"review" · fiction · Lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · Tales

{book} it’s bigger on the inside

ocean at the endThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

William Morrow (2013); Hardcover, 178 pages.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a novel of childhood and memory. It’s a story of magic, about the power of stories and how we face the darkness inside each of us. It’s about fear, and love, and death, and families. But, fundamentally, I hope, at its heart, it’s a novel about survival.” ~Neil Gaiman

that cover, the epigraph (a gorgeous intimation) followed by that title page (below), and then the first page that precedes the “prologue”—-and this is all you should need to want to read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane (‘course, I go on).

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The middle-aged male 1st person is never named and while the incidents told are autobiographical in nature, there is a sense of any middle-aged person and an unremembered magic of childhood within. The man returns for a funeral. The trip home to lay a person to rest escapes the nostalgic and instead steeps itself a deeper and more profound loss. It’s less melancholic, and more lonely—a loneliness of the matter-of-fact sort:  human persons suffer, grow-up, leave things, bury them, lose them however tragically or no. There is no room for nostalgia because not all of childhood and growing up is sweetness. Therein plays a sad note for much of our fondest can be swaddled and buried with the most terrifying; and yet here are where we find our richest stories.

For the man drawn to return to his childhood home, he only needs the right place in time and a few magic words/objects: the pond Lettie Hempstock called an ocean. His memory begins with a birth date, his 7th birthday party; a time that marks the beginning of fearfulness and all that implies. The growing disillusionment as the “real” world (as an adult would call it) begins to intrude, crawling up through his foot and into his heart…

“I was no longer a small boy. I was seven. I had been fearless, but now I was such a frightened child” (51).

The boy is wonderfully complex—as he should, but you know how these things can go. He talks about how “whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible” (58) he goes away “into [his head], into a book.” He takes “cues” from books, lessons, advice, practical knowledge like alternate ways to exit old houses (77). However, he isn’t as brave as the adventurers in the books, not always know exactly what to do, as they seemed to (59). He needs a hand to hold, a bosom to bury his tears in, yet he also handles the worm-problem and drowning-incident rather well. The things we survive as a child and yet wonder how we will survive the now. The things we needed as a child and still do, however much we are to admit to the contrary.

The middle-aged man has become a bit of a wanderer, and he is drawn to a touching stone, a particular sense of home, family, friendship—and magic; possibility and explanation and things that just are fits in there.

“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.

“Adult stories never made sense, and they were so slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets, Masonic, mythic secrets, to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?” (53)

The Ocean at the End is a bit adult story and child with a healthy dose of the mythic to transform them both. We wind down the lanes and through historic changes, details to solidify any accusations toward abstraction; adult concerns. Then there are the secrets lost somewhere within an adulthood, secrets having very much to do with other ways out of closets/wardrobes; of islands and ponds and smugglers and thieves and dangerous otherworldly folk.

Stories, like memories held within our earliest selves, are dangerous; the teller of these stories, especially so: “You were her way here, and it’s a dangerous thing to be a door” (110). It is a dangerous thing to be a door and the boy proves daring enough even as The Ocean at the End proves willing to negotiate the consequences: the chilling implications that reality is more than we’ve come to define it, before effecting another closure, sending the middle-aged man on back to his life at dusk. Remembering and forgetting have a purpose, as do the shape the experiences take. In thinking about Ursula, do the boy’s and his sister’s recollections differ all that much?

Gaiman writes less in the ambiguous to affect doubt or a question of blurring lines, but more in forthright perspective. There is no secret, no mystery of what is real or not. The boy is neither unreliable (a potential liar) or overly imaginative. What he is is very afraid and oft times alone and courageous with it. He is himself, in a world that is; and for all the remarks on change at the beginning, we understand by book’s end that the boy and the man are ever the same.

