rings will never fail). But a word of warning: the world-building is all based on death.
Here's the premise: what if, with the right knowledge and skills, a living person could go into death and bring dead people back to life - with a price - the price being that unwanted dead things can also sneak back out into the living world and feed on life.
It's creepy story with a lot of dead creatures, but it's also strangely beautiful. If you have any doubts, the 8 page prologue is an excellent prelude to the darkly beautiful noble scariness of this book.
Another interesting premise is the setting: the early 1900's or WWI era (machine guns are relatively new and unreliable) that sits alongside an older world (the Old Kingdom) that has a more medieval and magical feeling about it. There is a really cool wall that separates the two kingdoms, covered with marks...more about that in a minute. The wall is also guarded by a collection of soldiers that are a neat part of the story, too.
The magic used by the necromancers who can wade through the river of death is based on the ringing of bells. There are seven bells, and each has its own power over the living and the dead, and each also has its own sort of personality. The way the bells are used throughout the book is - JUST - SO - COOL.
Also intriguing are the opposing forces of Charter magic and Free magic. Both remain only partially explained in this first book, but Charter magic is made up of moving, flowing marks that describe the universe in its entirety in space and time. Every description of things that bear Charter Marks (walls, swords, foreheads, and especially the sendings, which are sort of ghost-like creatures composed only of moving Charter marks) gave me little shivers of creative appreciation.
My favorite character was Mogget, a Free magic creature that takes the form of a cat, but in reality is something much more mysterious and deadly. His loyalty and motives, like that of real cats, is always somewhat in question. Here are a couple samples of Mogget and Sabriel:
Miss Priote's techniques for dealing with domestic servants didn't seem to work on domestic sendings. It kept scrubbing, occasionally tipping hot water over Sabriel. "How do I stop it?" she spluttered to Mogget, as still more water cascaded over her head and the sending started to scrub lower regions.
"You can't," replied Mogget, who seemed quite amused by the spectacle. "This one is particularly recalcitrant."
"What do you... ow! stop that! What do you mean, this one?"
"There's lots about the place," said Mogget. "Every Abhorsen seems to have made their own. Probably because they get like this one after a few hundred years. Privileged family retainers, who always think they know best. Practically human, in the worst possible way."
The sending paused in its scrubbing just long enough to flick some water at Mogget.
And here's a snippet about a book which can change its contents! How cool is that! (I dearly hope it reappears in the sequels with a larger role):
The third book came from the single glassed-in cabinet among the bookshelves and now lay like some quiescent predator, possibly asleep, possibly waiting to spring. Its binding was of pale green leather and Charter marks burned in the silver clasps that held it closed. The Book of the Dead.
...."I see you have found that book," he [Mogget] said, tail flicking backwards and forwards as he spoke. "Take care you do not read too much."
"I've already read it all, anyway," replied Sabriel, shortly.
"Perhaps," remarked the cat. "But it isn't always the same book. Like me, it is several things, not one."
And as for the ending: impressive - double impressive. This books packs not one awesome climax, but TWO. Sabriel's journey (view spoiler)[ through the gates of death (hide spoiler)] had me simultaneously glued to the pages and cringing to turn to the next page (view spoiler)[ because each gate got progressively closer to the point of no return to life (hide spoiler)].
When you think you've just barely survived the worst possible confrontation and then you find it building toward ANOTHER one. Let me just say there is an underground lake and a diamond of protection and a sarcophagus and it's very, VERY creepy and I'm pretty sure that J.K. Rowling read this book and adapted some ideas from it for the last two Harry Potter books.
This is almost nearly a perfect book in my opinion. The only thing I felt shorted on was Sabriel's character arc; she doesn't undergo much change for all that she has to go through. I identified with her but she didn't stick with me nearly as much as the world-building. But the scene when Sabriel's father rings the last bell: the three of them, her father, Sabriel, and Touchstone - LOVED LOVED LOVED that scene. In fact here I go to re-read it again.
