Abigail's Reviews > The Casket of Time

The Casket of Time by Andri Snær Magnason
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bookshelves: childrens-fantasy, childrens-fiction, childrens-translations, icelandic-children, fairy-tale-fiction
Recommended for: Readers Interested in Time-Related Fairy-Tale Fiction

Two intertwining stories are told in this fascinating Icelandic children's novel, one within the other. Opening on a bright summer's day in our own contemporary world, the first story concerns a "situation" so dire that the entire human population stores itself away in time caskets, to wait for better days. When one of these caskets opens early, young Sigrun finds herself in a world slowly going to ruin, as its people remain in suspended animation. Together with a group of other awakened children, she is taken in by an elderly woman named Grace, who spins the incredible story of the ancient kingdom of Pangea, the Princess Obsidiana, and the extraordinary lengths to which Obsidiana's father, King Dimon, goes to conquer time and keep her forever young...

Originally published in Icelandic as Tímakistan, this novel was one I started, enjoyed, and then put away for a time, before picking it back up again. As other reviewers have noted, the disconnect between the two story-lines is one that can feel off-putting to the reader, even though the inset story of Obsidiana (which takes up around 90% of the book) is central to understanding what is happening in Sigrun's world. For me, the two story-lines felt so different that it took me a while to adjust, when switching from one to another, especially when the inset tale ended up being so much longer than the framing one. The contemporary scenes had a quirky sense of humor, and some pointed social commentary that was quite interesting, while those set in Pangea had a classic fairy-tale feeling. One felt like science fiction, while the other felt like fantasy. I thought the idea of using Pangaea - a super-continent that began to break apart approximately 175 million years ago, leading to Earth's current seven continents - to retell the Snow White story was brilliant (if scientifically unsound), and overall I enjoyed the inset story more than the contemporary one. Perhaps this is partly owing to the feeling that the contemporary story-line wasn't developed fully enough? There are some interesting ideas here, as Magnuson plays around with the notion of time, and the human relationship to it, making this a children's book with some philosophical depth.

Although not perfect - the two parts here just don't quite fit together, despite being related, perhaps because of the different feelings they evoke - The Casket of Time was certainly entertaining, and quite thought-provoking. If half stars were available here on GoodReads, this would be a 3.5-star title. I would definitely pick up more of Andri Snær Magnason's work - perhaps his other children's book - The Story of the Blue Planet ?
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Reading Progress

May 9, 2019 – Started Reading
May 9, 2019 – Shelved
May 9, 2019 – Shelved as: childrens-fantasy
May 9, 2019 – Shelved as: childrens-fiction
May 9, 2019 – Shelved as: childrens-translations
May 9, 2019 – Shelved as: icelandic-children
June 29, 2019 – Shelved as: fairy-tale-fiction
June 29, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Mir (new)

Mir Never heard of this one! How is it?


Abigail Miriam wrote: "Never heard of this one! How is it?"

I read the first chapter on the subway the other day, and thought it was excellent. Since then the trains have either been packed, or I've fallen asleep, so I haven't gotten back to it. So far so good, but stay tuned...


Abigail So... a follow up. As mentioned in my review, this isn't a perfectly seamless story - there are some flaws. But overall I do think it is worth reading!


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