So I really enjoyed the first book of this series, The Magicians. Something about it worked for me: the elitist-boarding school narrative, the world-wSo I really enjoyed the first book of this series, The Magicians. Something about it worked for me: the elitist-boarding school narrative, the world-weary cynicism, the teen ennui that pervaded the entire book. It reminded me of Donna Tartt's The Secret History but with magic, far more than the "adult Harry Potter" I'd heard it billed as. However, pretty much everyone I recommended it to kind of hated it for those exact reasons (sorry guys). This one? I'm actually going to take a swing and recommend it anyway. Sorry in advance if I'm wrong again. XD
I will fully admit to never LIKING Quentin as a protagonist, but there were certainly things about him I appreciate; nevertheless, the criticisms of him as a spoiled, entitled whiner are 100% valid. Has he totally changed in the second book? Not enough for him to seem like a different character, but he has grown a sense of responsibility and a much more broadly developed sense of compassion, which immediately makes him more likeable. And if Quentin still isn't working for you as a protagonist, Magician King also has the trump card of Julia, who is a legit fantastic character whose backstory steals the show in places; while Quentin & co schlumped around Brakebills, their super-elite magic school, Julia was hitting the underground hedge magic scene in a way that expands the whole "real" world of the books beyond the gates of Brakebills, sometimes in fascinating ways, and sometimes in ways that are truly horrifying and nightmarish (seriously, the last portion of Julia's story is ROUGH).
While Grossman's prose hasn't lost its self-awareness, long gone is the cynicism that came with the introduction of the not-Narnia land of Fillory; in fact, much of the story takes place in Fillory, which Quentin has adopted as his home and made a connection with in a real way, not just as a huge playground for bored magic-college grads. Connections are explored between the mechanics of magic and belief, faith and love. If The Magicians is supposed to be a kind of a "grownup", and perhaps overly jaded, answer to the whimsical Harry Potter books, then I posit that The Magician King is a far more "grownup" version of THAT story: one that has matured enough to move beyond its own winking, tongue-in-cheek bitterness to recognize the power and wisdom of the fantastic.
Also there are dragons, so that's a point in favor, right?...more
Literally just finished this moments ago after losing far more consecutive stretches of time to it than I'm comfortable admitting. The first thing I dLiterally just finished this moments ago after losing far more consecutive stretches of time to it than I'm comfortable admitting. The first thing I did was yell "AUGH, that was AWESOME" and pass it off to my husband to read immediately. NOS4A2 was the most fun I've had reading a book in a REALLY long time; certain books I read last year might have become instant favorites, but even those still weren't as fun as this winding, bizarre, surrealist roadtrip was from start to finish. It gets its hooks right in you from the start and doesn't let up until the end. As I've already told anyone I know who reads comics, while loudly recommending the same author's excellent Locke & Key series, Joe Hill knows his stuff. And it is very very good....more
While not quite a single sitting, I did read this in less than half a day. I'm not sure whether I can really talk about it without the essence of theWhile not quite a single sitting, I did read this in less than half a day. I'm not sure whether I can really talk about it without the essence of the story starting to slip through a mental sieve, to be (sadly) forgotten and recollected later. And although that does sound unfortunate (and indeed it is unfortunate because I WANT to remember it exactly how it hit me), it also seems very appropriate to this particular book.
