Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Keturah and Lord Death

By Martine Leavitt.

On the surface, this is a lovely young adult romance: a young storyteller gets lost in the woods and comes back with a story she's afraid to tell. As the principal actors note, nobody has ever seen a fairy, but Death has touched everyone. There are some clever story telling elements, too; try re-reading the prologue after you finish the story. (The teller knows her audience, perhaps?)

What I am afraid of is that this book romanticizes death. As Christians, what should our attitude be towards death? Paul wrote that to die was gain, being united with our Lord, but that doesn't mean we should glorify death itself. God has conquered it!

I was going to recommend this book until I started thinking about these things. It is a well-written, lovely, clean young adult book, but I fear the picture it presents of death leaves me with some reservations. You may take your chances with it as you wish.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits

By Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson.

This is an anthology of six stories, three by McKinley and three by Dickinson. Five of them have what I would call happy endings; one of them is ambivalent.

"Mermaid Song." I love the image of the helpless one being helped.

"The Sea-King's Son." Romeo and Juliet where one breathes air and the other...

"Sea Serpent." This is the ambivalent one; I'm not sure I understand the point of it, or really appreciate it.

"Water Horse." This one is also odd, but not quite as bad.

"Kraken." A creature of cold and darkness that isn't what you would think.

"A Pool in the Desert." A story of Damar, this one plants the Homeland straight in the late 20th century. (They watch TV and have computers!) It maybe doesn't make perfect sense and "King Tor the Just and Powerful" gets a little tired after a while, but it's cute like almost everything by McKinley.

All in all, a fairly good collection, I think. Once again, not real deep, but quite satisfactory as entertainment. I should have checked it out sooner, perhaps.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Urchins, While Swimming

This is a short story by Catherynne M. Valente. You can read it online for free.

I don't have much to say about it: there is a little sex, but the story is mostly wonderful and melancholy and spooky all at the same time. It has an atmosphere excellently supported by the little details: "I wash my hands more than anyone on my ward", the dream, her job as opposed to her identity...

Go read it!

P.S. This story was brought to my attention when the author mentioned it was up for an award which the public gets to vote for. Here is the poll, which includes links to the other stories, I believe, and also the author's post, for those interested.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Harsh Cry of the Heron

By Lian Hearn. The last tale of the Otori (which is to say, book 4, though not the last one to be told: the back of the book says a prequel is coming out this year.)

Wow. What can I say? I want to say that this is a really good book, but I don't want to give the wrong impression. It is, for the most part, excellent, but it isn't layered (that I can tell) with the huge amounts of symbolism and other literary devices that make authors like Gene Wolfe so great. This is more in the line of an adventure, or "sword and sorcery" story.

It helps if you are familiar with the background by having read the first three books. Although the prophecy is referred to many times, the exact words are not repeated in this book. It also helps if you have some familiarity with Japan and perhaps the rest of the Far East. Lord Otori Takeo (the family name always come first in this book) has become a strong ruler in the sixteen or so years since the previous book, but he was not ruthless enough to completely destroy his enemies. Having raised up a government based on justice and loyalty, he is loathe to undermine those principles, even though his enemies hesitate at nothing in their desire for revenge.

This book contains many sad events; one character even says that the people weep at tragedy, but enjoy doing so. Even so, there is some hope in the ending.

Definitely recommended, but read the first three books (starting with Across the Nightingale Floor) first.

After Hamelin

By Bill Richardson.

Reminiscent of The Goose Girl or Patrice Kindl's books, only goofier.

This is the story of Penelope, the one girl in Hamelin who was left behind when the Piper took his payment. She is deaf when she wakes up on the morning of her eleventh birthday, the day girls in her village traditionally go to see Cuthbert, the wise old sage of the forest, and have him tell them what their gifts are. Well, obviously things don't quite work out that way, and somehow Penelope ends up on a quest to save the lost rats of her... I mean, children of her town.

This is a whimsical book, with singing Trolavians and fuzzy dragons who are excellent at jump rope, but not very deep. Probably good for light reading sometime.

Of course, it's possible that I just have a weakness for books based on fairy tales.