Overall good story, but MAJOR content advisory. I can’t recommend this one, in all honesty, but I’ll read the next one in the series because I don’t tOverall good story, but MAJOR content advisory. I can’t recommend this one, in all honesty, but I’ll read the next one in the series because I don’t think the content will be as bad. (June 2008)...more
I had read this book years ago and decided that my good memory of it was worth going back and trying it again. I was right. This is one extremely wellI had read this book years ago and decided that my good memory of it was worth going back and trying it again. I was right. This is one extremely well researched, thought out, and written book.
Nat Field is a young actor recruited by a somewhat mysterious man named Arby to play Puck in Arby's version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The company of actors are all boys aged 11-18. They will play in the brand-new reproduction of Shakespeare's Globe. Just before the play opens Nat falls ill. He is taken to the hospital where he is diagnosed with bubonic plague. Meanwhile Nat wakes up in 1599, four hundred years before his own time. Everyone believes him to be Nat Field from St. Paul's school, loaned to Shakespeare's company to play Puck to Shakespeare's Oberon in a very important performance of the "Dream." Shakespeare and Nat quickly connect, forming a strong personal bond. Nat, who has suffered much loss in his life, is a kindred spirit to Shakespeare, who recently lost his son Hamnet. Their relationship is one of the most believable and warm parts of the book. Cooper's Shakespeare is one you want to be the real Shakespeare.
The company is nervous as it is believed that Queen Elizabeth I herself may come to see the play. But the big day arrives and all goes well. Nat, a boy from 1999, meets Queen Elizabeth. After the play Nat realizes that his current situation cannot stay the way it is. Nat Field will be returning to St. Paul's where Nat will instantly be rejected. He promises Shakespeare to come back when he is grown and act with him again.
I am a weepy person. And I cried at the end of this book. It was beautiful. And you know, I believed it, the possiblity of it. I can't really say anything else because I'll completely spoil the book, but the characterizations were such that it felt right to me. Bravo Susan Cooper!...more
I am totally in awe of Susanna Clarke. Seriously. First she created a system of magic which she stuck to consistently. Then she created an entire history and scholarship for that magic. Then she integrated the history, scholarship, and practice into real history. And her story was engaging and her characters well-drawn. All in flawless Regency language. For 782 pages. Wow. I am really, really in awe. And surprised that she was able to find a publisher.
English magic has died out, or so everyone thinks. Those who call themselves magicians are theoretical magicians only, scholars of magic, rather than practitioners. It is a shock for everyone then, when a gentleman named Gilbert Norrell demonstrates undoubtable magical ability. Eventually he takes a pupil named Jonathan Strange, whose approach is as different from Mr. Norrell’s as night from day. This book tells their story.
This book honestly reads like a biography rather than a work of fiction. There are copious footnotes, telling stories and referring to other works as if they actually existed. Clarke has the great gift of making you believe, just for a while, that there actually was such a history and story as the one she is telling.
Highly recommended for anyone who likes fantasy and Regency writing....more
I was startled by how old-fashioned this one seemed. I think it was partly the language which was rather deliberately trying for archaic. It made everI was startled by how old-fashioned this one seemed. I think it was partly the language which was rather deliberately trying for archaic. It made everything seem a little distant. However, the alternating narrative didn’t bother me! [Nov. 2010]...more
re-read, because it was on my bookshelves and I needed something short and fun. I really like several of the stories in this collection; the weakest,re-read, because it was on my bookshelves and I needed something short and fun. I really like several of the stories in this collection; the weakest, for me, is the last, which breaks the fairy-tale setting. It’s not a bad story at all, but in this collection it feels just a little out of place....more
The first new McKinley since Sunshine! Woo hoo! I was definitely excited to read this one because a) it was written by Robin McKinley and b) it’s abou The first new McKinley since Sunshine! Woo hoo! I was definitely excited to read this one because a) it was written by Robin McKinley and b) it’s about dragons. I am fond of dragons—fictional ones that is. So this book already had a lot going for it.
It didn’t disappoint. For one thing, I very much enjoyed Jake’s voice. It is not the one I’ve come to expect from Robin McKinley, but it was true to the character in a way that the voice of, say Spindle’s End wouldn’t have been. It was, in the end, Jake’s voice, and it kept me going through much of the novel.
