All posts tagged: Fantasy

Tithe – Holly Black

When I stumbled across this young adult novel in the library, I whispered the title aloud. The word “tithe” has a wonderful sound and it is one of the words that just tastes good. The definition of “tithe” is heavier than the pronunciation. Tithe is obligatory payment to a lord or the church well known in feudal societies. I pulled the small volume from the shelf and was equally pleased to see the cover. A bright pair of butterfly wings on a dark background with ornamental across the entire page. The cover lured me in like a moth to a flame. Pun intended. “Tithe” is a young adult novel, so of course the protagonist is a 16-year-old girl, lost in her ordinary life, who finds out that she is special in a dangerous, risky environment. No surprises there, but I was surprised by the ordinary life, Kaye inhabits. She is a modern nomad, who has followed her wannabe rock star mom around. She is no stranger to alcohol, wild and weird parties, and irresponsibility. The …

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Once again I have plunched into the young adult genre, this time reading the first installment of The Hunger Games Trilogy, and I found “The Hunger Games” thought-provoking. True to the genre, “The Hunger Games” features a teenager taking on adult responsibilities, including the obligatory love triangel and smoldering romance. What hooked me in “The Hunger Games” was the societal framework. The landscape of North America has changed, so that 12 provinces supply the capital while battling starvation. In memory of an attempted uprising, each province has to put forth a girl and a boy each year to participate in the hunger games – a reality show/battle to the death for the entertainment of the capital. This society is alien enough to appear fictional and yet still close enough to reality to crawl under your skin and feel ominous. Furthermore, “The Hunger Games” poses the question of how far does own fascination with reality shows goes. Where is the ethical line between entertainment of the masses and the integrity of the individual’s life, body, and …

Kraken – China Mièville

Imagine London riddles with underground societies, religious sects, and political factions. Not that difficult, you say. Now imagine some of these worshipping giant squids, a figure talking through a tattoo on a man’s back, and the sea’s ambassador living in an ordinary house, communicating with messages in bottles. Yeah, it’s beginning to get weird. China Mièville’s feat in “Kraken” is introducing an absurd world in a believable way, so that the reader accepts knuckleheads, who really have a closed fist instead of a head and a character that inhabits statues and jumps between them. Add an apocalypse – or more, and a couple of mismatched heroes on a quest to stop them, and you have “Kraken”. The starting point of “Kraken” lulled me into the fast-paced story unaware and the plot kaleidoscopes out from there. Several times, I closed the novel thinking “absurd, tsk!”, but ended up just having to read the next chapter. What impressed me about “Kraken” is the thought behind all the different aspects in the novel. Everything is thought through, for …

City of Bones – Cassandra Clare

Oh yes…. another young adult novel, which, surprise, is part of a series (The Mortal Instruments). It has all the characteristics of YA novels: teenage protagonist, brooding hunk, life and death situations, supernatural elements, sexual tension, and missing parental influence. There are times when I think, is this, what literature is coming to, but I also find these easy reads alluring. They are the comparable to cookie dough ice cream – wickedly good, but once you’ve had enough – you’ve really had enough.   “City of Bones” is about Clary Fray, who is raised as a mundane, but is beginning to see supernatural entities. Her mother goes missing, and Clary teams up with a group of teenage demon hunters wielding swords and a whip to navigate New York’s underworld of vampires, witches, were-wolves and whatnot. The novel is fast-paced and entertaining, but not memorable. I enjoyed a story world that integrates the different supernatural species in a convincing way. I am not speeding to the library to borrow the next in the series. “City of Bones” …

Tehanu – Ursula K. Le Guin

“The Farthest Shore” and “Tehanu” were written almost 20 years apart, but they are the only books in the Earthsea quartet that have a continuous storyline. Ged leaves the furthest reaches of Earthsea in “The Farthest Shore” by air and returns to the island of his birth, Gont in “Tehanu”. Despite this, there is still a certain distance between the two books, which is a facet, I particularly like about the Earthsea quartet. The narrator of “Tehanu” is Tenar, known from “The Tombs of Atuan“. She is now an elderly woman, living in what anonymity a foreigner can achieve on the island of Gont. Tenar is a widow with grown up children, who saves a burnt, abandoned child and cares for it as her own. She tends to Ogion, who the reader will remember from “A Wizard of Earthsea” when he is on his deathbed and his dying words instruct her to teach the child everything. “Tehanu” is about being without (magical) powers. Tenar and Ged have been powerful and esteemed in many ways: Tenar …

The Farthest Shore – Ursula Le Guin

Something is amiss in Earthsea; magic is losing its potency and singers are forgetting the words of the ancient songs. A young prince Arren is sent to Roke Island as a messenger to speak to the Archmage. The Archmage is Ged, known from the two previous books about Earthsea. Ged is now an elderly man with high repute. Together Ged and Arren travel towards to farthest parts of Earthsea and beyond in order to restore balance. Young Arren is the main narrator of “The Farthest Shore”. To begin with he is a spoiled, but humble prince and boy, but his journey is a great one – not only to the farthest islands of Earthsea, but towards maturity as a person through primarily his relationship with Ged. I may be repeating myself from the reviews of the earlier books, but Ursula Le Guin’s forte is the emotional development of the characters. Arren starts out seeing Ged as the Lord Archmage. Through their journey, he sees him as a trickster, as an old man, as strong, weak, …

The Tomb of Atuan – Ursula K. Le Guin

The Earthsea Quartet continues with the story of a young girl, who at the age of five, is removed from her family to serve at a religious center, first as a novice and later as Priestess. She is called Arha, the eaten one. Her duty is a difficult one. She has an exulted position but the most dark and malevolent charge as priestess of the Nameless Ones.  The temple she serves is an underground tomb and the rituals include sacrifice of animal blood and prisoners. The tomb holds many secrets and pitfalls, encompassed in a labyrinth and only accessible in darkness. A treasure in the tomb is half of the ring of Erreth-Akbe, which Ged searches for in order to steal.  The priestess and the thief gain a peculiar rapport which evolves to trust. “The Tomb of Atuan” is the story of how Arha is raised in a community and comes to question that community and make independent choices. As in “A Wizard of Earthsea” the detail in Arha’s state of mind is moving and …

A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin

Finding myself absorbed by a novel in the fantasy genre – yes, I’m surprised by that myself, but reading the Earthsea Quartet has released my inner child and given food for afterthought, and I’ve only read “A Wizard of Earthsea” so far. “A Wizard of Earthsea” and the rest of the quartet are written for children 12 years and up in a not too long ago past where children could read and weren’t accustomed to flicking through channels or watching an entire story unfold in 90 minutes tops. Ursula Le Guin’s language and narrative style is the black-on-white equivalent of chocolate chip ice cream. The story is entertaining and complex, making “A Wizard of Earthsea” an excellent read for children and adults alike. Earthsea is an archipelago that encompasses all that is known to man. Its islands are as diverse in geography and the peoples who inhabit them. I like the fact that the water both separates the islands and is what binds the islands together. “A Wizard of Earthsea” is the story of Sparrowhawk’s …