Monday, November 29, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Published by Delacorte Press, 2009
I was working as a bookseller when I first heard of Fallen, months before its official release. It was sold to me as the book that heralded fallen angels’ triumphant overthrowing of vampires in YA paranormal romance. Well, Fallen is a solid effort by Lauren Kate, but I didn’t exactly feel like throwing away my fangs for [clipped] wings upon first read. Its main competition was Hush Hush when first released, and I think that book was the better of the two. I haven’t picked up any of the numerous fallen angels stories that quickly followed after these two, and I don’t know if they piqued my interest enough to read on (even if I am being whammed in the face with them every vaguely bookish place I go).
Friday, November 19, 2010
Persimmon is a young lady devoted to her florist shop, at the top of the Botanical Gardens Railway Station. She has been disowned by her family for following the flower profession, and although clever and kind, is rather lonely. Epiphany is a mouse who believes there must be more to the world than the confines of Platform One. Each must undergo their own trials of love, heartbreak, imagination and adventure before they can find the place where they truly belong.
I am divided about this book. On one hand, there were moments of such cleverness and loveliness that is just charmed the socks off me. There are some pithy insights about people and the world around us, beautiful moments of both reflection and descriptive prose, and some genuinely delightful, funny lines, particularly from Persimmon’s ornamental cabbage Rose. I love fairytales, and I love what this book is trying to be. I love the innocence of it. I love how every creature, every action, is made to feel important, is never derivative in comparison to something else. There is a gorgeous mix of the quirky and the real.
Yet I feel like that whatever the book is going for, it isn’t quite there yet. I think some parts are overwritten and overstated, which ruins whatever lovely thing the author has just described or had her characters say. Similarly, the way characters speak, the way events play out, sometimes it feels like they are designed to have a particular effect. This insults the reader’s integrity. There is, perhaps, a little too much telling instead of showing. And although this is certainly a unique book, parts feel derivative – a little too sentimental, a little too neat. What I really wanted was just for Golds to let her story breathe – everything is there, it’s just the way she chooses to tell it.
Parts I particularly enjoyed were the development of Persimmon’s three loves – it is great to see a young adult/children’s author dealing with the idea that love is not always perfect, that it must develop, that it takes many trys with many significant others to get it right. I LOVED the stuff about Walter and the theatre, having a fondness for the theatre and the theatre life myself. Rose was a great character, with many cabbagey intricacies. And the train station setting, especially Persimmon’s florist shop, was gorgeous. The devotion both she and Epiphany have to flowers (both literally and figuratively) is a delight to read.
"This flower's petals were as red as blood and the fold upon fold of them made a mysterious kind of face that was turned towards her and, it seemed to Epiphany, smiling the gentlest, most beautific smile ... Epiphany extended her trembling whiskered nose into the tips of the petals ... she gazed and gazed into the heart of the rose."
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Published in 2007 by Pan Macmillan
Gorgeous, gorgeous book. Really does the fairytale re-telling genre justice. I used to read a lot of adult fantasy in my early and mid-teens and then stopped once I got into YA and children’s books. Wildwood Dancing makes me want to get into it again – it is sumptuous, vividly told and seamlessly incorporates many elements of folklore and fantasy fiction.
Jena, her five sisters and faithful companion, the frog she calls Gogu, live in a crumbling castle on the fringe of a wildwood in Transylvania. They have shared a secret for nine years – the existence of a hidden portal that allows them to travel through the Wildwood to the other Kingdom, on the evening of a full moon. Their father falls ill and must escape the winter cold to regain his health. When he leaves, the girls’ cousin Cezar gradually assumes overbearing control and creates trouble for them. Their secret is threatened and Jena must embark on a dark and perilous quest into the fantastic realms to save the lives of those she loves.
The world of Wildwood Dancing is sophisticated and intriguing. Dwelling among all these fantastic occurrences is the harsh light of reality and a story of a young girl forced to grow up and assume responsibility. This grounding in realism makes the existence of another world both tangible and engaging. Marillier writes with such belief in her story, and with such story-telling prowess, that Wildwood Dancing is one of those books that can be enjoyed by all ages.
The Transylvanian backdrop is stunning, each location infused with a pearly magic, swathed with the silent, watching presence of the moon and the forest and the frost. There is a seamless blend of Romanian vampire lore, Celtic faerie tradition and classic fairytales. The supporting characters, generally fay creatures, are well-drawn. The villain of the story is a complex and layered character, easy to loathe but easier to understand.
Wildwood Dancing is also about love and longing, and Marillier generally does it well. Tati and Sorrow’s relationship has a lovely ethereal quality. Jena’s own love story is played out skillfully; there is a great sense that her and her partner are true soul mates. The fact that we are introduced to him as a frog only makes it more agreeable. My only qualm was the final scene, the ‘happy ending’. I think this was a teeny bit overwrought and it made me go ‘ick’, but as this is a fairytale I guess I can make allowances.
This is a beautiful book, a sprawling, shimmering work of art. I could find a few things to nitpick – a few moments of twee sentimentality, a bit of draggy prose, some frustration with Jena – but as a whole it is utterly charming. Love the cover as well.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Published in hardback by Bloomsbury, 2010
Mortlock opens with three explorers – Mortlock, Chrimes and Corvis – in an Abyssian jungle, on a quest to find the amaranth flower. The amaranth is the key to eternal life and has the power to raise the dead. Bruised and battered, they eventually find it but its power frightens them and leads them to make a vow: leave it where it is, and tell no one of its whereabouts.
Three decades later and we cut to Josie, a knife-thrower in magician The Great Cardamom’s stage act. We also meet a boy called Alfie, who is an undertaker’s assistant. The two discover they are twins and find themselves caught up in the mystery of the Amaranth and all the grisly havoc it wreaks – including the living dead, the death of loved ones, three terrible aunts who take the form of crows, the evil intentions of the now deformed Corvis and an encounter with a ghastly circus out in the swamp.