Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab



Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Book: Anarchy by James Treadwell

I'm too tired today. Let's just get on with it, folks.

NOT a Spoiler-Free review... you've been warned.

*

Anarchy review

Image: www.sfx.co.uk
Author: James Treadwell
Publisher: Hodder
Published: May 2014 (paperback edition, f.p.2013)
Fantasy Sub-Genre: I dare say... Dark Fantasy O_O

Blurb:
I am everything no longer forgotten. My seed has grown and become prophecy. Truth walks the world above.

Magic is risen to the world once more.

In Cornwall, they have seen it rise: in an angel of death and endless, unseasonal snow.

Across the ocean, on a remote Canadian island, the blood and offerings and smoke of England seem nothing more than distant rumours of hysteria.

Until the girl disappears. And the whale comes. And The Plague spreads.

And nothing is as it was before.




Thinking back, I remember this book seemed vaguely interesting - after all, the blurb was vague if not outright nonsensical. But I picked it up because it seemed to promise me something different. I could tell even before I started reading that it wasn't the typical fantasy book I'd go for. I hadn't realised it was the second book of a trilogy at the time, which gave it a big boost because I don't like reading Seconds to start - I remember doing that only one on purpose, with Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch, and that incredible second book made me a devoted fan of the Peter Grant series. But I'm getting off-topic.

Considering that I hadn't known I was jumping into a sequel, I must say I really, really enjoyed the first part of the book. The Three Dialogues at the start were interesting, although I didn't really 'get' them, as in, I didn't get their purpose. When it became clear who the characters were, I didn't understand what I - as the reader - was supposed to gain from getting that info as a dialogue instead of plain prose. Genius or ridiculous? Not yet sure.

In Part One, the language was witty and engaging, the characters likeable despite their little odd traits, and the plot just fascinating. I was so, completely engaged. Goose was a character I warmed to, especially being the newbie and blamed for a mistake she didn't make, which would naturally encourage rooting for her from the start. Jonas, I positively adored. I found that, even though we weren't given much to go with and even less answers, I could read and really enjoy it still.

Then I got to Part Two, and it'll be clear quite quickly why this review is going to be short.

Part Two was a disaster. When it became clear that Marina was the character in one of the first dialogues, I already knew I didn't like her. Putting aside that Whiny Child Talk slaps you in the face every time she speaks, she's too stubborn to be likeable, and without any backstory or understanding of her motives, I couldn't even empathize with her. The good thing is that at least I knew by that point it wasn't down to bad characterisation - just this particular character. It was so overwhelming frustrating to follow Marina that at times I wondered whether this was (a) intentional to that degree, (b) intentional - but not to that degree, or (c) a complete misunderstanding that I had about her character.

Let me open a little window to my thoughts, a few pages into Part Two - my questions from Part One are still unanswered; I'm stuck with a character I greatly dislike that is following a series of plot events I DO NOT understand; I'm bored and feeling like house chores are a good reason to put the book down; I'm wondering if I should skip pages (which I eventually did); and finally, I put the book down for the remaining few days (that led up to today, Review Day), and thought, maybe I will like it better if I read book one.

So that's where I'm at. I'm so disappointed, because I was so excited to have all the creepy little mysteries tied up. If I like the blurb of Advent, I think I would read it. But generally speaking, I'm actually quite happy to let this go. I normally hate leaving books unfinished, even if I don't like them. Although, I didn't finish 1984 because I hated, hated it - and I was so sad because it's a classic and so highly acclaimed and had such a great premise and I'd wanted to read it for ageeeeees. But the awful protagonist made my stomach turn.

Oh man, getting sidetracked again. Even writing the review is boring me.



The Verdict

???

This is the first time I have written a review not having finished the book - and this is because... well... I don't know if I'm going to. I'm so bored to DEATH and I'm only halfway through - page 263. I don't think I should rate it until I've finished.

I'll do my best. Expect a Final Verdict on Tuesday.


Image: pralinsky.com - Scott Pralinsky



No Fantasy FFT today. Just me, getting into bed, going into a thousand-year sleep.



Ashana Lian .

