Sienna's Reviews > Among Others

Among Others by Jo Walton
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's review
Feb 01, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011
Read in June, 2011

Ah, the dangerous clash between expectation and reality. I wanted to like this book more than I did, at first, and then I liked Morwenna's voice a great deal, and then the story ended and I wasn't sure what I thought. I'm still not. There was much to love, what with all of the references to books that mattered tremendously to my teenage self (Le Guin and Vonnegut, particularly) and others that I still know only by reputation, to-read lists and cover design disasters. Among Others is part love letter to libraries, to the magic of the countless worlds they contain and the librarians who never get enough credit for sharing them with us. Its magic extends outside those walls to forests, old mines and abandoned factories in an appealingly ambiguous way: the kind of obsessive-compulsive magic I need very little convincing in order to believe exists and affects us every day, because there's no proof either way.

Walton's fairies feel somehow right to me, too, ineloquent, incomprehensible, a reflection of their surroundings the way dogs eventually resemble their owners, or vice versa. Compelling but perhaps not entirely trustworthy. They dance around morality as Morwenna tackles the subject through discussions of fiction, her life touched by stranger magic. In this respect the book grapples with the same ethical dilemmas as Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea stories, recognizing the connectedness required to make magic possible — and impossibly dangerous.

Mori's occasional disdain for animals struck a sour chord with me very early on. It just doesn't gel with my notion of magic, nor the one presented in this book, which meant I stumbled out of the otherwise very convincing narrative voice wondering why Walton would bring up the stupidity of cows or the nastiness of a particular cat.

Never mind that personal gripe, though; Among Others eventually won me over because Walton illuminates the margins so skillfully. After all, we see the fairies (or whatever you want to call them) first out of the corners of our eyes, right?
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