Ellie and her friends Corrie, Robyn, Lee, Kevin, Homer and Fi live in and around a small rural town in an undisclosed part of Australia. They decide tEllie and her friends Corrie, Robyn, Lee, Kevin, Homer and Fi live in and around a small rural town in an undisclosed part of Australia. They decide to go camping, to “go feral” and spend a weekend over the Christmas holidays up the bush instead of at the showgrounds with the townsfolk. Some of them, like Ellie and Corrie, are close, but not all, so over the weekend they get to know each other a lot better. Ellie and Homer are both from farms and Ellie’s family’s property is the closest to the trail; on coming home hers is the first place they reach, only to find that the dogs are dead. Not only that, but her parents aren’t home, the place is eerily quiet and the power’s off. There’s nothing but static on the radio.
Homer’s farm is the same. With the regular rural life so frighteningly disrupted, they’re quick to realise something is very wrong and they could be in danger. They learn that everyone in the town and from the farms have been locked up at the showgrounds, or rounded up and sent there. The big houses in town have been taken over by the invading enemy – an enemy that is faceless and nameless throughout this series, thus adding to the tension and avoiding fear-mongering at the same time. Ellie and their friends hide wherever they can, eating whatever’s left over in people’s kitchens that’s safe to eat, and trying to locate their families. They find another friend, Chris, in hiding and he joins them, filling them in on what happened.
This is the first book in the Tomorrow series and follows Ellie, who narrates, and the others as they try to survive, stay one step ahead of the enemy, and inflict what damage they can. Together they pool their resources – their knowledge, and create deadly bombs out of lawnmowers, sabotage the enemies ships by putting sugar in the fuel and other such things. Deaths occur, and the death of one of Ellie’s friends at the end of a later book is a scene I’ve never been able to forget. The first enemy soldier Ellie kills face-to-face nearly undoes her. It’s not surprising that when, after seven books, the war finally ends and they all try to pick up their lives again, nothing is the same, they aren’t the same, and a spin-off trilogy called the Ellie Chronicles adds a whole new level of tragedy to her life.
I didn’t read this series until year 11 but it’s popular with all ages. It’s exciting, it’s empowering, and it brings to light the knowledge and resources teenagers possess that they’re not even aware of, that are put into a whole new perspective in the face of an invasion (for example). It shows that you know more and you’re capable of more than you thought you did. There's a real theme in YA lit of teenagers surviving on their own, using their own resources and growing up too fast in the face of threat, violence and adversity - I love these kinds of books! It shows the strength of friendships, honesty, perseverance and fortitude, and while the premise may be fictional, the reality of what some children and teens must live through in some parts of the world, and the qualities they have that go unrecognised, unappreciated and unrewarded, make this book and the entire Tomorrow series relevant and familiar.
This book is excellent, and got me snapping up every Nicci French book I could find. Just please, please don't watch the movie! It's one of the worstThis book is excellent, and got me snapping up every Nicci French book I could find. Just please, please don't watch the movie! It's one of the worst movies I've ever seen! If I had seen the movie first I would never have read the book....more
This is the first book by Kay I've ever read, and one of only three books on my shelves signed by the author (one of only two signed specifically to mThis is the first book by Kay I've ever read, and one of only three books on my shelves signed by the author (one of only two signed specifically to me, and the only one I actually got myself). Its size is daunting if you're not a regular fantasy reader, but it's a stand-alone novel and would be disappointing if it were any shorter.
Tigana is about a great many things, but the central plot and theme of the novel is the subjugation of the people of the Peninsular of the Palm (modelled after Italy), it's nine provinces now split between two sorceror Tyrants - one from the Empire of Barbadior (representing "a crude, efficient Politburo survivor"), the other from Ygrath (like a "Borgia or Medici prince, arrogant, cultured, far too proud") - with only one "unclaimed" province between the two.
It's been twenty years since the twin invasions and devastating war, but one province suffered - and continues to suffer - a great deal more than any other: Tigana, whose name and history has been wiped from the minds and memories and history books of the people of the Palm by the Ygrathen Tyrant, Brandin, as revenge for the death of his son Stevan at the hands of Valentin, the Prince of Tigana. Only the people born in Tigana before it's name was annihilated can remember that it even existed, which in itself is yet another side of Brandin's revenge. Brandin himself must prolong his life until every person who can remember has died, or his spell will be undone.
The thrust of the plot follows Valentin's last surviving son, Alessan, and his friends as they maneouver to take down both Tyrants together and not only free the entire Palm but bring Tigana back into the world.
I read a lot of fantasy, and I'm very hard to please. I read Fiona McIntosh's Odalisque (only now released in North America) before this, and while it was a fun, quick read, the difference in skill and talent is quite obvious. To me, what makes good fantasy is the way in which the author deals with the social, cultural, racial and other issues affecting our own world, our own societies, in a hypothetical world where alternatives can be explored, where individuals triumph over "the system" or "the man" (often disguised through allegory or metaphor), where different ways of thinking and doing are followed through to their likely conclusions (as opposed to the common dismissal of the genre as purely "escapist", therefore trivial. I strongly disagree).
Fantasy is like an entertaining, playful laboratory, one where an author can experiment without harm. Kay does this, and talks about it in his Afterword. In his own words, he says:
"Tigana is in part a novel about memory: the necessity of it, in cultural terms, and the dangers that come when it is too intense. ... when you want to subjugate a people - to erase their sense of themselves as separate and distinctive - one place to start (and it is sometimes enough) is with their language and names. Names link to history, and we need a sense of our history to define ourselves. ... It is hardly an accident that separatist movements so often involve attempts to reclaim a lost language. In Provence, highway signs often give place names in both French and the almost-lost Provencal tongue. The independence movement in Wales has incorporated attempts to reclaim their language as one of public discourse ( a reaction to the English refusal to allow it to be used in schools or even schoolyards once upon a not-so-long-ago time). In Quebec, the often bitter struggle between Separatists and those who wish to remain a province of Canada finds a battleground in language. Tigana was an attempt to use magic to explore these themes: erasing a people from the record of history by stripping them of their name." [2005 edition]
Other fantasy authors who have successfully used the genre as a means of exploring issues relevant to our own societies that I've read include China Mieville, Isobelle Carmody, Kate Elliott, Eric van Lustbader (the Pearl saga), Robert Holdstock (Mythago Wood), Barbara Hambly, Kristine Katherine Rusch and Ricardo Pinto, among others.