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

3 Fantasy Fan Goals To Achieve On HOLIDAY =]


I'm very excited to say that, for the first time I was probably about 7, I'm going on a non-Europe non-school-related holiday! I'm really looking forward to it for three main reasons;


One - Books

Those who've been following the blog are aware that I've been making a big effort to catch up on my fantasy reading, and what better opportunity to do that than seven days in Cyprus?

I was going to take two hefty books, then my sister reminded me that we'd be on the beach all day doing jack-all, and recommended four. In an average week, I can finish one weighty fantasy book, provided I read for several hours every single day and neglect house chores. Smaller books, I could read two, or if I pushed myself and also ate and slept less, three books. So four seemed reasonable to me, until I remembered that there would also be the long flight to and from, which will probably include much waiting and idleness, so I thought, unless those four books were the Lord Of The Rings plus The Hobbit, I'd be better of taking SIX books.

After the one required fantasy novel for this challenge, I could read pretty much anything else. Which is awesome because my reading list is getting RIDICULOUS.

Nominees:
Fantasy, ... can I pass this one?
Sci-Fi, Defenders or The Fifteen Lives Of Harry August if possible.
Non-Fic books, either the mythology one I bought from Mind Body Spirit 2014 to help with my book, or Ruby Wax's Sane New World. Or Mindfulness.
Literary Fiction, Mother Mother by Koren Zailckas or A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing. Actually bar the last one - Life After Life, Kate Atkinson.
I also really want to take The Girl With All The Gifts, but I don't want to carry a hardback.

Winners(! Congratulations, you win a holiday with me.):
A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N. K. Jemisin [F]
The Name Of The Wind - Patrick Rothfuss [F]
The Lies Of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch [F]
Defenders - Will McIntosh [SF]
Sane New World - Ruby Wax [NF]



Image: Adventure Temples - Jordan

Two - Inspiration

Some of the best sources of inspiration for fantasy novels is experiencing other cultures that already exist. It's such a helpful and reliable basis, because you work so closely with facts that it lends realism to the fantasy culture(s) you create. Although some aspects of outsider cultures seem very strange and in some case like walking into another universe, of course very normal to the residents there. Therefore, being able to tune into both sides of that feeling can really help to bring a fantasy culture to life, acknowledging both that this fantasy world is believable while accepting that the reader is only getting a window in.



Three - Writer's Retreat!

A week of SERIOUS POWER WRITING!

I'm not taking anything I don't need with me - so bye bye laptop - but lately I've been writing a lot in my old notebooks (weeell, on scraps of paper when the scenes form). I'm really looking forward to sunny days crafting and solidifying scenes of my book. I'm so very nearly there, maybe a week away will give me the time and space and peace of mind that I need.

Writing thirty minutes a day is good for keeping momentum. But I think it's important to take a chunk of time out to write intensely, and let your mind be immersed fully in the work, because for me personally, it improves the quality of the work.



Ashana Lian .

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Book: The City by Stella Gemmell

So basically, I'm broke as a bumduck. So even though I bought May's reads, June's is coming from my library! I've been trying to read this book since last week. Finally finished it.

As always, this is not censored. Ie, not spoiler-free.

*

The City review

Image: Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Author: Stella Gemmell
Publisher: Corgi (Transworld)
Published: 2013 (2014 Corgi Edition)
Fantasy Sub-Genre: Epic

Blurb:
The City is ancient and vast.
For centuries it has been the cause of constant conflict and countless deaths . . .

At the City's heart resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if he ever truly was. And there are those who have concluded that the only way to halt the ceaseless slaughter is to end his unnaturally long life.

The hopes of these rebels - drawn from the City's rotting catacombs and its blood-soaked fields of battle - rest with one man: a legendary soldier, able to lead an uprising and unite a people, a man who was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured - and who might quite possibly be dead . . .




I'll be honest, I really can't be arsed with a summary for a story this complex, which is probably why they dumbed it down so much for the blurb. Let's just get into it.

This book was very good. I had my doubts, but as a whole its structure , narration and plot together had me increasingly optimistic throughout. But I have to admit that I was given a lot of opportunities to put the book down... so I did, and did other things, which is why I wasn't able to finish it for last Saturday.