This is probably one of the scariest MG books I've read, but it was wonderful, too. It's also probably my favorite brother-sister relationship since tThis is probably one of the scariest MG books I've read, but it was wonderful, too. It's also probably my favorite brother-sister relationship since the Pevensie kids from Narnia.
The book starts innocently enough with Kenda and her younger brother Seth, exploring their grandparents' farm where they are staying for the summer. There are a bunch of strange rules (like never, ever go into the forest that surrounds the house and gardens), and why in the world does Grandpa put bowls of milk out in the garden every morning? And why won't he say where Grandma is? Then there are the little clues that Kendra finds in the attic playroom. While Seth is off breaking rules and discovering a _________ in the forbidden forest, she's sleuthing in the playroom and discovers a ________.
I loved this book because there are dire consequences for breaking rules, and yet, nobody condemns Seth for it; they just roll up their sleeves and help him resolve the problems he creates. And if you read this book, I'd really be curious to hear your feelings on the ending. It's sort of a "dues ex machina" but not exactly (I liked it and I thought the author set it up really well). Click the spoiler if you want to see what I'm hinting at.
(view spoiler)[Despite her noble intentions, she could not see any way she could succeed on her own. Kendra felt a new sensation inside ever since the idea had popped into her head. The feeling was so unexpected that it took a moment to recognize it as hope. There were no combination locks in the way. She just had to throw herself at the mercy of an all-powerful being and plead for her family. (hide spoiler)]
Here's a few excerpts from my favorite scenes. The first one gives a taste for the kind of fairies featured in this book, and a bit of Seth's little-brother obnoxiousness (but don't worry, he has a way of growing on you, too):
Grandpa became very serious. “None of these creatures are good. Not the way we think of good. None are safe. Much of morality is peculiar to mortality. The best creatures here are merely not evil.
“Do the fairies talk?”
“Not much to humans. They have a language all their own, although they rarely speak to each other, except to trade insults. Most never condescend to use human speech. They consider everything beneath them. Fairies are vain, selfish creatures. You may have noticed I drained all the fountains and the birdbaths outside. When they are full, the fairies assemble to stare at their reflections all day.”
“Is Kendra a fairy?” Seth asked.
Grandpa bit his lip and stared at he floor, obviously trying to choke back a laugh.
Here's another excerpt that made me fall in love with the fairies, even if they were vain little things (and oh!!! talk about consequences - you have to see what happens to the fairy that Seth traps in a bottle!)
The fairies flocked near Grandpa, eager for the next bubbles. He kept them coming, and the fairies continued to display their creativity. They filled bubbles with shimmering mist. They linked them in chains. They transformed them into balls of fire. The surface of one reflected like a mirror. Another took on the shape of a pyramid. Another crackled with electricity.
The fairies are creative and some of them also have creative names - like the Jinn Harp. I loved that name! (and also the fact that she was discovered in the Gobi Desert, of all places!):
Maddox opened the final case. Out soared a dazzling fairy with wings like shimmering veils of gold. Three gleaming feathers streamed beneath her, elegant ribbons of light. She hung gloriously in the center of the room with a regal air.
“A jinn harp?” Grandpa said in astonishment.
“Favor us with a song, I beg you,” Maddox said. He repeated the solicitation in another language.
The fairy gleamed even brighter, shedding sparks. The music that followed was mesmerizing. The voice made Kendra imagine a multitude of vibrating crystals. The wordless song had the power of an operatic aria mingled with the sweetness of a lullaby. It was longing, beckoning, hopeful, and heartbreaking. They all sat transfixed until the song ended. When it was over, Kendra wanted to applaud, but the moment felt too sacred.
Then there are these fairies - guess what type they are:
“In fact, tonight, remind me to leave out some cooking ingredients. By morning, they will have baked us a treat.”
“What will they cook?”
“You never know. You don’t make requests. You just leave out ingredients and see how they combine them.”
Here is a little hint about a completely different type of magical creature you encounter toward the end:
The air trembled. On hot days, Kendra had seen the air shimmer in the distance. This was similar, but right in front of her. The ground seemed to be tipping. Kendra extended her arms and swayed as the ground teetered even more. There was a burst of darkness, an anti-flash, and Kendra stumbled.