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Recommendations: best effect: read in one sitting, not more than two sittings, even if you’ve a great memory;tone/mood/pace-building explains much of the success of the story on the reader. For fans of Neil Gaiman, of course, but also those unfamiliar with his work; all sexes/genders. Lovers of myth, of darker childhood tales, of short stories (or dislikers of short stories, the novel length should sate you). those fascinated by conversations on memory and identity.

from other reviews and the like:

“Let me be clear: This is decidedly a book for adults (and teens, in my opinion), despite the fact that much of the story being related transpired when the narrator was a child. Besides nudity (remember, it’s a print book, not a graphic novel, so it is whatever you imagine it to be), there are decidedly grown-up concepts in the book. Including a rather interesting discussion of whether grown-ups exist, plus a look at what father/son relationships are like, and how they can leave a mark. There are questions, such as whether we are our bodies, or whether we are something else that exists within our bodies. And there is, in case you hadn’t already worked it out, magic.” Kelly Fineman for “Guy’s Lit Wire”.

I would also add that it is very much about the women in a boy’s life and what those relationships look like.

Regarding the “Female Power in The Ocean at the End of the Lane”: many will likely feel the same: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the femalest book from a male author I have read in a long time.” And a few could likely add it is the femalest book from any author they’ve read in a long time. The article has spoilers so I would read the novel first.

In reading The Ocean at the End with Gaiman’s other works in mind: “This concern with the ways that stories make the world, make people, grow hearts, and heal—that’s familiar, too, but not wearying to see again.” Brit Mendelo for Tor.com

“For me it was a beautiful and strange novel. It was short, but it’s been a few weeks since I read it and I keep thinking about different aspects of the story. It raises questions and answers others. Gaiman’s writing brought all these elements together to create something I know I’ll return to again and again.” Melissa at “The Avid Reader”

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · Tales

{book} the giant slayer

The Giant Slayer is not your usual juvenile fiction historical novel. Author Iain Lawrence chose the Polio-epidemic of 1940s-50sThen he goes and adds another layer where there be with manticores, gnomes, unicorns, and a swamp witch who has a wretched disposition to go with her frog-like qualities.

The spring of 1955 tests Laurie Valentine’s gifts as a storyteller. After her friend Dickie contracts polio and finds himself confined to an iron lung, Laurie visits him in the hospital. There she meets Carolyn and Chip, two other kids trapped inside the breathing machines. Laurie’s first impulse is to flee, but Dickie begs her to tell them a story. And so Laurie begins her tale of Collosso, a rampaging giant, and Jimmy, a tiny boy whose destiny is to become a slayer of giants.

As Laurie embellishes her tale with gnomes, unicorns, gryphons, and other fanciful creatures, Dickie comes to believe that he is a character in her story. Little by little Carolyn, Chip, and other kids who come to listen, recognize counterparts as well. Laurie’s tale is so powerful that when she’s prevented from continuing it, Dickie, Carolyn, and Chip take turns as narrators. Each helps bring the story of Collosso and Jimmy to an end—changing the lives of those in the polio ward in startling ways.—publisher’s comments.

And there you have it.

You learn early on that “Laurie Valentine had made up stories all her life. She lived in stories that she narrated constantly in her head” (34). She was a lonely (only) child whose father and nanny are very protective of her—so going out to play in the summers like most children was out. And not without good reason. Who knew better the risks of contracting Polio than a father who worked for the March of Dimes as a fund raiser?

Lawrence did his research, and it may deepen your interest to know that he spoke with a man who was in an iron lung as a child in a ward in a hospital like Dickie’s. It was not the atmosphere the author or I expected, and Lawrence’s faithfulness to his research makes for a delightful (though scary) foray into the time period.

Lawrence captures the pop culture and the language. Yes, he is keen that way. He would transport the reader completely, and not only into the spring of 1955. The story of the giant slayer would absorb the reader on another level and the author spends a great deal of the book in that story.