The opening and Part One was fairly interesting, the rats drew my curiousity and now having read the story, I think it was the perfect way to start the book, though I wasn't thinking that at the end of Part One. I was very intrigued by the idea of the City continually being built over, though I not sure how the practicalities of that work, and the imagery for it is great. Things really picked up at Chapter Three, when my faith in the writing style, the characters, and where the story was going, increased tremendously. There was this excellent bit of foreshadowing;
'But it was also true that it was more than dangerous. [...] If there was a flood, [...] By the time any Dwellers there realized the water was rising, it would be too late.' (p.15)
That was a really powerful line. Here's another;
'A million drains sucked the rain down [...] drawing it deep beneath the city' and 'A weight of rain filtered through layers of the City's history, deep down to where the sewers were crushed and broken, squeezed flat by the weight of time.' (p.28)

It's so wonderfully descriptive and I could picture that hidden City in my head, which is what I imagined until it became clear that actually, it was. Being a X-men kid at heart, it did remind me of the Morlocks.

One thing that kept happening, I suppose to liven up the sluggish pace of the story, was that we'd get a Muriel Spark-style foreshadowing line, telling the reader about something that has yet to happen to keep the interest. One example is that same line above that I love on page 15 but then it happened again at the end of Part One (p.96) and I became a bit sceptical. Regardless, I was liking it thus far.

Part Two. The names in this story are great. They all sound very, very different from each other, which is a bit weird as they all come from and live in the same one nation, but still. I didn't like how often the word 'slashed' was used on the same page (p.99) or the use of the verb 'explained' for a one-word dialogue (p.102) - but that was a one-time thing and I didn't see it again. I was starting to get hooked on the plot, especially after that incredible and somehow unpredictable flood, although in hindsight there was actually foreshadowing for it. The dynamic that the flood added to the war was amazing and it's one of my favourite parts of the book.

One thing I must say about Gemmell's writing is how incredible her scenic descriptions are. My one criticism is that they come in chunks, which is understandable considering how in depth the story is, but it wasn't blended into the texture of the story as fluidly as other works I've read recently. For example, the character descriptions are very poor. I was really irritated by the fact that it took several pages to figure out whether Doon was male or female, as there was no pronoun attached to her for ages. Writing etiquette! But for setting, when those stand-off paragraphs did come, they were wonderful and brought places to life so vividly.

There is one final thing that was bugging me, but I've decided to discuss it in the feature below, Fantasy Food For Thought.


Part Three. OH GOD, this bit gets so good. We're back with the characters that we started with and the story has already developed massively. I was unsure, at first, if I liked the amount of time that passed between hearing about the characters, in terms to remembering the little details concerning them, but actually it was fine. I was horrified at the merchant awful son harassing (molesting, really) Emly, and cheering at the return of Broglanh, a character I really like. But most of all, I loved how more and more, the different threads of the story were weaving together.

Part Four continues on this trend, though it gets to a point where things weave together so conveniently that I couldn't help ironically singing, 'Iiiiit's a small world aaaaafter aaaaaall...' I did find the imprisonment of Indaro and co. very interesting, and it reminded me a little of David Mitchell's The Thousand Summer Of Jacob De Zoet, SPOILER!!! in terms of being imprisoned and trying to find a way out. SPOILER OVER. I was mortified by what happened to Doon - still mortified actually, I remembered it as I started typing. Although it was clear from the moment she became a (pointless and personality-lacking) viewpoint character that she'd be a means to an end, I did quite like her.

The plot pulls together even more and Part Five is when the plot to kill the Emperor is hatched. That plot was VERY confusing. I could follow the action, but it wasn't clear at times what the AIM of each action was, so it almost felt like being pulled along on a string. The Opera House scene was another of my favourites, wonderfully done. Best of all, us fantasy junkies got a clean, clear hit of the fantasy drug right there. I have no idea what sort of 'sorcery' Marcellus used but I tell you, that scene was mint. Again appalled at Amita's death... and again, she wasn't very important but this time she was very likeable and her personality shone right through.