And here's a neat excerpt about the housekeeper, Lena, but this one I think this could rank as a spoiler:
(view spoiler)[“What is it like being a naiad?” Lena gazed out the window. “Hard to say. I ask myself the same question. It wasn’t just my body that became mortal; my mind transformed as well. I think I prefer this life, but it might be because I have changed fundamentally. Mortality is a totally different state of being. You become more aware of time. I was absolutely content as a naiad. I lived in an unchanging state for what must have been many millennia, never thinking of the future or the past, always looking for amusement, always finding it. Almost no self-awareness. It feels like a blur now. No, like a blink. A single moment that lasted thousands of years.” (hide spoiler)]
One last thing I have to mention; if you've read the book, you'll know what this refers to. If you haven't read it, consider this one more enticement. "There may still be couple [eggs] in the fridge." Yeah - I know - that doesn't seem very memorable, but when you put it in context you really appreciate the background behind the chicken eggs in this story. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I try to avoid spoilers at all costs, but just a warning: I love to quote excerpts of my favorite parts!
I recommend this book for many reasons, but thI try to avoid spoilers at all costs, but just a warning: I love to quote excerpts of my favorite parts!
I recommend this book for many reasons, but the character of the master mage, Serek, is a big one - I think he has potential to be one of the great fantasy mages, just a step below Gandalf and Dumbledore - if this book turns into a series. Here's just a snippet that gives you an idea of his sarcastic character, and his cool sidekick, a gyrcat:
“What exactly are you doing?” Serek’s deep voice spoke suddenly from the doorway behind him. “I am looking for that stupid – uh, for Lyrimon,” Calen said. “I know he’s in here. I can feel him watching me.” One corner of Serek’s mouth turned up slightly. “Oh, he’s watching you, all right.” He jerked his chin toward the window. Calen whipped his head around to look. Lyrimon was sunning himself idly on the stone wall that ran through the yard. He was watching, though. Even from this distance, Calen could see the evil glint in the gyrcat’s eyes. “How do you do that?” Calen asked plaintively. “Do what?” “Find him like that. You always know where he is. You can see him even when he’s practically invisible. Why won’t you teach me how to do it?” “Now, what fun would that be?” Serek strode forward into the room.
The main characters are Princess Meg and her friend, a mage's apprentice Calen, both fourteen years old. The book alternates between them in first person Point-of-Views, like Shiver and the Red Pyramid and several others I've read lately. Switching first person is apparently more acceptable these days, though you always see reviews from people who say this confused them because it was hard to tell as a new chapter begins who's POV you're in.
I didn't have a problem with the switching POVs though because the characters had distinctive voices.
Here's a snippet of Meg's bossy, brash personality:
Something in his face must have reflected his thoughts. Meg stopped walking, her eyes wide and concerned. “Well, what? What is it, Calen?" He shook his head. “I don’t really know.” She poked a finger at him angrily. “Don’t do that,” she said. “You do too know, and you’re going to tell me.” She poked him again, harder. “Right now.” Calen rubbed his chest. Did she always have to be so violent?
Here's a snippet of Calen's careful, analytical personality - but don't think he's boring because he's not:
Calen backed away from the chair and resigned himself to leaning against a wall instead. After a while, Serek looked up. “What have I taught you about divination?” he asked. “That it’s difficult, dangerous, not always reliable, and that I’ll learn more about it when and if you feel I’m old enough to handle it,” Calen said. “Why?” Serek’s lips twitched slightly into what might have been a smirk. “I suppose I’ve just decided you’re old enough. Come here.”
At this point, you may be wondering where in the world the dragon is in this book.
I wondered the same thing. The dragon doesn't have a big role, most likely because he doesn't speak at all, though he is unique enough to be very pleasing. He shows up in odd spots just often enough to keep you wondering about him.