I find that fantasy is more successful at this than science fiction, which is too closely tied to the arrogant idea that humans are the most important living organism in the world, and encourages the fallacy that there will always be someone who will solve your problems so that you don't have to deal with them - aiding and abetting, for example, the current global warming debate, where most people are content to sit on their arses and wait, either for things to be so bad they can't be fixed but at least they'll admit there's a problem cause they can, finally, see it, or for someone else to invent a solution, an alternate fuel etc., and so removing the necessity for them to make any effort at all. Science fiction emphasises our expectations and demand for convenience, our obsession with selfishness, isolation, supremacy, our lazy attitude towards a great many things. It tends to be egocentric, and understood as more superior to fantasy because it is "progressive" and looks forward, not back, and doesn't encourage "play", something we as adults are generally ashamed of. There are so many books written on sci-fi, exploring it, analysing it, because of this acceptance by academics, because no one will laugh at them for it.
Fantasy, on the other hand, is like a maze, in that when you take a fork and it leads you to a dead end, you have to retrace your path and take a different direction. Fantasy goes back to before things "went wrong", before or just after we fucked up, and takes a different path. It attempts to redress wrongs, liberate the repressed, free our minds. Its closer ties to nature, the mystical, the organic, and a simpler life, position it on the other side of the fence from science fiction - though the two often blend together, with varying degrees of success depending on the author's skill and intent. I had some difficulty doing my dissertation on this genre, because it was scorned by the academic world. Yes, there are books on speculative fiction and the fantastic, but there is nothing on the actual, popular, fantasy genre itself. It is too easily dismissed as "bodice-busting" (referring to the tight corsets, this is from one of the editors of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy - they had to include fantasy at the insistence of the publisher), sword-and-scorcery tripe. And plenty of it is. But even amongst their tacky covers (thanks for nothing Tor), there is plenty more going on than it at first seems, and there is a good reason why fantasy has become more popular than sci-fi of late in countries like Australia. For some, it might be an attempt to escape the madness of our own world, but it is also a search, a thirst, for hope, and a reaching-out. Fantasy is about communities as much as it is about individuals, and about the connections between everything.
**** As a story, Tigana is extremely well-crafted and well-written: the characters are fully explored and believable, the plot is tight and moves fast enough to keep you turning the page, but not so fast that you feel cheated out of details. I felt particularly sorry for Dionora, who was one of my favourite characters, and her doomed love for Brandin, the man she had determined to kill. There is humour in the story too, and adventure and romance: but everything has its place, everything is relevant.
I read it on the subway, on my lunch breaks, during the commercials (muted, of course) and at breakfast. I read it wherever and whenever I could, and finished it with a feeling of triumph - not for having read a fat book, most of the books I read are fat, but for the characters, for their world, for the promise of a happier life ahead of them, for the close ties between them. A good book leaves me unsettled afterwards, and plagues my mind: this was just such a book, and if you haven't read it, I hope you do - you don't even have to be a fan of fantasy, for the elements common to the genre are used sparingly....more
The T'En are a legendary race, exiled from their homeland six centuries ago, washed-up on the shores of Fair Isle where they conquered the people andThe T'En are a legendary race, exiled from their homeland six centuries ago, washed-up on the shores of Fair Isle where they conquered the people and brought culture, music, art and equality, making it an island rich in trade, wealth and culture. A race of slightly matriarchal aristocrats with silver hair, wine dark eyes and mind powers, Imoshen is the last of them - called a "Throwback" - and her relatively peaceful, complacent land has just been conquered by the invading Ghebites led by General Tulkhan. The invaders are patriarchal and somewhat cruel, but the General - a big, intelligent man - finds there's something more in his attraction to Imoshen, though her spirited mind and temper often throw him off balance.
The Ghebite Empire is young but fierce, the Ghebites having left their nomadic lifestyle behind only three generations ago. They are astoundingly masogynistic and patriarchal, so issues of gender equality play a big part in this trilogy, among other things such as discrimination, politics, rewriting history etc.
Imoshen learns that there is one other T'En Throwback still alive, however: her betrothed, Reothe, leads a band of rebels in the hills. He comes back for Imoshen but by then she has given her word to Tulkhan, and will do whatever she can to save Fair Isle and prevent further bloodshed. But Tulkhan doesn't trust her, though he does listen to her and he definitely desires her - but he can't even trust this desire, for he's heard all about the fabled powers of the T'En.
The great thing about this fantasy story is that it's not about a battle, and the lead-up to the battle - though it does end in a final, deciding battle that, thankfully, is dealt with briefly compared to some other authors - it's more about what happens after being conquered: what happens when two vastly different cultures collide and try to live together. Imoshen, though only 17, feels a great weight of responsibility for although she was an outcast in her own family for being a Throwback, she is at the same time revered. She is a clever young woman, and very strong-willed. Her motivations are clear, though I don't always understand why she doesn't speak honestly with Tulkhan when she so obviously should.
If you like fantasy with some romance going on, it's definitely worth your while to hunt down this book. It's the first in a trilogy but it took me a while to get my hands on the others. ...more
This is a great ending to an excellent trilogy. I've said it before and I'm not ashamed to say it again: don't let the marketing towards the Young AduThis is a great ending to an excellent trilogy. I've said it before and I'm not ashamed to say it again: don't let the marketing towards the Young Adult bracket put you off; as an adult, and avid adult fantasy book reader, this trilogy could easily be considered for the shelves of the "adult" section too (which is where I found it in Australia, with, dare I say it, much better cover art). The language is quite sophisticated, which is great when mixed with engaging story-telling, in improving the reading skills (and vocabulary) of younger readers.
An excellent conclusion to the trilogy, Ptolemy's Gate neatly wraps up the various stories and plot lines, with some characters recurring to finish off their "dastardly deeds". The climax is satisfying not just in ending this book but for finishing the whole trilogy.
Kitty and Nathaniel (whose magician name is John Mandrake) join forces, with much squabbling, to defeat the demons who have taken possession of the government, while poor Bartimaeus is weakened by being kept in the human world without a rest in three years. His sense of humour is intact, but there's no question he is the most sympathetic character in the trilogy. Even Kitty, with her indomitable spirit and quick mind, needs less help than the poor djinni. Though, by the end, Nathaniel just manages to redeem himself.
The back story of Bartimeaus and Ptolemy is quite lovely, and, ironically, fleshes out the djinni into a character with a strong presence. The trilogy has managed to reveal his character, his personality, all his fears and desires and self-defensive mechanisms, with less tell and more show. Stroud has proven himself skilled at character development, pacing, plot construction and, of course, humour.
