Welcome to my blog for people in search of a good book.
My promise to you is, if it's here, it's good.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Singer of All Songs

Everyone is on a journey. Everyone needs to learn how to be brave, and resourceful, and kind. The world is full of cruelty and danger, but it is also filled with unexpected magic and wonder, and it is those who are open to the possibility of magic who triumph in the end. These are the lessons that fairy tales teach, and though not all fantasy writing sticks to the fairy tale rules, I would argue that fantasy can confer the same benefits on its readers.   --Kate Constable

Fortunately for us, after trying unsuccessfully to write realistic novels, Kate Constable turned to fantasy and gave us something fresh and new in that genre. I just finished reading The Singer of All Songs and enjoyed it very much. How interesting that I had never noticed the word “chant” in the middle of the word “enchantment.” If you enjoyed the Earthsea novels by Ursula LeGuin, you will enjoy this one.

Calwyn is a novice priestess and she is pulled from her cloistered world by Darrow, a young wizard of sorts, who needs rescuing. In the world of Tremaris there are many forms of chantments, and they are practiced in different lands, although they have become frowned on and even banned in some. Calwyn has led a sheltered and privileged life, raised by the priestesses in Antares who sing a chantment which raises a ring of ice which protects their lands. Calwyn chafes somewhat under the restrictions placed on her and wonders what lies beyond the walls. And then one day while singing the wall, she finds a young man lying injured in her path who claims to have flown over the wall. 

Darrow said quietly, “Thank you for all you have done for me, Calwyn. Perhaps we shall meet again someday.”
For a moment Darrow seemed about to say something more, but then he turned toward the river. She watched him plunge into the water, holding his stick above his head. Already the river had seized him in its current; soon he would be carried beyond the Wall and into the Outlands. Once more he would roam the world, and sail the wide seas in those boats of his, while she was locked inside the gray walls of Antaris, watching the moons wheel overhead and the seasons come and go, every day the same as the one that had gone before. And she would never see him again––
Abruptly she thrust the little globe deep into her pocket
 “Wait!” she cried, stumbling down the slippery bank. And then she was in the water.

This is a great story for young adults. It is easy to follow and the characters are easy to like. I hope that the author does a better job of developing the character of Darrow in the next novel. My only complaint was that he was constantly terse, troubled and thinking too deep thoughts to be troubled to communicate with Calwyn. I thought the brooding hero thing was a bit overdone. All in all, I think the author has done a better job with her female characters than with the men, but she has such a nice lyrical touch in her writing that I am willing to forgive her this and hope that more will be revealed of his character in the following books. Ah well, if there were no obstacles to the course of true love, the story would be over too soon and I am looking forward to immersing myself in the rest of this story. 

I finally got around to reading rest of the trilogy: The Waterless Sea and The Tenth Power. I enjoyed the continuation of the story. Many of the questions I had about Darrow and how the characters relate to each other, why they had the powers they had, and how the peoples of the planet came to be there, were answered. 

The author has written several other books. You can learn more at her website. Click on the title of this post or click HERE.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Enchantress From the Stars

If you care about the future of Earth, you should care about space!  --Sylvia Engdahl
Originally published in 1970, Enchantress From the Stars was redesigned and a new edition published in 2001. It is now being discovered by a new generation of readers. I read it years ago and when I saw the beautiful new edition last year, I picked it up and enjoyed getting reacquainted with Elana and Georyn.

Enchantress From the Stars is the story of three civilizations at different stages of evolution. Any one of them could be ours, in the past, in the near future, or in the far future. Elana, a young member of the Federation, an advanced race with psychic abilities, ends up helping her father and fiancé on an urgent and unexpected mission to save the world of Andrecia. This was not supposed to happen. She is young and untrained, and they were on their way to a family reunion. But she is also highly curious, and manages to get herself in place, thinking that she will get to go on a grand adventure.