There is one thing that nagged me - the exposition technique used in the story is quite clumsy - like making a character use a new face's name the dialogue soon after they speak, either for the POV character or for the reader, but not often because it was natural to call the person by name, depending on the circumstance. Of course this is rare enough for it to be dismissed, but then the same went for backstories and plot reveals. I wondered if I was being too picky, but I know that I've read stories that haven't done this, so I stand by my words. It's disappointing that most of the epics so far have done that, though I understand that with such a heavy novel, there only so many different seamless ways to get across such a large chunk of information.

Part Six is when I thought about how ridiculous it seemed that Indaro went from looking into Fell's eyes and being indifferent about him to then being willing to take on a hundred men to save his life (this doesn't literally happen, I'm paraphrasing her narrative), considering how we are told in great detail how Fell has watched her for months and went from disliking her to gradually coming to highly appreciate her, and finally falling in love. It could be said that his feelings for Indaro were more sexual than vice versa, (COULD be, based on the way she was described from his viewpoint. I know she had her moment too), but to be honest, if I have to be reaching into Maybes and Could Be's to try and explain something I don't understand in a story, then the author failed at their intention. Simple. As.

I suppose I should bring up our timid teenage Emly practically seducing Broglanh. In a way, I was surprised, alarmed and entertained at Emly's rash behaviour all at once. Following her train of thought and her feelings about her situation, it makes a lot of sense how she went from A to B to C ad suddenly to S. It's weird, but shockingly - I know it's weird to say this, being fussy old me, but I actually found that more believable than the Fell/Indaro relationship.

Seven! Learning of the Reflections was my favourite fantasy element of this story, and the only thing that came close was to learn how many of the characters we know have varying degrees of 'serafim' blood, and I hope I got that right because I wasn't too clear on that. Sad to see Stalker go. Very sad. It made sense though - I believe his foot was injured so if he was suffering a physical impairment, he wouldn't be able to kick as hard as the others as they all swam to the Hall of Watchers. I absolutely loved the end when Indaro killed the Emperor, first because it was a stroke of genius how she recognised that he was behind her, but also because from the moment she saved that boy, I guessed he might be the Emperor, as it would be unexpected - which is why I expected it. But I had no idea that the Emperor would have bloody Reflections everywhere, and it could have been any one of them that was killed, so that just made it better.

It reminded me of Medusa of Greek mythology, and also of the Basilisk in Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets, having to slay the monster you can't look at.


The Verdict

***
3 Sha's.

This was an excellent story, well told for the most part. The way the different, different strands of the story are brought together was impressive and highly satisfying. The reason why I couldn't give it more is because it wasn't really my type of fantasy. Large chunks of it bored me, especially when introducing a new character late in the story. But I can easily see somebody giving it a four and I would definately recommend it. In fact, I'm recommending it to my sister right now.



Image: Sci Fi Now



Fantasy Food For Thought

Sewers - labyrinths.

For some reason, I am feeling the need to read the Tales Of The Otori series again. It is a must-read for any fantasy fan.

Finally, what I was going to talk about above... in this novel and in Tigana, there is a central female character with red hair who is markedly described as beautiful. I hadn't noticed until this point, and wondered if this was some sort of trope in epic fantasy that I hadn't noticed before - the Red Hot Redhead. Every time, there is particular attention drawn to this (clearly rare, in that particular world) hair colour, and I feel as though it becomes more important to that female character identity than any other aspect of her personality. Any character who didn't know Indaro just described her as having 'red hair' and gave no other details, indicating that we were meant to know it was her every time.

George R.R. Martin also uses this for the 'kissed by fire' Ygritte, in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series. In my own novel (codename: OOTD), there is a character with ginger hair, and I'm by no means changing her, but I hope I succeed in bringing a bit more diversity to this trope-that-I-discovered-just-now. If it's even a thing popular enough to bother diversifying.



Ashana Lian .

Saturday, 14 June 2014

SNORG TEES

Despite that I started The City by Stella Gemmell two weeks ago, I am still struggling to get through it. Sadly, I didn't anticipate that in time so this week, no review.