The other characters were all well-developed and interesting. I especially liked Dr. Mendoza and Eleanor. And Katie and Martha. And all of them, really.
A tiny bit of plot description: Jake Mendoza who has grown up on the Smokehill National Park, dedicated to the preservation of dragons, goes on his first solo hike in the park. While there he finds a dead poacher, a dying dragon, and a dragonlet. He saves the dragonlet, which lands him in a whole heap of trouble.
This is definitely a book for older readers. There are a few content advisories as far as language and relationship stuff. The language is in character.
Cart and Cwidder starts off with Clennan the Singer and his family as they travel in their cart through the South Dales on their way to the North. TheCart and Cwidder starts off with Clennan the Singer and his family as they travel in their cart through the South Dales on their way to the North. The South Dales are under the rigid and heavy hands of their respective earls while the North is freer. The story focuses on Moril, Clennan’s younger son. As the story progresses he has to come to terms with what his parents didn’t tell him, as well as his own unexpected talents.
It’s a lovely story, nuanced and balanced. It’s a story about growing up and beginning to see your parents as people rather than Your Parents, with all the different things that implies. Moril is a likable and sympathetic character and if he’s a little slow to realize a few things, that’s all right. Diana Wynne Jones tends to get siblings right in her books and the interactions between Brid, Moril, and Dagner seemed spot on to me. ...more
Fairest is a very (very) loose re-telling of “Snow White.” Aza is very ugly, compared to the rest of Ayortha. Her foster parents and siblings love herFairest is a very (very) loose re-telling of “Snow White.” Aza is very ugly, compared to the rest of Ayortha. Her foster parents and siblings love her and she has a beautiful voice, but she still wishes that she was more beautiful. Through a circuitous series of events, she ends up as the lady-in-waiting to Ivy (or Ivi), the new wife of the king.
I liked this book, but nowhere near as much as I liked Ella Enchanted. Actually, I felt like the tenuous connections this book had to the world of Ella were quite distracting and kept me wondering if Ella and Ger were going to pop up. (They are mentioned late in the book, in a way which actually confused me all over again.) I also felt like Aza’s struggle with her appearance was too Message-y. That is, it was meant to teach the young girls who are the target audience for the book that even if you’re not beautiful, you can be loved, rather than springing out of the character or the plot naturally. The idea of the Snow White character being ugly was interesting, but I didn’t feel that it was handled as well as it could have been.
All in all, I’m not sorry I read it, but I don’t know that I’ll ever read it again.
Drowned Ammet is startling, especially if you didn’t know that the four books all focus on a different character. We’d just gotten used to Moril and BDrowned Ammet is startling, especially if you didn’t know that the four books all focus on a different character. We’d just gotten used to Moril and Brid and Dagner and Kialan and all the rest of them, when suddenly we’re starting all over with this Mitt boy, who’s someone completely different. Different, but wonderful nonetheless. There’s something about Mitt I really love. I think it’s his ability to do all the wrong things for all the right reasons and the right things for the wrong reasons. He’s also one of those characters who’s incredibly frustrating because he will be an idiot–not in smartness, but in personality, if that makes sense–but is incredibly rewarding when he does get it.
Anyway. Mitt. Born and bred in Holand, one of the South Dales. When things start going wrong, he and his mother do their best to survive and to do the right thing as they see it. It’s an interesting story in the way it details a group rebelling against a tyrannical overlord–a device which has certainly been overused, especially in fantasy–but in an unconventional way.
The other two main characters are the grandson and granddaughter of the Earl of Holand. The way their path intersects with Mitt’s and how the three grow to a relationship with each other is a fascinating one, but I can’t say much about it because that’s what Jones does.
One of the moments I found fascinating comes at the end of the book and is a major spoiler, but I’ll just say that it made me think a lot about how we construct stories for ourselves and how one person’s version of events is going to be dramatically different from another person’s.
As a side-note: I’m reading these books in publication order rather than internal chronology. I feel fairly strongly personally that this is the better order to read them in. I don’t know if Jones herself has expressed an opinion.