You get to know most of the “present day” characters when the narrator surfaces for breaks—and the breaks are when you suspend your belief the most—how Laurie’s voice doesn’t tire or fade or make corrections and has such a clear vision is the stuff of written lore.

I enjoyed the read, though it felt slower going than I had anticipated with 284 pages. The story takes some interesting turns and I can’t decide on that ending. The beginning and ending do create a sense of coming together that exists somewhat outside of the hospital (while obviously being influenced by the occurrences within). I really like how the other characters (namely Carolyn) that Laurie interacts with question her story as a coping-device and as being transparent and/or insulting.

The Giant Slayer would be a good choice for reading aloud to mixed audiences of gender and interests. Its a good excuse for a discussion on why we tell even tell stories at all.

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Recommended…for lovers of historical fiction, and adventures and myth; ages 8 & up, any gender.

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The Giant Slayer by Iain Lawrence

Delacorte Press, 2009.

Hardcover, 284 pages.

{borrowed from the Library}

good for Stainless Steel Droppings’ Once Upon a Time Challenge IV

"review" · fiction · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · series · young adult lit

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

8490112Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Little, Brown & Co, 2011.

Hardcover, 418 pages. Young Adult Fiction.

(a National Book Award Finalist)

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious errands; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? ~Publisher’s Comments

Hello and Welcome Laini Taylor to the field of Young Adult Fiction. All those already heavily populating the shelves of the Paranormal and Romance, Taylor has upped the ante. Yes, I know Taylor is already much celebrated in the YA realm with Lips Touch Three Times,and those coming out of Middle-Grade fiction should be familiar with her Faeries of Dreamdark series (which is fantastic). Just the same, Daughter of Smoke & Bone is playing the popular game this time, and winning.

Admittedly, I do not read much Young Adult, and even more rarely the Paranormal Romance. But swimming amidst the heavily perfumed and bloodied waters, Laini Taylor should rise to the top; that is, if good writing is still respected. And if one should need to defend the phenomena and marketing darling that is Paranormal Romance, Taylor is a good sell for deftness and originality while still including the beloved belly-warming and a suitable avatar for the reader.

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well. (part 1)

One of the many things that blew me away in the Faeries of Dreamdark series was not only her effortless world-building, but Taylor’s use of a myriad of myths to her own end. She spins her own yarns out of old and disparate threads and weaves her own original works. In Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Taylor takes the figures of the Seraphim and Chimaera and creates a marvelous history and conflict. And while the story is populated with these mythically-proportioned creatures, the story itself is very familiar—on a number of levels.

One, is the Fantasy Taylor creates. A world at war after the slave class finally rebels against their oppressors. The conflict when two star-crossed lovers meet. The prices they must pay. Two, Karou, whomever she really is, is a bad-ass. She is beautiful and mysterious and magic. The most beautiful men (plural) on set desire her, and not in desire’s most mild form. While I understand this move, I really hate it. Are flaws flaws if the heroines are still so effing appealing?  Three, there is the charmingly quirky friend. Taylor writes friendships really, really well–so well you wish she could come and write you some friendships. And family relationships. Her characterizations are damn good is what it is. Four, the romance is hot*. Who wouldn’t want to be loved by a MAN like Akiva? (a few of us are so lucky.) Of course, it is, at present, that inarguable physical draw–so as to make it unmistakable that the two belong together (on some primal level; you know, the most trustworthy source we have). Five, “to be continued…” Yes, Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a Book 1.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is the kind of romance I loved as a Teen–and still do. sigh. But real love is complicated. It must test its physical symptoms.The clothes have to be retrieved from the floor and put back on. True Love must transcend time and conflict, doesn’t it?  And boy is there a doozy of a complication. So, thanks for that Ms. Taylor. Also, the kind of female protagonist we love doesn’t disintegrate in the presence of a sexy male protagonist; especially one we are allowed to get to know.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone, while primarily Karou, shifts when necessary into principle characters and their histories. Any departures are carefully timed and tuned. And yet, Daughter of Smoke & Bone isn’t too predictable in the unraveling of its grand mystery of who Karou is.  And while I hope that the subsequent books will be handled in the fashion of the Dreamdark trilogy**, I am guessing there is more of Karou to be revealed. At the very least, there will be more on Karou and Akiva—there’d better. I am excited to see the realm Taylor will manufacture for us in the continuation of Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I only hope I will not have to wait a really long time for it.