I'll certainly be keeping my eye out for more of his books in the future....more
Although this promising start to a new trilogy by Jonathan Stroud gets all-too-often compared to Harry Potter (wizards in London), it takes quite a diAlthough this promising start to a new trilogy by Jonathan Stroud gets all-too-often compared to Harry Potter (wizards in London), it takes quite a different turn.
In a world of bureaucratic magicians who get their power from summoning magical creatures like djinn from another plane, Nathaniel is apprenticed to a horrible man as a young boy. Impatient, and chaffing at the bit, he summons an upper level djinn called Bartimaeus and uses him to steal a powerful amulet, an amulet that another powerful and corrupt wizard, Simon Lovelace, is also after.
This book is a rollicking adventure, with Nathanial a measly, selfish, stubborn anti-hero (Bartimaeus is the true hero), counter-balanced by Kitty, leader of a "gang" of street kids, persecuted by the wizards, who can see through the djinns' disguises. She lends a moral voice and a fighting spirit as she tries to get Nathaniel to look at his conscience. Bartimaeus is the strongest character, and the most entertaining, with his scathing sarcasm and wit, and his funny anecdotes in the footnotes. His puffed-up view of himself is more comic than Nathaniel's misguided and narrow-minded narcissism. Kitty, too, is a strong character, very likeable, with all the redeeming qualities that Nathaniel lacks. Yet, as you read, you keep hoping for the boy, hoping he will learn humanity, and hoping that, as he continues to fight the real "bad guys", he will do so for the right reasons.
There is also the element of bureaucracy and the digs the author gleefully makes at our society. You could have a lot of fun finding all the metaphors and satirisations in this book. The Amulet of Samarkand is a lot more than a simple magic-adventure fantasy story. ...more
Spring is arriving to the highlands, where Obernewtyn - the big sprawling mansion and farm that is home to a large groThis review contains spoilers.
Spring is arriving to the highlands, where Obernewtyn - the big sprawling mansion and farm that is home to a large group of Talented and unTalented Misfits and animals - lies protected by the mountains and a snowed-in pass, but the events of the previous year are still fresh in everyone's minds. Much has changed: understanding their pacifist nature, they have turned to devising ways of using their skills and Talents (Farseeking, Coercing, Beastspeaking, Healing, Futuretelling, Empathy and the Teknoguild) to bringing a more subtle kind of change to the Land. If they can't change people's prejudices towards Misfits, then they'll be no better off when the Rebels strike and the Council falls.
Rushton has left for a sudden and unexpected meeting with the Rebels in Sutrium, the capital, leaving Elspeth, Guildmistress of the Farseekers, in charge of Obernewtyn. She pushes aside her niggling worry that borders on premonition, by focusing on the many demands on her attention. Dragon, the wild girl Elspeth rescued from some Beforetime ruins in The Farseekers, still lies in her coma, locked in her recurring dream of the past that she had sealed off in her mind - only Elspeth now realises that Dragon's powerful empathy-coercer talent is letting her dreams affect everyone at Obernewtyn, and no one is sleeping well. They dreams of Matthew, the Farseeker who was taken by slavers, toiling in a far-off, hot red land, and their details match. And they dream of a dragon, though no one has been attacked by it except for Elspeth. Maruman, the mad old cat who guards Elspeth's dreams, protects her as best he can.
In the half-submerged city built by the Beforetimers under the mountain Tor, the Teknoguild have worked obsessively to uncover the secrets of the past, secrets that connect Obernewtyn to the mission Elspeth is secretly on: to find and destroy the weaponmachines that brought the Great White and nearly destroyed the world, before the Destroyer finds them and activates them, ending life for good. Elspeth has come to realise that her mission and the destiny of Obernewtyn are entwined, and the puzzle of the past becomes an important part of understanding how to find the clues she needs as the Seeker. Her dreams aid her as she witnesses the past, though they are also dangerous, not just from the manifestation of Dragon's insanity, but from the Destroyer himself, who turns out to be Ariel, the beautiful but cruel Misfit who fled Obernewtyn all those years ago and now works his twisted magic on both the Council and the Herder Faction.
Rushton, on leaving Sutrium, is kidnapped, and the Misfits of Obernewtyn have been ordered to join the rebellion or he will be killed. Elspeth has no choice but to set them on the path they had collectively decided not to take. But there are traitors within the Rebel ranks, and many Rebel leaders despise the Misfits, so that they are betrayed more than once. And who kidnapped Rushton, if not the Rebels? And why - who else would want them to join forces? The answer surprises, and puzzles, them all.
Well! I can't believe I couldn't remember a single thing that happened in this massive, eventful volume, from the last - first? - time I read it when it came out in 1999. Unlike the previous three books, I think I must have read this one only once, though that seems unlikely. Maybe twice. How could I have so completely forgotten it all? Incredible. But good, because re-reading it now it was almost like reading it for the first time (I say "almost" because, as things happened, I remembered them - but I still couldn't recall what would happen next, so it was full of surprises for me!).
Elspeth is about nineteen or twenty years old at this point - I'm still keeping track, because if you remember, the only time her age is mentioned is at the very beginning of Obernewtyn, when she's fourteen. Almost the entire first half of The Keeping Place is focused on Elspeth running Obernewtyn, and the dreamtrails. It's busy and richly detailed, fleshing out how the Misfits live at Obernewtyn and giving us some much-needed time with Elspeth away from dire predicaments. She's always been a wonderful and fascinating character to me, and it's very interesting to see how far she's come and how her time as an orphan - isolated, too fearful of being denounced to make an friends, and secretive - has shaped her (as well as helping her face the solitude of her task, one which she doesn't expect to survive). She now makes an effort to empathise and give comfort, though she feels awkward doing it. She's still aloof, and when they get the news that Rushton has been taken, she makes a big effort not to fall apart for the sake of Rushton and Obernewtyn, even while she knows that everyone will think her cold and unfeeling (except the Empaths, I'm sure).
I was always disappointed that this volume didn't have more Rushton in it - like, they finally get together at the end of Ashling, only to be separated again for almost the entire book, here. I always felt so cheated! There's a different vibe to this one, perhaps because of Rushton's kidnapping, but also because after much talk, there is action. There's a subtle kind of tension, a gnawing anxiety that something's not right - Elspeth feels it but doesn't really heed it, though for all her suspicions about the Herders, it's hard to believe that she still can't see them for the dangerous enemy that readers can clearly see. I was also surprised, and disappointed, that she couldn't see that Malik, one of the Rebel leaders, was up to something. I couldn't remember what, until it happened, but I had that sick feeling of dread that he was going to do something really bad to the Misfits, first chance he got. Elspeth had a gut feeling there too, but there wasn't much she could have done about it. Oh except realise that the trap the Misfits were going to lead the soldierguards into was also going to be a trap for them! Remember the lesson from Ashling, that they are nice and compassionate and humane people - bordering on naive at times, because their imaginations fail to encompass the malicious hatred of someone like Malik.