Instead I'm going to share a site that is truly one of a kind. There so many different types of t-shirts, I can imagine anyone who wouldn't find at least one hilarious design for them. I personally found dozens that were awesome enough to share, but lets make it a nice three.


Image: Snorg Tees

Never Judge A Book By Its Movie

Image: Snorg Tees

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock


Image: Snorg Tees

Always Be Yourself! Unless You Can Be Batman, Then Always Be Batman.



If I bought all the t-shirts I wanted from this site, I'd be broke.



Ashana Lian .
P.S. That is to say, even more of a broke bumduck than I am now.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Book: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

A reminder - my reviews are Not Spoiler-Free.

The next book was actually going to be The City by Stella Gemmell but I found it kinda hard to get into, so I read this one which is much shorter and will keep reading it. I should be done for next week's post. This book, for a fantasy book, is stunningly short. Its a bit smaller than your average literary fic paperback, a bit bigger than a children's book. About Prisoner Of Azkaban size, say. So... bitesize. Perfect. =]


*

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane review

Image: Amazon
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Headline
Published: June 2013
Fantasy Sub-Genre: This was quite difficult for me to place, as I wouldn't call it Magical Realism because the magical and paranormal elements were too prominent, too outstanding - yet, I wouldn't call it Urban Fantasy because it doesn't feel so much set in our comfortably fast-moving world. However it must be the latter because of the modern, recognisable world.

Blurb:
This is what he remembers,
as he sits by the ocean at the end of the lane:

A dead man on the back seat of the car,
and warm milk at the farmhouse;
An ancient little girl,
and an old woman who saw the moon being made;
A beautiful housekeeper with a monstrous smile;
And dark forces woken that were best left undisturbed.

They are memories hard to believe, waiting at the edge of things. The recollections of a man who thought he was lost but is now, perhaps, remembering a time when he was saved...



I would also like to share the Amazon description, as I found it much more compelling than the blurb:
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. 
His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
*

What a refreshing book.

I hugely, hugely enjoyed this story. I managed to get through it in twenty-four hours with ease as it sucked me in from the first page, which the the first time I can say that for this challenge. I've also said quite a few times about a jarring writing style - finally! - not for this book. I didn't notice it at all, the prose fits together so nicely. It's interesting to note that a majority of it is from a child's point of view, and convincingly done. I found myself laughing aloud a good few times. I couldn't help but quote a lot in this analysis, as evidence of the quality of this book!

Let's begin. I was going to do a quick summary, but I spent ages trying to write it before I realised that actually, between the two blurbs above that I've given, there isn't actually anything else to say.

For the first time since this challenge started, I've got here a book with a beginning that is bold and hooked me in. The opening refers to the duckpond, alias Ocean, which we already know about from the blurb and so there's a great importance hovering over it. And of course, it's the book's title. Then we get an intriguing prologue, and the awful/amazing opening line of Chapter One that tugs at your heartstrings - 'Nobody came to my seventh birthday party.' I felt like this story has three beginnings - the section without a name, the Prologue, and then Chapter One, and with each 'beginning' you're getting a different voice. It was a good way to draw the reader in, I think. I also found it interesting that it starts and ends with the grown up narrator, but he sounds almost as innocent and as lost as his seven year-old self.

Our narrator is never named, which is something I never even noticed until more than halfway through. Extremely well done. Although, I remember his Dad said something about 'Handsome George', but I assumed that was just a saying. Speaking of names, I noticed that the 'flea' was always referred to 'Ursula Monkton', first and last name, every time. It holds her at a distance. I liked that.

The characters in the story were three-dimensional and each one very interesting, notably the South African Opal Miner, but above all, the Hempstock women. Lettie was such a great character, and I felt that she was this story's Constant. The narrator was very obviously seven, but Lettie very rarely seemed like an eleven year-old. The way she acted and the things she said made her seem much older, which of course was true, but even though I often forgot how young she actually was, I did always picture her as a girl in my head. The narrator making Lettie his object of hope when trapped by the 'flea', and her unwavering confidence, made her seem near omnipotent. The stakes were raised when the 'Varmints' came, a foe that even Lettie was afraid of, and we see that Old Mrs Hempstock possesses an even greater might.

