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I was reading these between manga series, and I have to say I was underwhelmed. This isn't the Garth Nix of Sabriel, Lyriel, and Abhorsen ... we're back to the Garth Nix of   >sigh<   The Ragwitch.

Asthmatic Arthur Penhaligon is a young teenager in what seems to be a near-future Britain, which is a more totalitiarian place than it is today. He's destined to die because of complications from his illness, but instead becomes involved with a mysterious artifact that turns out to be a Key. He has, in fact, become part of a Collect-the-Coupons quest, to use the terminology of Nick Lowe's essay in Ansible.

Mister Monday & Grim Tuesday (reviews)

There's nothing inherently wrong with this type of plot, examples of which include Lord of the Rings and The Dark Is Rising (and I do think that Mr. Lowe is unnecessarily cruel to Susan Cooper's series in his Ansible essay). But Nix doesn't seem to have much else going for him here. He's locked himself into this rather grim and joyless story that's not so much supported as imprisoned by its structure: there are seven Keys, and Arthur will encounter and defeat seven Guardians. The Guardians are named after the days of the week (because they come in sevens) and epitomize the Seven Deadly Sins (ditto). I know Arthur will win, because that's how these things work: when was the last time you read a young adult fantasy where the young hero lost in the end? I know when he will win, because there have to be seven books. So why do I care?

Sometimes these things work out well anyway, because the author shows so much imagination and gives us such evocative and/or witty writing that the journey becomes more important than the destination. But unless the series is going to depart radically from these first two volumes, this isn't going to be one of those cases. The places that Arthur passes through are grim without being interesting, the perils are unpleasant and dangerous the way rush hour on the Beltway is unpleasant and dangerous, and the people he encounters there aren't particularly vivid or memorable: in fact, the only name that sticks with me is Suzy Turquoise Blue, a rather Dido Twite-ish urchin who shows up to help Arthur in both books.

Additionally, Nix's talent for naming things has once again reverted to the pedestrian level he showed in The Ragwitch: Nithlings is OK for the creatures "made of Nothing," but Fetchers is ugly and also sounds, well, stupid, like something I would have made up in a lets-pretend at the age of 8. What happened to the feel for language he showed in the "Abhorsen" trilogy?

So I have to give these a resounding meh. I don't even know whether I will bother to finish the series. I would love to read worthy successors to the "Abhorsen" books - but these aren't them.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
bad_mushroom
Jun. 12th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
Dido Twite! I take it that you've read the Wolves Chronicles, and if so, thank you for existing.
chomiji
Jun. 13th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC)

But of course I have! Dido was one of my childhood heroes, along with Marian, the girl with the dogs (from The Horse Without a Head) and Goth (from The Witches of Karres. They were all skinny, smart-mouthed, independent, fearless short-haired girls, whereas I was a chunky, shy, timid (albeit stubborn), bespectacled, long-haired girl.

Have you read Sally Watson's young adult historical novels? I think you would like them - I still do .... .

bad_mushroom
Jun. 13th, 2007 05:15 pm (UTC)
Ah, the Wolves Chronicles are so wonderful. The last two books make me a bit weepy, but just...yikes. So powerful and amazing.

w00t for chunky shy bespectacled long-haired girls. Worse, I was blonde, which was the color always given to the mean rich girls.

I haven't read the Sally Watson books, but I smell a hunt!
chomiji
Jun. 14th, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)

The Watson books can be a little uneven, but are mostly lots of fun. I liked The Hornet's Nest, Lark, and Witch of the Glens best.

bad_mushroom
Jun. 14th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
Noted. Thanks :)
b3nitora
Jun. 20th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
I've started reading Sabriel, love it!
chomiji
Jun. 21st, 2007 02:41 am (UTC)

Oooh, you never read those? They're really good - I'm glad you're liking Sabriel! Funny, the Mr. was just re-reading them these past few days. He likes those, he liked xxxHolic, he likes SDK (not as much as I do, though), but he didn't like Blade of the Immortal. I've know this man for 27 years, and I still can't figure out his reading tastes in fiction.

Enjoy!

b3nitora
Jun. 27th, 2007 07:31 am (UTC)
As far as I was told (by the girl who gave me the book) Sabriel is the first in the series? Or is she just a dumbass? ^_^ I love the beginning of it! Im shocked he didnt like Blade of the Immortal! Even more shocked he liked anything CLAMP! Both my brother, 'My favorite inmate' (it's the easierst way to describe him, he's a great friend and one of my favorite people in the world...seriously) and my dad read my manga and manwah and neither of them took a liking to CLAMP. They were partial to Ragnarok (an excellent manwah, I highly recomend it!) and Kyo...obviously...who wouldnt like it if they actually read it!? Has he ever read The Power of One? Excellent book! One of my very favorites. He would probably enjoy that, its about boxing and stuff. It also teaches you the Afrikaner language. Firestarter is also a good one, its one of Stephen Kings least dragged out to death books...not unlike The Stand...good book, but at times is painful. Jurassic Park, not that is a long book that does not drag. The sequals suck though. He may also enjoy Jim Corbit's books. He was a big game hunter way way back in the day. I really love books about maneating lions and tigers(The Ghost and the Darkness may very well be my favorite movie of all time...oh wait no that would be The Boondock Saints)! I read those in elementry school (as well as Jurassic Park and that is also when I started watching anime...starting with The Guyver), I loved them! My teachers thought I was demented. I've read so many books, but whenever I walk into a bookstore I find another hundred that I want and need to read! What is your favorite book?
chomiji
Jun. 27th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)

Yes, it's a series. The other two are Lirael and Abhorsen (in that order).

I'm not into horror stuff, so I haven't read much Stephen King (except for Eyes of the Dragon, which was fantasy).

Heh, I can't have one favorite - I like too many books for that! Here are some of the ones I like, from fantasy & SF:

  • Kencyrath series by P.C. Hodgell (God Stalk, Dark of the Moon, Seeker's Mask, To Ride a Rathorn; sometimes you find the first two as a single volume called Dark of the Gods - really hard to find, try the library. Dark fantasy in a very un-Tolkien world with a lot of sneaky humor.)
     
  • Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart (fantasy/mystery set in "a China that never was" - both funny and beautifully written)
     
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (dark, weird fantasy with some horror elements and some very funny stuff)
     
  • Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh (politics and cloning and what it's like to grow up as a genius surrounded by people who want to use you ... if you've never read Cherryh before, don't start with this one: some people can't get into her writing at all, and this is a big, fat book ... Pride of Chanur may be a better place to start, although it's in a different part of her universe entirely)
     
  • The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz (classic space opera, funny and fast-moving, about a naive young starship captain who gets himself in deep kimchee when he rescues three "harmless" young girls from slavery)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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