The second half is planning and action for the rebellion, and things move swiftly. I loved that the rebellion wasn't The End that solved everyone's problems: the people are so downtrodden and afraid that, as the Sutrium Rebel leader explains, you have to bring change gradually, and let the people be in charge of it as much as possible, or they won't see the difference between the Rebels and the Council that ruled before. They are putting a democratic system into place - not only does the Obernewtyn Chronicles tackle the rights of animals, or modern warfare, or human greed, or the environment - it also takes on politics, and the motivations behind power machinations. All highly relevant to our time and what our countries get up to. I love fantasy like this, the kind that subtly connects dots and, even, not so subtly waves little red flags over certain issues. I rather think that that's what fantasy is for, in a way - you've heard me go on about that before on other reviews.
This is a complex world, one that is intricately fleshed-out, and not at all predictable. The best thing is, I have reached the end of the books that I had previously read. Next up, in October, I am reading The Stone Key, and in November The Sending (the final book in the series, The Red Queen, isn't due out until late 2013). I have no idea what happens next but I can't wait to find out! It's so exciting! ...more
Re-reading the third book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles, I was quickly reminded of why it was my favourite for such a lonThis review contains spoilers.
Re-reading the third book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles, I was quickly reminded of why it was my favourite for such a long time: things REALLY start happening, on so many levels.
A year has gone by since the events of The Farseekers, making Elspeth about eighteen years old (I'm determined to keep track of her age this time, as it's never mentioned since she was first introduced to us at the age of fourteen). There are again rumours of a soldierguard camp planned for the Highlands, putting the secret community of talented Misfits living at Obernewtyn at risk of discovery. If caught by the oppressive Council or the fanatical Herders, they would be Burned. Keeping a low profile is paramount, so when Elspeth rescues a gypsy woman from being burned at the stake for practicing Herbal Lore, she risks not only her own life but that of everyone at Obernewtyn.
That deed sets Elspeth on a new, dangerous path, one with personal implications. The Guildmistress of the Futuretellers, Maryon, has foreseen that within seven days, Elspeth herself must return the gypsy to her people in Sutrium, the capital and the home of the Councilcourt - a dangerous mission. But Maryon has also foreseen that Elspeth must discover the meaning of "swallow" or she will die.
With only her friend and fellow Farseeker Matthew for company, as well as the horses Gahltha and Jaygar and Elspeth's long-time companion, the half-mad cat Maruman, Elspeth journeys quickly to Sutrium on the far south coast, in their usual disguise as gypsies. But as they search for their dying gypsy's people, Elspeth learns that there are half-breed gypsies, despised and hated, and the Twentyfamilies gypsies, the original race who came from over the seas and made a pact with the Council that gives them wealth and prestige, but prohibits them from settling.
Also in Sutrium is the Misfits' rebel friend, Brydda, or "the Black Dog". He has been working on getting the different rebel groups across the Land to unite, and an uprising against the Council seems imminent. Rushton, the master of Obernewtyn, has been hoping for an alliance with the rebels, for when the Council falls the Misfits will just be trading one enemy for another if they can't be allies first. Elspeth finds herself entangled in Brydda's aim to find the elusive man behind the lucrative slave trade, Salamander, and meets with the rebel leaders in an effort to show that she's no halfwit Misfit. Things do not go as planned, and as a select group of Misfits travel with Elspeth to the newly-opened desert land of Sador, there to compete in the Battlegames to prove their worth as rebel allies, everything is at stake, including Elspeth's understanding of her role in the fate of Obernewtyn.
Cover Commentary: I have the first edition - the inscription inside reads "To Shannon, Happy 16th Birthday, Love from Mum and Dad. 30.11.95" - and it has to have the worst cover of all the editions of all the books (and they went through four cover changes). Here's a story for you: only a few months before this book came out in 1995, Isobelle Carmody came to my rural high school to do a workshop with us grade 10 students (can't count how lucky I was to be at high school at this time! One year later and I would have missed out!!), but first she gave a kind of presentation on her writing and the publishing industry, which was fascinating. She held up a copy of the cover design that she'd recently received from her publisher and remarked that she really didn't like it (I can't remember the details of why). I couldn't see it very well at the time, being about two rows back (yes, hiding from my favourite author, that's how shy I was! Still don't know that I'd be able to say anything intelligent, articulate or interesting to her today, either), but once I got my copy for my birthday, I could see why. Two things stand out the most for me: Elspeth and Matthew. Elspeth is wearing pretty cool clothes, but her face is kinda squashed and ugly, and her hair!! She practically has a mullet. I don't know what Connell Lee, the artist, was thinking. Even worse though is Matthew, behind her. He's only a couple of years older than Elspeth, which would make him about 20, but he looks at least 35 in this image. Details like that always bug me. In contrast, the horses are so beautifully rendered! And I'm not entirely sure what the artist was aiming for, with the planets in the sky like that.
This book moves both fast and slow: the pacing deftly balances a busy bundle of plot-lines while also taking the time to focus, think and reflect. This is Elspeth's story, and as the narrator, we get her perspective on it all. Elspeth has grown again: she's colder, more distant, and quick to anger in this book, but she's also learning - learning to temper her words, her tone of voice, to notice how others are feeling and to think about what they might be going through. It's not that Elspeth has been a very selfish person, no more so than any of us. It's that she's always held herself aloof, due to her orphan upbringing (it's dangerous to make friends in an orphanage) but also, especially now, due to the added pressure of the mission the Eldar of the Guanette birds, Atthis, has given her: to find and destroy the weaponmachines that caused the Great White Holocaust, before another on the same path discovers them and releases a new Holocaust, one that will end everything.
I've always loved the philosophical elements of Carmody's storytelling; she skilfully weaves thought-provoking ideas and social commentary into her stories, something that tends to be sadly lacking from a lot of YA these days. This series touches on a great many relevant themes: environmental destruction, proliferation of "weapons of mass destruction", human greed, religious dogma, fear of the Other, censorship, the notion of human superiority, not learning from our mistakes, the welfare of animals, freedom, love, friendship, loyalty, home. Having a home. And that's one of the things that Elspeth learns at the end of this book: that she has a home, and that she doesn't have to cut herself off from everyone because of her secret mission, a mission she probably won't return from, alive.