I've got to be honest. The scene with Ursula Monkton and the boy's father having an affair really made me want to retch - (Out loud, the sound I made was halfway between 'urgh', 'eckh', and 'ewwww'. I was in my garden reading and it was a nice day. I wasn't as creeped out then as I was later, remembering it.) - for three reasons. First, Ursula Monkton was a worm-thing and a tree-thing and not human. Two, Ursula Monkton was not even from this world. Three, Ursula Monkton was pure fucking evil (excuse me),or at least from the standpoint of terrorising a child, even if her intentions were ultimately 'good'. His Dad was a jerk and I hadn't liked him to start with - he makes me think of the sort of people who have no idea how to be a parent. But even though it could be argued that he was helpless against Ursula Monkton, that just made it worse instead of better. It made him seem pathetic and weak-willed. I can't deny it was a great scene; you didn't want her to seduce the father (I was so. DISGUSTED.) but at the same time we DID want the narrator to escape during the distraction, and the contrasting wants made that whole bit extremely tense and emotive!

The Magic. I was SWEPT. AWAAAY. By the magic in this book. When I finished reading I was drunk on imagery and symbolism!

Let's start with the magic Lettie uses to send Ursula Monkton away when she's after the boy was a great, great, greeeat scene. I can picture that illuminated grass so vividly in my mind's eye. Another fantastic addition was the way in which the 'flea' smuggled herself into 'our world' inside the narrator, and how later they get the tunnel out. I loved it because it was so unexpected and quite gruesome. Nobody wants a worm inside of them, yuck. I was fascinated by the strips of cloth Ursula Monkton had hanging from the ceiling when Lettie and the narrator went to get her. I loved the Fairy Ring, and all the ways that the 'Varmints' tried to lure the narrator out of his safe place.

The 'Varmints' - or Hunger Birds, or Cleaners - were great because of the bad omen they carried in name alone, but to be honest the moment they actually showed up, they didn't seemed as fearsome as Ursula Monkton had. I loved though, that the true form of Ursula Monkton's words were in capitals and the Varmints' in italics, again holding them apart from our reality and us as the reader understanding that these creatures are much larger than a human being in more ways that one, not just for a child - any human being.

The magic in this book lies on the edge of logic, and wouldn't make any more sense told by an adult than it would by a child. I think by giving us just the magic and none of the rules, there is that sense of wonder that you get when magic is used and you have no idea about the conditions of the price. I did quite like that, because it made the Hempstock women seem like such mighty forces. Many questions are left unanswered about their origin.

Image: Water Stock III, by EvilHateYouAllStock

One of my FAVOURITE, FAVOURITE scenes was the Snip n' Stitch scene, where the moment of the boy's father kinda drowning him is cut out of existence. I loved it so much, I had to read it again. What I adored about it was how magic draws connections between seemingly unrelated things. Dressing gown, red thread, green toothbrush. I like how the cutting of the fabric was a literal cutting of the fabric of time. That was so interesting.

Quotes now, because I couldn't resist. The seven year-old's perspective was so entertaining, noticing things that adults probably wouldn't, like Ursula Monkton's skirt that he thinks is called a midi, and also adding his own opinion of things that were so idealistic for a child, unrealistic in the grown-up world. Like how 'Adults should not weep, I knew. They did not have mothers who would comfort them.' (p.164) One line that jumped out at me was; 'It's a dangerous thing to be a door.' (p.147) At first I thought it was metaphorical. I later discovered it was literal - the boy was being used as a 'Door' - but a person can be used as a door in a lot of ways, and most would be malicious or even dangerous. Even though the boy's perspective is mainly uninterrupted, at some point the man's reflection on that event breaks through, like wondering whether he would've been corrupted by Ursula Monkton's allure as a grown man and noting that 'when you are seven, beauty is an abstraction, not an imperative.' (p.157) Here's one of my favourites:

'Old Mrs Hempstock said, "Can you be brave?" I did not know. I did not think so. It seemed to me that all I had done so far that night was to run from things.' (p.135)

That just broke my heart. I wanted to give the narrator a big HUG! I thought it was great to add in this childlike self-doubt at all of these terrifying things surrounding him, despite the fact that he WAS brave, so brave to sneak out of the house in the first place and run all the way to Lettie's, in pajamas and barefoot. Aw. AW.