The world-building and descriptions are well-done. The mages in this story are marked on their faces (I kind of envisioned them like the marks/tattoos on the Romulans' faces in the 2009 Star Trek movie. Oops, just revealed that I'm a trekkie). The marks end up being crucial to the story's plot, which was kind of cool:
“May I ask – is an appointment such as this one, an honor like this – is it recorded in your marks? Forgive me, but I’ve never understood the full scope of what a mage’s marks include.” That was an interesting question. Meg had wondered about the same thing herself. Calen’s face was barely marked, just a few lines and small shapes under his left eye, but Serek had delicate black lines spiraling across both sides of his face, with tiny symbols and dots of color worked into the design at various points. Serek shook his head. ‘No.” For the first time, Meg thought she detected the barest touch of emotion in his voice. “No, the marks are given for years of study, fields of expertise, and accomplishments of that nature, Sen Eva. A mage may serve many masters in his lifetime, but it is the work and the study of magic that defines his life and purpose. Those are the things that set him apart from others, and the reason why no mage may go unmarked, as they show what he is capable of.”
And just because I love Calen so much, here's another few great snippets from his point of view:
Calen was perched on the edge of a table. The chair across from the mage was occupied by Lyrimon, and Calen was too tired to fight him for it. As they talked, Calen fished black olives out of a jar and ate them. He had never cared much for olives, but he was so famished that he would have eaten almost anything at this point, and all Serek seemed to have on hand was jar after jar of olives. Perhaps, once he’d finished the current jar, he’d try some of the green ones.
Calen had never been to a wedding before. Of course, he guessed that even if he had, it wouldn’t have been anything like this one. At first it had all seemed rather boring. There was a lot of watching the members of the different families standing around repeating things back and forth to each other, and about a hundred different people got up to read long passages from various books, and then there were songs, and then possibly some other part he missed because he dozed off, but then finally people were shouting and cheering and he woke in time to watch Prince Ryant lean forward to kiss Princess Maerlie in full view of every living person that had been crowded into the enormous grand hall. Calen wondered if the Prince was nervous. He’d certainly be nervous if he had to kiss a girl in front of an audience! Well, he’d probably be nervous about kissing a girl in any event, he supposed. But the audience would make it even worse.
This is one of those wonderful traditional fairy tales with princes and castles and trolls and enchanted creatures - one of my most favorite kinds ofThis is one of those wonderful traditional fairy tales with princes and castles and trolls and enchanted creatures - one of my most favorite kinds of stories. In a nutshell, it's the Scandinavian version of Beauty and the Beast, where Rose, the youngest daughter in a family fallen into unfortunate times, is taken away by a great white enchanted bear under a curse.
There's many things that add a unique flavor to this tale. Rose's father isn't just a merchant, he's map-maker. The Beast's castle is fabulous - and also entirely enclosed within a mountain, with an enchanted entrance only magic can reveal. The beast, the White Bear is under a curse by a Troll King for a very interesting reason, and the Troll Queen isn't what you'd expect at all - tall, pale, beautiful, and hard-skinned. None of the trolls are anything like the monstrous deformed creatures you tend to think of... and this story delves into their mysterious Arctic lives.
I thought the title, East, refered to a land in the east of some fantasy world, perhaps. But East actually refers to a child's birth direction. Rose's mother and father have seven children, one for each of the compass points - except North.
North is unlucky - north-born children are wild, always roaming, and prone to disaster. Rose was born East, a child of the home and hearth, skilled at weaving and sewing. But she also has a tendency to roam - is she East or is she really North? The answer to this question is wonderfully answered at the end: (view spoiler)[She's actually ALL of the compass points (hide spoiler)]. I thought it was neat how the birth direction and the compass points are worked into the story with Father also being a map-maker and famous for the beautiful wind-roses he adds to his maps.
Here's one of my favorite parts:
I felt like I was working with the spun gold from fairy tales. The dress turned out to be more elaborate than the silver one, and just as lovely. And so I came to the moon-thread. While I was making the fabric, I told the white bear the tale of the Miad of the North and of how Vaina the song maker tricked Seppo the sky maker into going to the frozen land by singing into creation a giant pine tree with a moon and stars in its branches. By the way the white bear held his head, and the experession in his eyes, I could see that he was listening intently.