Reading it is an immediate, in-the-now experience and after finishing, I felt like I might have just relived parts of my childhood and adolescence all over again. There are many things you can draw comparisons to (A Wrinkle in Time, fairy lore, Andersen's Snow Queen, the Greek Moirae and the maid/mother/crone archetype) but this is very much its own story, and as I was once a child for whom myths, stories and books like those just mentioned rang true and essential, so it FEELS both true and essential. This is a book I feel like I've wanted to read my whole life, and I will absolutely re-read it later. And probably again, and a whole bunch more times. And I suspect that each time I do, I'll come back to it having forgotten so much of what made it great, being vividly reminded, and forgetting again....more
Well, I finally finished the last of these, and the series took just over a month of reading time from start to finish, during which it also basicallyWell, I finally finished the last of these, and the series took just over a month of reading time from start to finish, during which it also basically consumed my entire life. Now that I'm finished, I can easily say that the series as a whole is now among my favorite books. Even though each individual volume got four stars from me, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. It definitely sated a need for epic fantasy Western sci-fi horror metafiction that I previously only had an inkling of needing in my life. Did it have problems? Sure. Was it perfect? Surely not. Yet it was easily the most emotional (in the broadest sense) read I've had in a very, VERY long time, and I can see needing to revisit it at least once before- if you will- reaching the clearing at the end of the path, as is my general habit with books I really love....more
Closer to 4.5, but only due to Bradbury playing a little fast-and-loose with tradition and history (eg: "Samhain", a death god? Not so much). My histoCloser to 4.5, but only due to Bradbury playing a little fast-and-loose with tradition and history (eg: "Samhain", a death god? Not so much). My historical quibbles aside, it doesn't hurt the narrative.
Truth be told, I have to admit a certain fondness for the 1993 Hanna-Barbera TV movie of the same name, for which Bradbury wrote the screenplay (and subsequently won an Emmy). By no means a perfect movie, but I was nevertheless a fan, totally captivated with the idea of the little pumpkin souls hanging out on the tree (I totally carved a Pipkin jack o'lantern one year), Leonard Nimoy's delivery of the name "Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud", and now finally having read the original book as an adult I can really appreciate the consummate tightness of that screenplay. Flawed though the film itself may be, it was a truly excellent adaptation of what was already an excellent story, and I immediately recognized bits and phrases and passages in the book being carried fully intact into the script and narration. As for the book on its own merits- it's, of course, tight classic small-town-Americana-flavored Bradbury, in the same vein as (the much darker) Something Wicked This Way Comes. Poetic prose, in places breathless and in others meditative, is a major strength of his writing and it's shown off to great effect in this very slim book.
It also doesn't hurt my appreciation of this particular story that Halloween is my favorite holiday, and the imagery, thematic significance, and cross-cultural similarity of traditions between it and other festivals of death and the dead, of autumn, of harvest or disguise or placating spirits or bracing for winter, resonates quite deeply for me. So, the fact that Bradbury captures and understands so much of what makes it the (obviously) best holiday is a huge plus. This most Halloweeny of books is delightful and highly recommended....more
In Carnival of Time, Alan MacRaffen has created a fully realized world in the near future where oceans have swallowed the coastlines and lowlands, troIn Carnival of Time, Alan MacRaffen has created a fully realized world in the near future where oceans have swallowed the coastlines and lowlands, tropical jungles overrun the ruins of cities, and dinosaurs once again walk the earth. The promise of an inventive setting delivers time and again, not only allowing for an unfamiliar landscape but new species and technological paradigms to be explored.
MacRaffen shows great acumen as a world-builder, and his action scenes are tense, well-described, and not at all overwhelming to the narrative. He's clearly working from a large knowledge base with regard to prehistoric creatures, and manages to meld the science of their anatomy and behavior with fantasy in a way that's rarely explored in fiction. If there's one criticism, it's that the author leaves behind fascinating characters and scenery with massive storytelling potential in service to the story of Caleb, a personally unremarkable but archetypal protagonist, and his stock accompanying "hero's journey" narrative. This has the unfortunate consequence of leaving readers wondering why we weren't treated to a meatier story given all that this lush post-apocalyptic scenario has to offer.
That being said, although the plot lacks a certain amount of innovation, Carnival of Time is nevertheless a worthy read for a juvenile or young adult audience, and a charming first effort from self-published author MacRaffen. After getting a taste of Carnival and its world of sunken cities, dinosaur hybrids, and half-remembered radio songs, one longs to see MacRaffen step out of familiar, well-charted waters and sink his teeth into a narrative worthy of his own considerable imagination. Perhaps one of the best things about Carnival of Time isn't its setting or its strong supporting cast; it's the promise of more to come from an author whose best work is clearly ahead of him. ...more