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*harlequin-esque. The sexual content is not explicit, but present. Karou regrets the loss of her virginity early on (in reference); and later there is the less regrettable loss (more detailed). Perhaps a good lesson on minding the quality of your first partner? And in thinking harder about the theme/placement of those tattoos? If only they could be wished away. anyway, just a note for those concerned parents with their tweens shopping Teen shelves. Taylor is not terribly gratuitous, and is age appropriate as Daughter of Smoke & Bone is Young Adult fiction.

**Each were woven around a new protagonist’s adventure, while still maintaining the trilogy’s overarching story and the consciousness previous heroes and their trajectories.

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone Website, wherein an excerpt is provided.

my post on the Faeries of Dreamdark, Books 1 & 2

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · series

R.L. LaFevers’ Theodosia

Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh (Theodosia Throckmorton: Book 4)

By R. L. LaFevers w/ illustrations by Yoko Tanaka

Houghton Mifflin, 2011; Hardcover, 394 pages; Juvenile Fiction

Checked out from the Library. I’ve read the first 3, having been a fan since Book 1. Was pleased to find that Book 4 does not disappoint.

In this fourth book in the series, Theodosia sets off to Egypt to return the Emerald Tablet–embedded with the knowledge of some of the ancient world’s most guarded secrets. Accompanied by her cat, Isis (smuggled along in a basket), Theo plans to return the artifact, then explore the mysteries surrounding her own birth and oh, yes– help her mother dig up treasures on her archeological expedition.

But nothing ever works out as planned, especially when a precious treasure appears suddenly, and then just as suddenly disappears . . . When the Serpents of Chaos get involved, Theo finds she’s digging up a lot more than she expected!~dust jacket.

If you have not yet discovered R.L. LaFevers’ Theodosia Throckmorton series allow me to introduce you.

In the first novel, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (2007), LaFevers introduces us to the peculiar young daughter of the British Museum of Legends and Antiquities’ Head Curator and a successful American Archaeologist who lives in London in the opening of the 1900s. As the book’s synopsis reads, “Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo—and only Theo—who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum.” With the gift/curse of seeing what haunts the museum, an education in hieroglyphics, and faithful sidekick—her cat Isis, Theo spends her days reading, prowling, and rendering evil artifacts powerless. Then her mother comes home from a dig with a very powerful artifact that has garnered the interest of a nefarious group called Serpents of Chaos.

Theodosia is drawn into the intrigue surrounding the artifact and a quite perilous adventure ensues. And it continues on from there with new intrigues involving new artifacts and new and interesting characters. In the continuation, however, there are constants held throughout the series. The friends she makes are further developed, or at least linger in reference. The same villains, including a particularly menacing arch-foe, strike from the shadows. And Theo’s familial difficulties develop still further.

If I was _____, then it seemed time to use those skills to my own advantage. All my life, whatever abilities I possessed had given me mostly grief. And while it was true that they had allowed me to keep my friends and family (relatively) safe, those abilities had also made my life wretchedly difficult. They had forced me to lie to my family, created discord between me and my brother, and caused my grandmother to disapprove of me, not to mention all the untold terrifying moments and haunting nightmares.