I marveled as the fabric took shape on my loom. The gold and silver had been beautiful, but this was something extroidinary. It seemed from another world entirely, a world you might glimpse on a frozen, misty winter day with the northern lights blazing above. I remembered the first time I had seen the northern lights as a child. I was breathless with excitement, convinced I was seeing the way into a whole new land, or into Asgard itself, where Freya and Idun and the thunder god Thor lived.
I hadn't understood Father's logical explanation about the phenomenon of the aurora. To me, it was sheer magic. And the fabric I had made looked almost as much like the northern lights as it did the moon. At once moon white, the cloth would come starlingly alive with pearly, rippling color when the light caught it in a certain way.
When it came time to design the gown, I didn't look at any books but let the fabric itself guide me...when I stood before the mirror in this dress, I did not laugh. For just a moment I saw myself as beautiful. And I smiled at my reflection. Dreamily I thought how I might put my hair up and wind a length of moon-ribbon through it.
Then I heard a noise. A gusty, sighing sound like I had heard once before, when I first came to the castle. I spun around and saw the white bear standing in the doorway.
This passage practically screams that the dress made out of the moon-material will play an important part somehow in the story. And oh, it does!
I also loved the fragments of legends and myths that work their way into the story, such as above. Here's another example via the unique story-telling of Malmo, the Greenlander woman, who used stories to keep herself and Rose from going crazy while trapped during a weeks-long blizzard.
... Unlike the snow knife, the story knife had beautiful carvings on the blade, decorative pictures of fish and seals and sea and sun. She gestured for me to sit beside her, and using the blunt side to the smooth the snow in front of us, she then used the tip to sketch a picture into the smooth surface. The designs were simple - stick figures to represent people and and crude symbols for other elements, such as the sun, a tree, and a river. But oddly, I could recognize each thing she drew right away. She spoke as she drew, identifiying and naming the figures and their surroundings.
The first tale she told was about a mother seal that cared for an Inuit girl after the girl's parents were lost at sea in a hunting accident. Malmo was gifted storyteller and I sat enthralled, watching the knife deftly etch out the pictures that told the story. The characters she drew came alive like performers on a stage...
Malmo even taught me how to use the story knife myself. I used it to memorize her stories, telling them back to her, as well as to tell her stories of Njord - the old stories of Freya and Thor and Odin. Some were th same stories that I had (view spoiler)[told the white baear back in the castle, and the memory of that time came rushing back. At such moments I would hand the story knife to Malmo, unable to continue. She understood (hide spoiler)].
I also loved the stories of Queen Meraboo that Sofi and Estelle tell Rose.
East is told from five characters' points of view, mostly Rose's but also her brother Neddy, her father, the Troll Queen and some very short scenes - really only scattered sentences - told from the white bear's point of view. These show so well how he is struggling to maintain his humanity while forced to live in the body of a bear.
Neddy is searching the archives at an old monastery for any hints in history of trolls and white bears - with the hope of finding his lost sister. I loved the image this description evoked:
Hours passed like minutes in the reading room. Blurred shapes of ruby red, emerald green, and rich sapphire blue from the stained glass would dapple the pages as I read the old manuscripts.
I could go on and on with examples. The book builds in steady anticipation, its five characters orchestrated like a symphony, and delivers its final climax like a grande finale. Wow! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
2015: I re-read this book to help me through a tough personal loss. My first instinct was to pick one of my favorite books to re-read, to escape the p2015: I re-read this book to help me through a tough personal loss. My first instinct was to pick one of my favorite books to re-read, to escape the pain. I picked up the Lord of the Rings (Fellowship of the Ring) and The Blue Sword, and then remembered I had recently purchased a hardcover of Pegasus to replace the one I gave to a friend a couple years ago, so I grabbed Pegasus too. Then I sat down in my reading chair with these three books, just holding them for a moment, deciding which one to start. I started with Pegasus; I read bits of the other two first chapters and then settled in to finish Pegasus. The magic of it caught me right away.