Which bodes well for a relationship between her and Rushton. The romance in this book is light and delicate, as fragile as what is growing between the two of them. Elspeth takes a long time to own up to her feelings, and to not be afraid of them, and it's handled in such a realistic, believable way, that you can practically hear the gears ticking over in her brain as it catches up to her heart. The anticipation - and the uncertainty that anything would actually happen between these two (or anytime soon) - made their moment of coming together extra special. And tt's not the only kind of love that Elspeth has to grow to understand. Her thoughts on the cat, her protector on the dream paths, Maruman, reflects that:
Was [Maruman] wandering, mindless, in Sutrium? Again, I wondered if I should have restrained him for his own good? Since I loved him, hadn't I the right to stop him from harming himself?
With something of a shock it occurred to me that this was the sort of thinking that had caused Gahltha to try to stop me helping the little mare, Faraf. And which had once caused Rushton to forbid me to go on dangerous expeditions.
I would never exchange safety for freedom, I thought, regardless of the danger. I had the right to risk my life as I chose.
"Truly danger is part of freedom/freerunning," Gahltha sent unexpectedly, sounding as if the thought startled him. "It is easy to forget this when it is not us/me."
[...] "It's easy to have one rule for others and another for myself but there's no honour in such double standards," I sent mildly.
"Honour?" Gahltha snorted. "That is a littleword for a great thing. Funaga have freerunning thoughts. But instead of admiring/joying in them, you would cagethem with words. Some things will not be tamed to words."
[... I]t was not enough for me to admire words and ideas as beautiful abstractions. I had to see how they could be applied. And I knew only too well that what worked in words was often very different when you tried to apply it to a real situation. In essence, freedom of choice sounded a fine and noble thing. But in reality? [pp.245-6]
This is such a subtle theme, slipped in there, but an important one: the balancing act of love and repression, or love and freedom. And I love the "alien" (non-human) perspective the animals give, their different way of thinking, it works so beautifully and feels so believable. Elspeth finds that the animals have decided she is Innle, the one who will free the beasts, and the horse Gahltha is her special daytime protector.
The other concept that really sticks out in this story, as it's meant to, is Elspeth's understanding of what the outcome of the Battlegames in Sador means for the Misfits of Obernewtyn. Because of their compassion and loyalty, they lose the games. But as the templeguardian points out:
"As for the Misfits, if they are truly represented by these before me, they are no warriors. They care too much for life and for one another. They are not stirred by the glories of war, and the shedding of lifeblood brings them sorrow, whether it be of beast or human, friend or foe. All their instincts are for defence and so their great powers are all but useless. They are not cowardly or weak, but their minds appear incapable of allowing their great powers to serve them as weapons.
"Witness that they used the incredible ability which they call empathy to its greatest effect in a song, rather than to turn their enemies' hearts to terror.
"They will never have the rebels' singlemindedness of purpose, nor therefore their driving force, because they cannot see things in terms of simple goals."
He turned in the dead silence wrought by his powerful oratory, and faced the rebels. "We here in Sador value the earth above all life - humans and beasts alike are short lived and unimportant. This you know. We have thought that Landfolk valued their own lives too much, regarding themselves as the chosen of their Lud. But these Misfits seem to value all life and this is strange for us to contemplate. But think you this. You rebels opposed alliance with the Misfits because you thought them monsters and inhuman. Ask yourselves now which team has this day shown the keenest humanity and which has shown itself to be more monstrous." [pp.496-7]
I love that speech. I had wanted the Misfits to win, oh so badly - to prove their worth, but also to show that they could fight alongside the unTalented, and be respected by them. It's exciting but hard to read the Battlegame scenes because they seem so unfair, and because they lose. But Elspeth comes to a stronger realisation: so they're not warriors, but the Battlegames taught them what they couldn't do, "so that we could begin to think of what we can do." [p.514] Which means, indeed, starting again from the beginning, with a new plan. It also means they now have the rebels as enemies, or most of them - and unlike the Council, the rebels know some of what they can do, and the ones that hate them, fear them.
The fun thing is, is that I cannot remember ANYTHING that happens in the next book, The Keeping Place. I'm not sure how many times I've read it in the past, but unlike with the first three books, the entire plot has slipped my mind. This makes me super excited to read it again, from that perspective, but also because I have NO IDEA what path the Obernewtyn Misfits will take, what choices they now have, what decisions they'll take. I am keen to learn about the fate of Matthew - I feel sure he will survive his misadventure, and be wiser for it. There are lots of clues about Dragon's origins and why she fears water, though Elspeth hasn't yet realised that she's discovered this (she doesn't tend to trust her dreams). And Rushton and Elspeth's fragile romance... sigh. They have a long road ahead of them.
The Obernewtyn Chronicles is some of the best Fantasy-Dystopian-Post-Apoclayptic Young Adult fiction out there, and while some little slips that should have been caught in the copy-editing stage would normally bug me, with this beloved series I just don't care. Start reading it and learn why those of us who began reading the series as children are still faithfully, and with great pent-up excitement and enthusiasm, awaiting the final book. Yes, it's been that long. Eat your hearts out, A Song of Ice and Fire fans!
Note: You can get Ashling and The Keeping Place (books 3 and 4) in a single volume called The Rebellion in the U.S. It's over a thousand pages long. You can get them in separate volumes as well, though....more
Alyzon is struck in the head one day and when she wakes up she finds she can smell things - people's thoughts and feelings, and something sinister andAlyzon is struck in the head one day and when she wakes up she finds she can smell things - people's thoughts and feelings, and something sinister and foul around the cute boy at school and the man wanting to manage her father's music career.
This is yet another great YA fantasy from my favourite author. If it's not available in your country: complain!!...more
Lara's mother Cheryl has just died from a long battle with cancer, leaving her to the care of the Man, her father Larry Ritchie, who Cheryl managed toLara's mother Cheryl has just died from a long battle with cancer, leaving her to the care of the Man, her father Larry Ritchie, who Cheryl managed to track down before she died. He's practically a stranger to Lara, but she warms to this tall, lean, weather-beaten man almost immediately. He takes her home to his own family of hard wife Gladwyn and four children, all younger than Lara: Opal, Pearl, Garnet and baby Jasper. Home is a farm called Willy Nilly out the back of the Bulahdelah Mountains in northern NSW, past Newcastle.