But what if that was because of my inability to understand the true nature of my gift? So far, I had seen only the dangerous aspect of magic in the world. What if my abilities could also tap into the good heka? If I was stuck being peculiar, I’d prefer to be peculiar on my own terms, thank you very much. (312-13)

Since birth Theodosia has led a bit of a double life, and it continually pains her that her parents find her so odd. At the beginning Grandmother Throckmorton provides some comedy (in book one), but as the story progresses through the series the effort to keep secrets, keep lying, and maintain proper behaviors begins to wear on our heroine—and really, it becomes more and more serious. She feels more and more alone and burdened by her own peculiarity and the tasks set before her. In  4th book, it seems Theodosia must come to some grip with her own peculiarity and society before expecting her sometimes bewildered often neglectful parents to embrace her strangeness—and maybe the author can finally reveal something of the heroine’s true self to her parents. We’ll see. And if so, what then?

In book three, Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus (2010), a mystery surrounding Theodosia’s birth was introduced. In this latest installment, LaFevers sheds light on this mystery as promised—and it holds further promise for fantastic future adventures. But will there be more? I hope so. *

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At times it may feel as though Theodosia is not the 11-year-old child, especially if you do not know many 11-year-olds who have long held particular (possibly pervasive) interests. Then there is the fact that her parents are intelligent, and as calamitously curious as Theo is, her knowledge and abilities aren’t too stretched. If anything, her ability to surprise and impress the adults in her world is an encouragement for young readers to brush up on their own brilliance. But ever there is the reminder that Theo is of an earlier historical time. She is practically ignored and constantly underestimated (okay, perhaps that is not so different). That she is brilliant, and yet ignored and underestimated creates a rub; it both works in her favor and creates hurt feelings and incredible frustration. Theodosia is forced to become more confident in her resourcefulness and her worth. The protagonist’s courage is not rendered with unbelievable ease; actually, Theo is all too reliably young and unsure and still needing of her parents’ love and approval.  It is refreshing to have an impressive young heroine whose parents’ are kept heartbreakingly and sometimes humorously in mind. Theodosia is well suited for all audiences, but most especially her primary one—juvenile readers/middle-graders.

For a set of historical novels, and paranormal ones, the adventures are appropriately intriguing and perilous. LaFevers does not soften the physical or emotional costs, but by no means pushes her audience’s limits. Her writing style is gives first person narrator Theodosia a consistent voice that is able to mature, including perfectly placed moments of humorous self-deprecation along the way.  The historical settings come to life without weighing the reader down with too much detail, and the research the author has done on Egyptian history and lore seeps out of the text effortlessly. These aren’t small books at 300+ pages, but the pacing does draw the reader on through to the end.

If you have found Rick Riordan’s treatment of Greek myth in the Percy Jackson series and/or Egyptian myth in the Kane Chronicles to your liking than you will appreciate LaFevers approach even more so. She isn’t modeling her hero’s adventures after a previous incarnation’s quest, but her adventures are just as steeped in the lore with which she would intrigue her readers. Of course, her characters are placed in a less contemporary setting which may put off potential readers. —a shame, as I think the timeframe LaFevers uses lends itself more satisfying without alienating the possibility that readers could still daydream themselves into fantastic scenarios—especially after this latest installment. (Also, her protagonist is less annoying.)

Besides my liking to read stories set in the late 1800s-early 1900s London, the setting really does work in creating useful conflict for Theodosia. She is a child, a girl, and when in Egypt, a foreign oppressor. That she is an odd duck is icing. That it is early-1900s allows for villains we can readily identify—a certain group of Germans. That it is the early-1900s allows for other politically tense climates, like the occupation of Egypt by the British. Book 4 begins November 1907 in transit toward Egypt. A brief perusal of “History of Modern Egypt” on Wikipedia one can find, “In 1906 the Denshawai incident provoked a questioning of British rule in Egypt. British occupation ended nominally with the establishment of a protectorate and the installation of sultan Hussein Kamel in 1914, but British military presence in Egypt lasted until 1936.” If you’ve read, or plan to read this series, LaFevers provides a reading list on the series’ website. She also hosts a page on Theodosia’s life and times. Regardless, Theodosia is curious and compassionate and is a fine companion in encouraging her readers along a similar path.