It was just as lovely the second time around, and perhaps even more impressive in terms of story craft. I noticed some different things this time around that I don't think I caught in the first reading. I am so hoping Robin McKinley will get the sequel written!
2011 review: Huge sigh. I loved this book. LOVED it. LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED. This is going on my all-time favorites shelf. Why? So many reasons.
1) the worldbuilding. The world-building is so good it's as if McKinley has been to the land of the Pegasi, Rhiandomeer, and visited the living caves and slept on a bed of llyri grass. As if she's bonded with a pegasus like her character Sylvi bonded with Ebon so she can tell us realistically what it's like. And these are so, so, so much more than mere winged horses. ...the pegasi were always as graceful as pouring water. The details of Pegasi expression are richly detailed, believable, and ever-changing. She doesn't fall back on a few cleverly invented expressions; she keeps introducing new ones. Niahi, her head over her mother's back, half shouted and half whinnied a noise like cheering, and opened her wings and shut them again instantly, like a sort of applause.
2) Ebon's voice. He's completely not human and completely relatable at the same time. And he has a great "boy" voice. Ebon talking to his sister: "Hey bird-face, you don't rear at humans. They're all smaller even than you are! Don't you have any manners?" Someone asks Ebon if the Pegasus King lived in a grand palace too: "Yuck! No way. Who wants to be trapped in the same old stuff up-and-down walled-in thing all the time, where the sun can only come through the same holes?"
3) The bonding experience. I think it's every girl's secret or undiscovered dream to bond with a creature - a dog, a horse, in a pinch anything furry might do; even a human, if that human doesn't turn out fickle. It's a deep longing for a best friend who just looks at you and understands you. No explanation necessary. No needing to be someone or something you're not; you are loved exactly as you are - more than just loved, but admired, sought out, inseperable; someone who stands at your side when dangers and bullies arise and you know they'll stand with you to the end. Of course this fantasy is all the better if it's a magical creature that introduces you to fantasic places or whisks you off on a magical adventure. And add wings to that? Someone who can take you flying? That's the heady deliciousness of this book.
4) So #3 has been done in a lot of books with varying degrees of quality and depth; but the bonding experience in this book is a masterpiece. This is no pony pals book. This is high quality LITERATURE with a high dose of unpredictable heartbreak potential. This book has classic written all over it.
5) The stories within the story. Again, beautifully woven world-building. Here is Ebon telling Sylvi about one of the Pegasi myths, the Night Shaman.
"I think that if you sleep any more the Night Shaman will take you away and make you a star." "The Night Shaman?" "Eah. He gets you both ways - if you don't go to sleep when you're suposed to and if you don't wake up when you're supposed to. Then you're a star away in the sky forever and ever, showing pegasi where to fly."
6) Insight. The author doesn't hammer you over the head with it; but there are great insights in this book: everything from art to politics to growing up insecurities to dreams - and it's expertly woven into the tale. Once you're there, it's - it's almost like dreaming, when you're in your dream as yourself instead of your dreaming self, when you're both nothing and everything in your dream. Another example: Sculptors don't sculpt, you know, Ebon said. They set things free.
7) Sylvi's parents. She's a princess and her parents are King and Queen; but they are quite unconventional royals while still being very royal. Same thing (but different) with Ebon's parents, who are King and Queen of the Pegasi.
8) The magic. Like everything in this book, the magic is unique and realistic and also mysterious. Both the human magicians and the pegasi shamans have access to a subtle magic that is as different as the species are different. Sylvi comments on the Pegasus magic that "it was a soft sort of magic" - not itchy like the sort used by human magicians. Another reference to magic: Imagine learning to swim by being thrown in to a lake in perfect darkness, never having seen water before. And I can't resist, here's another: You will find the Forest and the festival on many other walls here, till it is more familiar to you than if you had been there - because that is what happens in the Caves.