There one more thing I'd like to mention. In the fairy ring, the boy recites a song from Iolanthe, by Gilbert and Sullivan. It really grabbed my curiosity so I just had to look it up to find the whole thing. It's great. I recommend it for a rainy day!

The End. Just like every other book I've read for the Challenge so far, the ending was not what I expected. Which is good, I suppose! I had hoped Lottie would come back in that usual blockbuster film 'Ahhh she's not dead after aaaaall!' kind of way, but by the time I finished, I was more concerned with our narrator who, it seemed at the start, had returned to Lettie's Ocean for the first time since it happened. The twist that stunned me most was when Old Mrs Hemstock told the grown-up narrator just how many times he returned there for comfort, recalling all of those memories and forgetting them again when he left. That was quite powerful to me because although when he leaves he seems more whole than he was at the beginning of the story, there's a still a sense of great emptiness which I thought was really sad.

I honestly struggled to make sense of the closing lines, but perhaps I was trying to read something that wasn't there. Maybe.

My edition had a conversation with Neil Gaiman at the end, which was soo interesting and definitely a huge addition to the book. I burst out laughing at; 'My actual father never had an affair with a creature from beyond space and time masquerading as my nanny!'



The Verdict

****
4 Sha's

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane was so wonderfully told. It achieved creating an incredible sense of wonder by first having a child narrator, and second having a form of magic on the borderline of logical magic even in the realm of fantasy, although it seems like this book is being pushed as literary fiction. No matter. I already want to read it again.



Image: Wallpaperhi


Fantasy Food For Thought

Snack time! Yay, my favourite feature :3

My first thought is, using magic in fantasy to create divides in power. Think Gandalf. Every single story I have ever read including magic has made those with magic vastly more powerful or at a greater advantage at life in general, than those without. Which makes sense. Which in turn makes it incredibly interesting to explore what sort of fantastical world would make those with magic as a lesser human being than a 'normal' person? By this, I don't just mean in the view of the story's characters - in OUR view as well.

It could be argued that such person would just be called 'cursed'. This issue should be explored further...

Here's one more thought. Children narrators in fantasy. I've read first-person narration from a child before in Fantasy, but not often in books for adults, and even then they are often memoirs. What's out there?



It's worth noting that this is my fifth book for the Challenge - I just earned Mage Status!



Ashana Lian .

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

MAY RECAP: Summer '14 Fantasy Reading Challenge

I DID IT! Hey heyyyy! =] These are the four fantasy books I read and rev'd this month:



Dream London: ***
Urban (and/or) Slipstream Fantasy
Verdict: 'I'm dithering between a three and a four. Three suggests mediocre - it isn't. It's more than that. It is a passive but enchanting type of fantasy [...] Buuuut ultimately I end up on a three, because the one thing that makes the book so amazing is the very same thing that holds it back.'

Click Here to read the review



Tigana: ***
Epic (and equally/or) High Fantasy
Verdict: '...despite a great story and a lasting message, there were too many holes, sadly not in the story but in narration. The storytelling was unsatisfying in a lot of ways, [... but] I am glad I read the book and I know it will stay in my head for quite some time.'

Click Here to read the review



A Natural History Of Dragons: *****!!!
Historical/Science Fantasy
Verdict: 'I loved the way it was written, I love how realistically and seamlessly fantasy creatures were woven into the fabric of this reality, and I was just so taken with this astoundingly organic idea. Yes, yes, I know dragons have Been Done. But not quite like this... I assure you.'

Click Here to read the review



Among Others: ***
Magical Realism
Verdict: 'I didn't feel connected enough to the story [...] this book did make me laugh out loud quite a few times. Mori is such a likeable character which I really value, and this insight of magic and fairies is different to anything I've experienced before.'

Click Here to read the review




Once again, to see the rules and conditions of this self-imposed challenge, please click below:




Ashana Lian ,
And May Ashanami Serve And Preserve Fantasy .
(lol.)

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