Gladwyn is cold towards her, and Opal is distinctly unwelcoming. The younger children take to her, but between the hard work on the farm, the bully Gowd Gadrey at school who lives down the road, and Opal and Gladwyn's dislike of her, Lara sorely misses her mother. Larry is often gone for long stretches of time, leaving Gladwyn to manage the homestead and fern farm in a tough land and harsh climate.
Lonely, Lara befriends and is befriended by a dog she meets in the bush who comes during a thunderstorm - so she names him Thunderwith. Her only friend, he accompanies her on treks through the bush whenever she can get free, and the only person she tells is an Aboriginal Elder who tells Dreamtime stories at the school.
As the animosity between her and Gladwyn increases, as the heat rises and the bullying intensifies, something has to crack, but the price for gaining a new family turns out to be more than Lara would ever want to pay.
I have read this book countless times since grade 5 and it never loses its power over me - to absorb me, to make me cry. It's like an old friend, comforting and challenging at the same time. It's easily one of my most favoured books of all time.
This is a book that seemed to come at just the right moment in my life, just as Thunderwith came to Lara. It sometimes felt like it had been written just for me. I read this book, about a girl whose mother dies of cancer so she goes to live with her Dad's somewhat unwelcoming and hostile family in the bush, just months before finding out I had an older sister too. This book was my best friend for months, if not years, a surprise gift from my mother because she knew I loved it so much - one of the first books I ever owned.
The beauty of the Australian landscape is captured flawlessly in this novel, transporting me to the wild bush and rugged mountains, the scent of eucalyptus and soil and sheep surrounding me from memory.
It makes me cry every time I read it, makes me sob, and I still come back to it time and time again. I love it on a deep personal level, and it holds a precious place in my heart....more
I was captivated by this book. Set on a world which revolves so slowly that everyone has to move steadily West in order to escape Dusk and Night, whicI was captivated by this book. Set on a world which revolves so slowly that everyone has to move steadily West in order to escape Dusk and Night, which is a devastating ice world, and avoiding High Summer, so hot it kills everything in its path, West of January is highly original and superbly written. Not only is the world divided into Months and Days, each a particular climate steadily moving west, but the inhabitants are very segregated, each following the same patterns every cycle, never learning from the previous one (that often ends in disaster) because they do not pass their knowledge down.
Knobil is born into the savage herder race, where family groups of several women and their children belong to one dominant male, slowly making their way across the grasslands with their huge stupid beasts that must be constantly walked. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he is obviously the child of an Angel, a group of men of various races who live in Heaven, hoarding knowledge, and travel in their chariots trying to prevent disaster every cycle by getting different groups through the passes or around water to safety.
When he reaches puberty he avoids his destiny - being sent out with one of his many sisters, who he may trade with a girl from another herd to start his own - by falling in with an Angel. This starts his own awakening, and his determination to reach Heaven and become an angel, something he must do alone. This goal loses its importance when he is taken in by the sea folk and starts fathering children left right and centre. When the sea begins to dry up as High Summer approaches, he looks for passage south for his adopted family but is caught by Ants. Ants, miners who use captives as slaves to mine in the temperate southern parts of the world, are brutal, and Knobil spends several years merely surviving.
He is sold, because of his blond hair and blue eyes, to the traders, whose men are small and crafty and the women are huge and stupid, but doesn't find out why until it is too late. His adventures continue, but I don't want to give everything away!
In the course of his journeys, Knobil examines and confronts stereotypes, elitism, and learns not only the history of people on this strange planet but also that things are transient, and changeable....more
Merlin wakes up in a helicopter that has crashed in a forest. The pilot is dead, there's a metal collar around her neck with a broken chain hanging frMerlin wakes up in a helicopter that has crashed in a forest. The pilot is dead, there's a metal collar around her neck with a broken chain hanging from it, and her memories are patchy and impersonal. Not to mention that these memories - memories of the world as we know it - do not match the world in which she finds herself: asphalt roads almost disappeared beneath grass, crumbling buildings and skyscrapers swallowed up by vigorous forest. It is silent and deserted, and Merlin wanders lost and confused until she meets Ford, a young man who looks nothing like the people in her memories.
So begins Scatterlings, one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors. It's fantasy with, I guess, a sci-fi bent, and philosophical underpinings. I love the twist at the end. Ok, it's not a "twist" like in Fight Club, but it's a perfect resolution to the mystery of Merlin.
After another summer spent stuck at his aunt and uncle's house in Little Whinging, Surrey, Harry is chafing and tense waiting for Lord Voldemort to maAfter another summer spent stuck at his aunt and uncle's house in Little Whinging, Surrey, Harry is chafing and tense waiting for Lord Voldemort to make his move. But there's nothing in either the wizard news or the Muggle news. Then late one day he and his cousin, Dudley, are attacked by Dementors and Harry is forced to break the under-age use of magic law to defend them.
Now facing a hearing at the Ministry of Magic and possible expulsion from Hogwarts, he is brought to number 12 Grimmauld Place in London, ancestral home of his godfather, Sirius Black, and new headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. The Weasley family is living there, as is Hermione, but Harry only feels more resentful and angry at being left out and kept ignorant. Isn't he the one who saw Voldemort return to full strength and kill Cedric Diggory? Isn't he the one who battled him and escaped to return and warn everyone that Voldemort had returned?
But now that he's back in the wizarding world, he learns that the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, is denying it all and making Harry look attention-grabbing and even insane: "Potty Potter." Dumbledore, too, is being vilified for insisting the Dark Lord is back and they must be prepared and united to fight him. In their attempt to control Dumbledore and Harry, the Ministry instates one of their own, Dolores Umbridge, in the cursed position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. While Voldemort takes over Harry's dreams at night, Umbridge is determined to ruin his life by day.
This is probably my favourite of the series. I love how involved and detailed it is, how it gets immersed in life at the school, and how complex the world has really become. It feels so real to me: Harry, his life, his world. It's also, I find, the most emotionally rich (with the possible exception of the final book, but I've only read that one once so far so I'm not sure). Not only is Harry continuing to mature and grow and is very true to his age - Rowling writes with exceptional skill and nowhere is this more apparent than in bringing Harry to life in each book, a whole year older.