Quote from Drowned Ammet: “Mitt did not quite forget his perfect land. He remembered it, though a little fuzzily, next time the wind dropped, but he did not set off to look for it again…When an inkling of it came to him in silence, or in scents, or, later, if the wind hummed a certain note, or a storm came shouting in from the sea and he caught the same perfect note in the midst of its noise, he thought of his lost perfect place and felt for a moment as if his heart would break.” p. 9...more
I’m in the process of getting my sister hooked on Diana Wynne Jones. She liked Howl but I’m hoping that Dark Lord did the trick. Then I had to read itI’m in the process of getting my sister hooked on Diana Wynne Jones. She liked Howl but I’m hoping that Dark Lord did the trick. Then I had to read it myself, naturally. Hilariously funny and yet deeply serious at the same time. [Dec. 2009]...more
The sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia, and just as delightful. Unfortunately, I can say almost nothing about it without giving away major spoilers for theThe sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia, and just as delightful. Unfortunately, I can say almost nothing about it without giving away major spoilers for the first book....more
Every so often I start hankering for a favorite book. It's almost like craving a particular food. Only that flavor will do. Recently, that hankering tEvery so often I start hankering for a favorite book. It's almost like craving a particular food. Only that flavor will do. Recently, that hankering turned towards The Perilous Gard, one of my favorite books for, oh, years. As a bonus, it's also historical fantasy and a Tam Lin retelling, two awesome subgenres.
Kate Sutton is a lady in waiting to Princess Elizabeth, along with her younger sister Alicia. Alicia is beautiful and fluffy-minded and, when she becomes outraged over the living conditions at Hatfield, sends a letter to Queen Mary. Because Alicia gets out of everything, Queen Mary blames Kate and sends her to live under the protection of Sir Geoffrey Heron at Elvenwood in Derbyshire. The house is also known, ominously, as The Perilous Gard.
Kate is essentially Alicia's opposite. She is plain, graceless, sharp-minded and sharp-tongued. It's strongly implied that Alicia gets her character from her mother's side of the family and Kate from her father's, especially her grandfather. She values common sense, honesty, and plain dealing. She's a bit like Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle, though she's not normally so insecure. She's in the category of characters I would like to have as a friend.
From the first glimpse of Elvenwood, Pope makes it clear that this is a strange and eerie land. One of the threads all my favorite Tam Lin retellings contain is a genuine sense of creepiness. There's something frightening about the story and here there's something frightening about the Elvenwood, about the castle and its inhabitants, and most especially, about the People of the Hill.
At the same time, Kate is forced, especially in the second half of the book, into a kind of unwilling sympathy for them. She understands them, while at the same time she fights against them with all her might to save Christopher. She's half-way to being one of them by the end of the book, not simply in the way that she moves or how she has physically changed, but also in the fact that she can understand the way that they think. This layer adds a depth and complexity to the story that keeps the People from simply being villains or Other.
I haven't said anything at all about Christopher yet, which is a pity. He's an exasperating, marvelous character. The romance here is based on mutual respect and neither party leaps into it at first sight. (Kate even says at one point, "How could I be in love with Christopher Heron? I've only talked to him twice in my life!") Given that I grew up on this book, The Blue Sword, Anne and Gilbert, and Betsy and Joe, perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that insta-attraction romances are anathema to me. Regardless, the end is incredibly swoon-worthy and I would quote the whole thing except that it's full of spoilers and also the point is that you have to read it in order.
It's also interesting to note that Kate's impulses from the beginning are to save Christopher. First she wants to save him from his loneliness and self-imposed penance. Then she wants to save him from his sacrifice. Then she wants to save him from the People. But she also exhibits the same impulse towards other characters--Cecily, Harry, even Randal.
Pope was part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which means that she knew her stuff. And it shows. The historical aspect of the novel is utterly convincing in the surplus of details which are woven naturally into the story. Kate thinks and acts as a Tudor girl, albeit a slightly unconventional one. At the same time, I think she's the strongest character in the whole book. Which just shows you that it's possible to write female characters in historical fiction without sacrificing either accuracy or strength. (I keep harping on this. It is a Thing with me.)
In the end, after all of my blathering on, this is simply an wonderful book. It's one of those that are heart-books, that have gone so deep I don't really need to re-read them. But why on earth wouldn't I?
A comfort re-read. I love this Tam Lin re-telling, which is convincingly set in Elizabethan England. Kate is such a wonderful heroine and Christopher was one of the first characters I swooned over. [Feb. 2010]...more