Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two Good British Fantasy Books

Jones, Diana Wynne. Enchanted Glass.

Jones' can be either fabulous (Dark Lord of Derkholm) or "meh" (Dogsbody) for me. Enchanted Glass came down on the fabulous side. Aidan's grandmother has died, and he heads out to the countryside to find a friend of hers who will take care of him, especially since he is being followed by magical "stalkers". Unfortunately, the friend has died, but his sympathetic nephew Andrew has moved into the house and is trying to figure out the magical "field-of-care" which he needs to superintend. All of the magic is presented matter-of-factly, so no one blinks when Andrew restores his neighbors leg, or when a giant comes and removes the excess veg the gardener tries to foist on them. Aidan and Andrew, aided by Tarquin and his pretty neice, Stashe, find that a neighbor, Mr. Brown, is trying to infringe upon the field-of-care, and that within Mr. Brown's realm there are many "counterparts" to people in the village. Soon, they begin to suspect that Aidan is Mr. Brown's (aka Oberon) son, and the stalkers are trying to kidnap him so that he doesn't take over Mr. Brown's position. Everything comes to a head at the village fete, and ends well. The magical reasoning for all of the adventures is a bit thin, but makes sense, and I do like the fact that excuses aren't given. The magic just is. Combine this with a wonderfully British countryside setting and sensibility, and this was utterly enjoyable. It took me the entire day to read, because I couldn't bring myself to gulp it down. Ms. Jones is apparently very ill; we can all hope that she isn't suffering too much, and that she knows that the kind thoughts of many readers are with her.

Harrison, Michelle. 13 Treasures.

This book won a Waterstone's prize, which I will assume is like a book in the US winning a Barnes and Noble award. I picked it up because it had a shiny cover with pretty leaves, although my soul shrank a bit at the idea of reading yet another fantasy. However, another very good entry into the genre. Tanya has always been bedeviled by fairies, who torment her by visiting her at night and popping her up onto the ceiling and things. This causes her mother to think that Tanya is difficult, since she can't exactly tell her mother about the fairies. Tanya is sent to spend the summer with her grandmother at her mouldering country home, where she spends time with Fabian, the caretakers son. The two uncover two mysteries-- the grandmother's best friend disappeared fifty years ago into the woods, and Aidan's grandfather was suspected briefly. When they see this girl, still looking 14, in the woods, they uncover an evil mystery that leads them into realms of magic. Tanya also meets a girl, Red, whose brother has been kidnapped by the fairies. Red has stolen the changeling left in his place and hopes to trade this child for her brother. Again, the scenes of English country life are endearing (the town of Tickey End is cozy and quaint, despite the magic), but the suspense becomes rather scary at some points-- an intense book. I will look for more from this author, if we can get the titles in the states.

Williams, Carol Lynch. The Chosen One.

This was very similar to another book about a polygamistreligious community that marries off its young girls to old men that I read recently, but was still harrowing and good in the way that V.C.Andrews books seemed good to me when I was 14. Young Kyra is supposed to marry her 60-year-old uncle, but doesn't want to leave her family or give up either her trips to the book mobile or budding relationship with Joshua. She spends the entire book trying to escape and is successful, but it doesn't end very well for the man driving the bookmobile. My older daughter read this one at her high school-- that's the best age for the subject matter.

Lowry, Lois. The Birthday Ball (Illustrated by Jules Feiffer)

Princess Patricia Priscilla is tired of her boring life in the castle, so on the eve of her birthday, when she will be expected to marry one of three comically horrible suitors, she changes clothes with the maid and heads off to the small local school, where she falls in love with the school master, with predictable results. This was a bit reminiscent of The Willoughbys, in that it was an older feeling fairy tale type book. It must be for younger readers, so I just couldn't get into it. Very wll written-- I just don't have many queries for this type of literature. Lowry is always good, and it's interesting to see her take on different genres.

Karasyov, Carrei and Jill Kargman. Jet Set.

Lucy is a fabulous tennis player and the daughter of a career army man who just wants to stay in one place for a while, so she's thrilled to get a scholarship to the prestigious Van Pelt Academy in Switzerland. The popular girls, who are international jet setters, give her a hard time; her one friend, Sofia, turns out to be a mole for a celebrity magazine; the boy she likes only likes her because he thinks her father is wealthy; she has a crush on an English prince. This was light summer reading that fans of The Clique, Pulling Princes, or other over-the-top private school books will like. I can't help thinking that none of this can possibly be true. These two authors come up with fast-paced, well-written summer reads, however, and this will be popular until the cover art dates the book.

Palmer, Robin. Little Miss Red.

From the author of Cindy Ella and Geek Charming, this has a far weaker fairy tale link. Sophie Green, who is greatly enamored of the romance novels about Devon Devoreaux that her friend's mother writes, is tired of her boyfriend, Michael. She is looking forward to a break from him, even though she ends up having to spend time at her grandmother's retirement community. On her way there, she meets the dashing and dangerous Jack, who is everything that Michael is not-- attentive, adventurous, and smolderingly sexy. The two end up spending a lot of time together, and at first Sophie is guilty about ditching Michael-- until he says they should push the "stop" button on their relationship instead of just the "pause" button. The interesting thing about the story is the evolution of Jack into a real (and somewhat boring and annoying) person, and Sophie's embracing of her own adventurous side, as well as her attempts to become closer to her grandmother. Also have to love all of the made up books about Devon, which seem to appear every few pages. Again, a nice summer read.

McGowan, Anthony. The Knife that Killed Me.

This was a sad and disturbing book, and the fact that the author felt compelled to write it because of his own school experiences makes me doubly sad. Paul goes to a school where the bullies rule, and the teachers are not much better. He gets dragged into a feud between schools by the bully giving him a hard time, and it doesn't end well for anyone. Movingly written, the was a very effective book, but I'm not quite sure if it's middle school appropriate or to whom I would give it. Maybe fans of Bowler's Blade series. I'm still thinking about it.

The asbestos containment has been completed at my library, and so far all the flooring and the glass walls at the back of the library have been ripped out.


  1. I loved Enchanted Glass! and I'm not too big a fan of Dogsbody myself, although I prefer Year of the Griffin to Dark Lord. 13 Treasures is going well at our library. I bought Jet Set last year in response to a request and it went as long as it was on the new shelf. It's kinda dead now. The Chosen One is still really popular here - Williams has a new verse novel coming out which I will get for my Ellen Hopkins fans, but yeah I think it's high school. I didn't like Birthday Ball. I thought it an unsuccessful pastiche of Dahl and there was too much philosophizing for a beginning or juvenile chapter book.

  2. Awww, I loved JET SET. But I agree, the cover didn't do it justice. And do you recommend the PULLING PRINCES books? They sounds super cute!