This book is all love to me. Yes it's the longest and perhaps the slowest in the series, but it's actually extremely eventful and busy. There's A LOT going on here, and it's a more, shall we say, "adult" plot. One of my favourite lines is when Sirius says to Harry, the world isn't divided into good people and Death Eaters. It's an important distinction for Harry to really learn and understand, especially as in every book he suspects Snape and he's always wrong. Here, he was thinking Umbridge was in league with Voldemort, because she's so awful and cruel, and that's when Sirius tries to explain that the world isn't that straight-forward. It marks Harry's real turning point, leaving childhood and a lingering belief and trust in adults (anyone other than Dark Lord supporters and his relatives) behind. It's not that this wasn't clear to us in the previous books, but until the ministry itself turned on Harry and Dumbledore, he had a naïve trust that the truth always wins. Now, he learns that people can have complex motivations and their own agendas.
Umbridge in particular teaches him this harsh lesson. She's a wonderful character, absolutely horrible with no redeeming feature but with a scary certainty that she's in the right. People as inflexible as Umbridge are always dangerous characters in fantasy, and Umbridge takes the cake. Rowling paints a vivid portrait of her, appearance-wise, and it really sticks in your head. Inherently racist, Umbridge has a fear of half-breeds and an arrogant belief in the superiority of wizards and witches over all humans and non-humans alike; add to this her position of power and she becomes quite the enemy. She may be an obvious character (Rowling clearly had some fun in making her so absolutely horrid), but she's sadly representative.
Alongside Umbridge, who's a favourite of mine (you just love to hate her!), other things in this fifth book that I love include the thestrals, the skeletal winged horses that only people who've seen death can see; the showdowns between Umbridge and the other teachers; getting an intimate glimpse into Neville's life; Snape's memories from his own days as a student at Hogwarts; the battle at the Department of Mysteries; Fred and George Weasley's send-off mayhem; and the DA meetings. In a way, this instalment gives us some breathing space in the series, especially after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in terms of adventure, yet it's also hugely important in terms of not just the over-arching plot (Harry finally learns the truth about his connection to Voldemort), but in terms of Harry's own personal development.
It's also really sad - actually, books 4 to 7 all end sadly, with a death and some hard-hitting stuff. I always felt that the death here was the worst, because it's so personal and so unfair - is Harry never to have family to love?
The violence in this book really struck me - it's not that there wasn't danger and a lot of hexes thrown around in the previous books, but somehow here the stakes are so much higher, the spells that much more vicious. It's not just hexes and jinxes to bring on sudden deformities, like those the students inflict each other with, but grown and experienced Death Eaters directing killing curses at Harry and his friends. Those scenes are filled with tension, suspense, danger, and since Cedric died in the previous book, it feels like no one is safe anymore. And I felt absolutely awful for the "baby-headed Death Eater", especially as I had my own 3-month-old asleep on my lap at the time and since becoming a mother, the cries of the floundering, panicking, scared baby-headed Death Eater was really quite upsetting.
This was also a real "kick me" story, like when Harry unwraps Sirius' present at the very end of the school year to find a kind of two-way magic mirror with which he could contact Sirius - if only he'd unwrapped it earlier and he would never have been lied to by Kreacher!! I also felt anger at Dumbledore for not being honest with Harry: why should he expect a boy to take occlumency lessons from someone he hates - Snape - without telling him why it's so bloody important? At least Dumbledore apologised and told Harry everything at the end; he became human in that moment, and remains a kind of surrogate father-figure.
On a side note, it suddenly occurred to me while reading this big fat book that in all the Harry Potter books, I've never come across a typo. No typos, no missing articles, not even a "ay" instead of "lying" or a "lead" instead of "led". And trust me, if they're there, I always find them. So well-done to the proof-reader, I wish more books were this clean.
When I finished reading this book for the third time, I watched the movie which I hadn't seen since it came out in the cinema. I remembered Imelda Staunton (wonderful actress) playing Dolores Umbridge to perfection, and the DA meetings were captured so well - I loved how the Room of Requirement vanished for those who weren't members of the DA, which it didn't do in the book. I remember thinking, the first couple of times I read the book, that I really really wanted to see Snape's memories in the film, but I had misremembered and thought it wasn't included, so seeing it there - even if it was quick - was a nice surprise. But I wasn't satisfied with Michael Gambon's representation of Dumbledore - he seemed so angry and even bitchy, and not as in-control as he is in the book, nor with the kind of sense of humour Dumbledore's always displayed.
I never expect - or want - book adaptations to be exact replicas of the book; they need to bring something new, and they need to adapt to a different medium. But with a book of this size and scope full of so much detail, it is sad to see what they decided to leave out, or condense, in order to make it work as a film that's not too long. I'm definitely a bigger fan of the books than the movies....more
This is one I've only read once, when it first came out, and I've only seen the movie once too, so there was lots of "neThis review contains spoilers.
This is one I've only read once, when it first came out, and I've only seen the movie once too, so there was lots of "new" details for me on this re-read. This isn't the copy I originally bought back in 2000 (it was first released in paperback; book 5 was the first hardcover edition on release); I had to put that one in the recycling bin and buy a new copy (and I was shocked at how expensive it was: at $32, it's much more than the other children's/YA hardcovers) because it had water damage and black mould on the bottom from the time when my brother stored some boxes of my books under his house - on dirt, on a steep hillside - while I was in Japan. Idiotic thing to do. I also lost my original copy of Philosopher's Stone too, which is why I have the Raincoast (Canadian) edition of it now.
The Goblet of Fire starts, as usual, at the end of the summer holidays before Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts. Because Harry now has a godfather - escaped mass murderer Sirius Black - the Dursleys are being, not nice, but careful not to overtly abuse Harry less this mad protector hears about it. So when Harry is invited to the final match in the Quidditch World Cup by his best friend, Ron Weasley, Uncle Vernon reluctantly agrees.
The World Cup final is between Ireland and Bulgaria, and the Weasleys have seats in the top box. After the game, several Death Eaters - supporters of Lord Voldemort - make an appearance, as does the Dark Mark in the sky. It's just the beginning of the signs that Voldemort is on his way back, and when Harry's name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, making him a fourth school Champion in the Triwizard Tournament, it's clear that something foul is afoot.
I tend to think of this book as the end of Harry's childhood, because things get extra serious, Cedric Diggory is murdered, and Lord Voldemort returns. The next three books are noticeably darker in tone and deed, and unlike in Chamber of Secrets, people - Harry's friends - start dying. I always felt more tense, here on out (in a good way).