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The Theodosia Throckmorton series is best read in order. LaFevers is seamless in her references to earlier books and situations, including a refresher on characters, but she is hardly laborious and while you may not feel lost in delving into each new book/adventure, it is truly beneficial to begin with book one**.

While reading, Indiana Jones comes to mind at turns. And if you enjoy Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes Mysteries, you might should give Theodosia a try. If you are looking for a refreshingly different source of lore and setting and/or an educational resource that doesn’t feel like you are being institutionalized, give Theodosia Throckmorton a go.

Also, Natalya read LaFevers’ Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist series in quick and excited succession, so I will go ahead and recommend those here as well.

*after a bit of poking around I found this from “Theodosia’s Blog” in an “Answering Reader Questions” post on July 25th, 2010.

“There will be at least five Theodosia books and probably more. As always, with everything in publishing, it depends on sales numbers. The final title for Book Four is THEODOSIA AND THE LAST PHARAOH, and it comes out May of 2011. The working title of Book Five is THEODOSIA AND THE FLAME OF SEKHMET, but that is subject to change. It will be coming out sometime in 2012, most likely.” Yay!

**an excerpt from the first book.

Novel’s wonderful website, 
wherein you will likely recognize the source of the above images. 
(I do adore Yoko Tanaka's work.)

 

"review" · Children's · fiction · Illustrator · juvenile lit · Picture book · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · Tales

ah, nicoletta

It has been some months since I featured one of my favorite Illustrators Nicoletta Ceccoli. The blog “7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast” posted on a new picture book by Ceccoli and they had this video where Ceccoli talks about her work. I immediately went to see if the Library has some picture books with Ceccoli’s name on them.

The Girl in the Castle inside the Museum

written by Kate Bernheimer, pictures by Nicoletta Ceccoli

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008.

Once there was a small castle on display in a museum. When children visited, they’d press close to the glass globe in which the castle sat. For they’d heard that if they looked hard enough, they’d see a tiny girl inside….

Can you see her?

Here is an original fairy tale that feels like a dream—haunting, beautiful, and completely unforgettable. ~dust jacket

Inside the Castle inside a Museum that is Inside the Story that is this book, which was inside the imagination of Kate Bernheimer and Nicoletta Ceccoli. Dreamers inside dreams who have dreams wherein the reader is brought to mind.

The story and its images would defy the dimensions of a page. Ceccoli plays with dimensions (some Escheresque details), media, and shadows, while Bernheimer acknowledges the reader in a theatrical violation of the fourth wall. The story resides in simultaneity, multiple planes living and interacting. Reader and character alike are enlivened; the reader inspired to dream by the one they would dream about.

Even if the reader doesn’t leave their photograph in the frame on the girl’s wall, the reader has already kept her company.

The Girl inside the Castle inside the Museum is an equal parts disturbing and enchanting fairytale. I highly recommend it.

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“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the Unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?” ~Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (and epigraph to A Dignity of Dragons by Jacqueline K. Ogburn)

A Dignity of Dragons: Collective Nouns for Magical Beasts 

by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli.

Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

With inventive groupings, luminous artwork, and a fact-filled glossary, A Dignity of Dragons makes for a bestiary to treasure. For within its pages, you’ll learn about all the creatures you may be lucky enough to see, if know where to look. ~dust jacket.

“Everyone has heard of groups of animals—a pride of lions, a charm of hummingbirds, a school of fish. If you came upon magical beasts gathered together, what would you call them?” (2) Jacqueline K. Ogburn is marvelous in her response to this question. A Dignity of Dragons is a fun and enchanting read.

A dazzlement of Quetzalcoatls/An arch of rainbow snakes

A few groupings I especially liked (that are not already mentioned): A grapple of griffins. A resurrection of phoenix. A continent of kracken. A flurry of yetis. A pandemonium of fauns. A faculty of centaurs.