8) the Pegasus language. Not since Lord of the Rings has a made-up language been so well introduced into a story without bogging it down. And the language fits so well with the Pegasi - it's such a non-human language but at the same time it's not too alien. The pegasus sighed. "ebonfffffwahoowhooftha," she said. Ebon is lucky. All the ffff's mean very lucky.
9) Flat out beautiful writing: and she clutched that thought to her as she might clutch an escaping puppy, all legs and wriggle
At first I had a hard time with how the book started. Why would the author start with a bunch of historical notes written in a difficult archaic style? It's unconventional and uncommercial, and I'm sure it's lost some readers, BUT KEEP READING!!!! This author is a great writer and she PULLS IT OFF. She makes it work and makes it all fit together like a grand tapestry.
Another thing: the pacing is slow. Wonderfully slow. At first it takes a little getting used to. I am quick to judge that if I can't put a book down and you have to read it straight through then it's a really good book; if it doesn't deliver that unstoppable experience then it's not up in the same rank. I realize now that is a false judgement.
It took me several weeks to read this book because you can put it down; it doesn't push you. But then you get addicted to lingering in it. I found myself slowing down to re-read paragrahs - not because they were difficult to read, but because they were so worth slowing down to savor.
The ending was a cliff hanger that totally caught me off guard - the best kind because you didn't see it coming but when it happened I sat back and said "that was set up so well. Of course that had to happen!" And the worst kind, because now you have to wait until the sequel comes out, but you don't want the author to rush the sequel and make it less beautiful than the first; you find yourself wishing you had been born twenty years later so that you didn't have to wait but the writer also doesn't have to rush. ...more
This is a true classic. Not only will I read it again, I'm sure I'll be pushing it into my daughters' hands and urging them to read it, or perhaps eveThis is a true classic. Not only will I read it again, I'm sure I'll be pushing it into my daughters' hands and urging them to read it, or perhaps even reading it out-loud with them (I can dream).
Oh Disney, you stole yourself some neat ideas from McKinley's 1978 re-telling of the fairytale. I'm not sure how you got away with it. I can see why you added Gaston; there's no real antagonist in McKinley's version. Even her sisters are kind and supportive. Instead, the book is a masterful working of micro-tension. There is tension on every page, so subtle you have no idea it's even there, the true signature of a master story-teller.
The book has two very distinct parts. The first half is simply about Beauty and her family and only very vague hints to the magical qualities that spring into full romantic action in the second half at the Beast's castle. There's far more magic than the Disney version. And while Disney did a decent job getting us to fall in love with the Beast (yes, it's still my favorite kissing scene), this book blows the movie version away. This beast is less comical, more tragic, far more romantic. The scene where Beauty brings her horse, Greatheart, to meet the beast - oh my.
The writing gives me the same feeling as a slow exploration of a good museum of art: there is something beautiful around every corner, something so creative it makes you look at the ordinary in a new way. Here's just a smidgen of an example:
The sun shone through a window, then made its delcicate, fawn-footed way across the broad inlaid floor, and found the Beast's blue velvet shoulders to set on fire.
A more detailed review will be forthcoming, but for now, let me just foam at the mouth with delight. This is the best writing "voice" I have yet encouA more detailed review will be forthcoming, but for now, let me just foam at the mouth with delight. This is the best writing "voice" I have yet encountered. Harry Potter, move over; Bartimaeus where have you been hiding? A host of amazing, amusing and somewhat chilling characters is topped off by an expertly crafted partnership between a young magician-in-training and the djinni he has summoned, with quite explosive and entertaining results. It is bolstered by a solid foundation of plot and threaded with subtle intrigue that makes me wish I had instant access to the next book in the series. ...more
I highly recommend this book. It reminds me a lot of the Tombs of Atuan, the second book of the Earthsea series by Ursula Le Guin. It's creepy, mysterI highly recommend this book. It reminds me a lot of the Tombs of Atuan, the second book of the Earthsea series by Ursula Le Guin. It's creepy, mysterious, magical, mythical... with spare, beautiful writing. I couldn't believe I found this book in the juvenile section - not that kids wouldn't love it - but it's an adult book, too. ...more