The ending of this book always makes me cry. Cedric's death is one of those horrible, senseless deaths. Rowling makes sure you're going to have a personal stake in Harry's drive to defeat Voldemort, after Cedric's death, for Cedric was a genuinely good, likeable boy. Dumbledore's memorial speech at the end is incredibly moving - truly, Dumbledore gets some of the best lines, and is a phenomenal character and role model. To be honest, this series is as good for children learning about right and wrong etc., as the fairy tales used to be. (Fairy tales are cautionary tales using analogies to impart warnings etc.) If children learn morals from books, this series has lots to impart.
Goblet of Fire is a busy book, with a great deal happening over the course of a school year. We also learn more about Snape, though we've barely scratched the surface with this complex character. I love Snape as a perfect example of someone who seems bad but fights for "good" - not black and white, in other words. The introduction of two other wizarding schools - Beauxbattons and Durmstrang - as well as learning about Hagrid's giantess mother, also introduced issues of race and prejudice (further from the Muggle and Mudblood prejudices) into the story, as well as some fun new characters.
We not only get this wider scope of the wizarding world in terms of learning about other schools, we also get a more political novel - ministry officials not only make an appearance but have important roles in the plot, their "adult" politics filter into Harry's world and awareness: that awareness that adult decisions have huge impact on a child's world, their life, and that adults don't always make the right decision or know everything; that it's more than okay to question an adult. Because, just because adults are adult, doesn't make them irreproachable, or wise, or unquestionable. And when kids realise that, they've taken the first step into the adult world of disabused notions, unfairness, hypocrisy and ulterior motives.
And Hermione's determination to make the school's house-elves see that they're slave labour and insist on fair wages and freedom, raises questions not only about workers' rights but also misguided assumptions and placing your own views and beliefs on others just because you're sure you're right, regardless of other "people's" culture and belief system. (Yes they are technically slave labour, but it was more interesting reading it as an analogy for colonialism and/or religious preaching/missionary work in "uncivilised" parts.)
The events in this book make it one of the more exciting ones, as well as its climactic ending, but there's still some very nice character development going on. Ron's insecurities, as coming from a large family that overshadows him, comes out again and you have to feel for him, his reaction is understandable (as someone who comes from a family of five kids, all of whom are much louder than me, I know the feeling!).
One of the things I noticed this time 'round, knowing who the enemy at Hogwarts is (who put Harry's name in the Goblet), was how much Harry learnt off Moody, who, yes, was making sure Harry won the Tournament, but in doing so taught him much, gave him the tools or motivated Harry to get them for himself (all the hexes and jinks he learns, for instance), to battle Voldemort and defend himself. It's quite ironic really. I always felt equally betrayed by Moody/Barty Couch, because I liked him so much as Harry's teacher and mentor! The real Moody I feel you never really get to know, in comparison.
It's funny, I've only seen the movie once too but I was surprised, when reading the book, that it's Dobby who gives Harry the gillyweed and solves that problem for him - Moody plants the information with Neville but Harry never asks around for help. In the movie, Neville does help him in this task, and I loved that. I love it when Neville gets appreciated, he's one of my favourite minor characters and more important than you ever realise. The movie did a good job in changing that around, it worked well for the screen. But I had completely forgotten that it's Dobby who helps Harry, in the book!
Overall, the story becomes more complex and more gripping, with this fourth instalment. Things are chugging along at a fine pace, the stakes are higher than ever, Voldemort is a real threat now and the wizarding world continues to be developed and added to so that it's hard (or simply more fun) to remember that it's not real. Now I'm off to watch the movie again! :)...more
Harry's summer with his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon ends badly, with him accidentally-on-purpose magically inflating his uncle's obnoxious sister, MHarry's summer with his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon ends badly, with him accidentally-on-purpose magically inflating his uncle's obnoxious sister, Marge. Fleeing the Dursley's house on Privet Drive with all his belongings, Harry doesn't get far before despair takes over: not only does he have nowhere to go, but he's just used magic outside of school and while the last time he just got a warning from the Ministry of Magic, this time he's looking at expulsion from Hogwarts. And Hogwarts is the best thing in Harry's life.
But the Minister of Magic himself, Cornelius Fudge, has no intention of punishing Harry; quite the opposite in fact. And when Harry overhears Mr and Mrs Weasley arguing about the reason why, it comes clear: a wizard believed to be high up in Lord Voldemort's entourage has managed to escape Azkaban, the wizard prison, and everyone is certain he is after Harry - since it's indirectly Harry's fault that he ended up in prison and Voldemort was defeated. The escaped wizard is Sirius Black, and he does indeed seem to be after Harry when he's spotted inside Hogwarts, the one place everyone thought Harry would be safe in.
I've always considered this to be the book where the series took a turn into a darker realm, a more mature, adult realm. There was always the feel of something rather fun about the first two books, even though they too dealt with a dark plot - somehow, there was still a feel of childlike innocence to Harry and his friends that, by the end of book 3, is no longer there. Perhaps it's the werewolf, and the deeper insight into Harry's parents' deaths, but I'd say it's the Dementors, scary things that can suck the soul right out of you, that give this novel an element of horror and time-running-out for Harry.
Which is interesting, this feeling of time in The Prisoner of Azkaban: time plays a very important role, and the plotting of the book is very clever. I was impressed the first time I read this, and just as impressed now. I will say, though, that I really liked the movie adaptation of this one, and a lot of the scenes and visuals from the film filled my head as I was reading this, which made it feel a little lacking in lustre in comparison to the first two, the films of which I didn't care for and haven't seen as often as this one.
But I do love the third book, a great deal. It introduces two of my favourite characters: Professor Lupin and Sirius Black. I adore Lupin, he could very well be my favourite of the entire series - and the fact that he was played by David Thewlis only makes me love him even more. Same for Gary Oldman playing Sirius. Perfect casting (for all the films, in fact). Really, as a side topic, the movies are a who's-who of British acting, with all the big names nabbing a character. It's quite fun really, seeing who turns up. Anyway, the scene where Lupin is sleeping the carriage on the way to Hogwarts, eavesdrops on Harry's conversation with his friends, drives off the dementor and then offers chocolate - especially the latter - is, strange to say, one of my favourite bits of the book. I know, weird huh? But I find Lupin's presence so utterly comforting and reassuring and warm, never mind how he looks or what he really is, that he puts me in mind of Tom Baker's Dr Who. And later scenes where he rescues Harry from Snape's wrath, and comes to the Shrieking Shack... He's like a guardian, a good one, and I'm so glad he pops up in the other books too.
I find Azkaban to be exciting, and the over-arching plot gets deeper and more details are revealed, both from the past and the present. There's such a great sense of plot control and direction, and I love how Harry, Ron and Hermione continue to mature....more