A flame of feng hwangs/A resurrection of phoenix/A flash of firebirds

If the reader is curious who some of the creatures are, or to whom they belong, there is a glossary at the back. This is a beautiful book and a must see for lovers of magical creatures. And Nicoletta Ceccoli was the perfect fit as an illustrator for this collection of collective nouns. Kirkus writes,

Every figure is pretty, but the illustrator staves off preciosity by injecting plenty of drama into her compositions — like a scary “riddle of sphinx” gazing down clinically on a small pilgrim or a ship of ancient design being attacked simultaneously by a “vengeance of harpies,” a “tangle of gorgons” and a (bare-breasted) “chord of sirens.” Enthralling fare for addicts of myth and fantasy…

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my two other posts featuring books Nicoletta Ceccoli illustrated: here & here.

A Dignity of Dragons images from 7 Impossible Things for Breakfast on their review of said book.

Both these books fit into the Once Upon a Time Challenge (V): The first book being a fairytale, the second dealing in myth

Tales

once upon a conversation (b)

The husband and I are reading Pat Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind together. The bulk of the book is the protagonist Kvothe recounting his youth and essentially fleshing out the man behind the Legend, relaying the sources of many a story about him. Still Kvothe, a figure of Legendary/mythic proportion (of which we have yet to fully realize), exists within a realm of already conceived mythical figures that would pre-date him. The Name of the Wind recounts songs and stories of varying folk lore, some specific to regions or a people, and some shared by everyone (the Chandrian, Lenre and Lyra, etc).

Sean and I got to talking about the myths, fairy tales, and folk lore observed by fictional characters within a novel. Some feel more borrowed and cobbled together than others, but regardless, they can be as wonderfully entertaining and as real as a tale that comes from some other country only heard about, but never seen. A folk tale can blend quite nicely into fiction unless it is very presently culturally observed, like the man who gathers bad children in a bag near Christmas and carts them off into the woods to be brutally murdered; I was afraid of him up until we moved to a different country. Still I worry a bit that he will be waiting for me when e’er I return.

I have read little in the Fantasy genre (thus far), nor do Sean and I tend to read the same books, but I think it natural anyway that the conversation would move from Rothfuss to Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are many charming and terrifying tales told in the realm Tolkien created and historicized. The song of the Ent wives is a particular favorite of mine, or of the maid Nimrodel.

After Tolkien, Sean reminded me of the story he’d read in a Gene Wolfe novel that he liked so much. We since have gotten the 2nd half of The Book of the New Song: Sword & Citadel so as to read it again, and to collect it. I found the chapter/story, “XIII: Foila’s Story—The Armiger’s Daughter,” on-line last night, here. We also learned it shows up in at least one of Wolfe’s short story collections.

A collection… There are collections of fairy tales and folk lore and myths from around the world. Is there an anthology of lore/tales collected from “fictional” places?

What tale would you like to see in such a collection?  I like Jesse Ball’s tale in The Way Through Doors about the man who meets the devil on the road home to his wife and makes an arrogant and unwise deal. Or of the queen (?) who loved a count who did not return her affection so she hunted down the ugliest woman in the known world and made him marry her in their kingdom of ice. Course, the protagonist is making up stories, it is not a part of some fantastical place other than his own imagination. It isn’t Middle Earth, or Narnia, or where ever it is that Kvothe lives, or within the Wheel of Time, or A Song of Fire and Ice, or the Dark Tower

What tale would you like to see in such a collection? Do you have a favorite fairy tale, folk tale, or myth conceived in some cultural setting in a fictional realm?* Would you limit it to Fantasy/Sci Fi, or could we include  others, like Psychological fiction for example?

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*Going to have to work on that wording of that question; fictional is a tricky word. How would you more eloquently word it? What would you call such a collection of tales (if it doesn’t already have a known name)?