• Jo Walton
  • Genre: SciFi Fantasy
  • Rating: 8/10
  • Review Type: Book Review
The back of the cover:

'It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.'

When Mori discovers that her mother is using black magic, she decides to intervene. The ensuing clash between mother and daughter leaves Mori bereft of her twin sister, crippled for life and unable to return to the Welsh Valleys that were her own kingdom.

Mori finds solace and strength in her beloved books. But her mother is bent on revenge, and nothing and no one - not even Tolkien - can save her from the final reckoning.

My Review:

This is fascinating and fabulous book and definitely worth reading. It is also not my book. A friend lent it to me, with the words - this is a tasty book! Big Grin After reading it I can completely understand why it was a Hugo Award Winner and a Nebula Award winner.

Well written, the characters are complex and the story flows from one step to the next without letting you go. (I read it in one sitting).

The things I loved about it -

Mori is a bookworm, and the book treats that like both the blessing and the curse that it is. She has read many of the same books I have read, and loved many of the same as well. I want to go read the ones that she read and loved, that I haven't read.

Mori is disabled. That disablement is treated matter-of-factly, the pain and the responses from others. There's no glorification of the nobility of the spirit, there's no triumphant overcoming of disability. It is what it is. And I love this book for that. Mori is way more than her disablement, although it impacts her life hugely.

Mori is powerful. Her power lies not just in her intelligence (which is pretty obviously genius level), but in her ability to interact with the other supernatural beings in her world, and her ability to do magic. The first magic we come across is the one where they want to get rid of a factory. The fairies tell them to drop a comb in the pond next to the factory. And that's all the magic. Next day, the factory is closed down for other reasons. Is it real magic? Is it coincidence? We don't know for a very long time. With power (false or true), comes second thoughts if there is any sort of ethical/moral code, and Mori has them. Much of the book is about these challenges to the use of power and her growth into the true and right use of it. This is something that we all have - our own powers - and to see it spelt out - felt like a relief to me.

If you've watched films for the last 30 years and done any study of them, you'll know that most all of them follow a formulae nowadays that involves an inciting incident to start the story with, gathering of allies, denying your hero status, etc. It's all about heroes. One of the things that I loved about this book, is that the 'inciting incident' happens before the book starts. It's referred to, but you never see it. And no-one is a stereotype hero, ally or enemy. They're all people.

It's not until the end that you realise what the book was really about. I'm not going to give it away, but I will tell you it's one of the few books I felt like cheering out loud about, and crying at the same time.

Truly, a magical book.

So you might be wondering, if it's so great why 8/10?

1. It is a book for bookworms and geeks and there are so many references to things and toss-away lines that unless you've read the books you'll lose the some of the significance. So it's not really a stand-alone. Although, to me that's part of the adventure of opening up more meaning later.

2. It's written in the form of a diary and in first-person which for the most part works. But I always have a problem with diary first-person, and documenting dialogue. Also it means we're in the mind of Mori for the whole book, so some things are just never understood because she wasn't there and she didn't understand. In the end it still might have been the best format for this story, but I can't help wondering if finding a way to have some of the bits without Mori in it would have shed more light on what was happening at particular stages.

But to be honest, for me these two points are idle thoughts and not germane to the enjoyment of the story.

#2 13-01-2014
This does look interesting - more for the format and your review than the scifi aspect.

#3 14-01-2014
I adored that book myself. I wish you hadn't felt inhibited about saying what you thought it was "really" about.

The fairies are especially cool. They aren't at all glamorous. They're kind of ugly (beautiful only in the way that sticks and grasshoppers and mice are), and mostly invisible, even to Mori.


Sorry, that is a members only option