The book draws on the language of fable and fairy tale for Georyn's story and that of space invaders with ray guns for the intermediate civilization, the Empire, that is attempting to plant a colony on Andrecia. The locals view the land chewing machine brought in by the Empire as a dragon living in an enchanted forest. The local king sends warriors to fight it, and eventually the locals think to send in a virgin to appease it. Only the expedition's doctor is bothered by the treatment of the indigenous population, who are usually stunned and held in confinement, but also occasionally vaporized. And those held captive are to be sent back to the Empire as specimens to be studied in a lab. Elana's father determines that the best course of action is to use the belief of the "younglings" in magic to access the latent telekinetic talents of one of them and prepare him to demonstrate this ability, hoping to scare the highly technical and nonbelieving Empire into leaving this planet alone.

Elana must play the role of the Enchantress, setting tasks Georyn to help him find the courage and ability he will need to play his role. As she interacts with the young man to help him develop his natural ESP and telekinetic ability, the enchantress becomes enchanted by him, his courage, intelligence and determination, his curiosity and his desire to grow beyond the world into which he was born. She wonders at one point what it might be like to see each other just as a boy and a girl, not as beings from different realms, who must soon separate, as she must return to hers when the task is completed. Falling in love was not part of the plan. But, even though they know that their love can never be completely fulfilled, in the end, it is their love for each other that saves them both and saves Georyn's world.

The author has an interesting website where you can learn more about her belief that our future lies in the stars, that terrorism is just one sign of planetary overcrowding and how important it is that we seek solutions for what ails our planet.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thursday Next

The Thursday Next series of novels by Jasper Fforde are delightfully comic adventures set in an alternative version of Swindon, UK in which the printed world reigns supreme and people are excited by productions of Richard III. Everyone reads and literature is the main source of entertainment and diversion. What most people don't know there is that literature in this universe has a very real life of its own, a life that must be protected, for if anything is changed in the inner book world, it changes in every book in the outer real world as well.

It is possible to enter, if you know how or have the inclination, this world inside the books, and our heroine, Thursday Next, turns out to have a talent for it. In the first book, The Eyre Affair, Thursday is a Special Operative in a literary crime detection unit trying to figure out who is kidnapping characters. She has to step into the book, literally, when Jane Eyre disappears from Jane Eyre. After she sorts out that mess and changes the ending of the novel to the one we now enjoy (when did that happen?), her problems seem to mount, as her husband is kidnapped and eradicated by the evil Goliath Corporation, who really runs things. It takes a couple of novels to get him back. She is occasionally helped by her time traveling absent father. Her baby has a gorilla for a babysitter, her beloved pet is a dodo, Hamlet is hiding out in her mother's house and there are mammoths in the garden. It's a strange, strange world, and only Thursday seems to be able to keep track of who is real and who is missing and what should be where, as she battles the Goliath Corporation for justice and fairness for her and her loved ones.

If you slept through American and British lit class, you might have a little trouble keeping up with the action of these books. For those whose classical education was a bit thin or it's been a few years and the memory of details are fuzzy, Fforde provides enough background information and makes the characters come so alive, that you might find yourself wanting to pick up an old classic and see what you missed or didn't quite get the first time. Aside from the literary references and all the characters from so many novels floating around in the plots, the world that Jasper Fforde has concocted is delightfully unlike any other I have found in literature. His stories are innovative and I never know in what direction he is going to take Thursday or where she will end up.

The novels have brought attention to Swindon, UK, which in time may even name some streets after characters from the books. The author and his fans have created their own universe where Thursday next is occasionally "spotted" at one party or another or walking down the streets of Swindon. He has a whimsical and extensive website I encourage you to explore by clicking on the title of this post. Here is a video in which the author talks about the world of Thursday Next.

The Thursday Next books in order of publication:

The Eyre Affair
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Something Rotten

First Among Sequels, the next Thursday Next novel
came out in July 2008.

It's on my shelf. I'm looking forward to reading it!

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