5.31.14 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (part one)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Reread: 154/652.

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AH, HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. In this book, a Harry Potter miracle occurs. I understand that people….do not like it???? Because it is too much like fanfiction????? WHAT KIND OF COMPLAINT IS THIS? What it actually means, as far as I can tell, is that for once in the series, JKR treats her characters like actual, full-fledged people. It was that one book where you thought that maybe even if they were doing bad things, Slytherins might not be unilaterally useless. It is a great Draco book, even if the movie messes up the one line they needed to get right to understand his character.

It’s also just a lot of fun. Suddenly half way through the series Rowling picked up some ideas on building tension and excitement, and they were pretty good in OotP, but here everything rollicks along. It takes a relatively brief six chapters to get them on their way to Hogwarts. Everything in the lead up is interesting. A LOT happens. There is no quidditch. There IS a hint (LATER RUINED, BUT THIS IS NOW) that Snape will be an interesting, decent, complex human being! Draco gets to look a little small and stupid in front of his friends in a quiet, realistic, upsetting, DEEPLY SATISFYING way, and then immediately be the only one smart enough to notice Harry in their carriage on the train and step on his face in familial vengeance. JKR hates on all politicians. She even acknowledges more of the nasty parts of early books as nasty, including the Dursley’s treatment of both their children.

There’s the unfortunate choice to dangle young Harry as literal bait in front of offputting Promising Youth collector Horace Slughorn. Dumbledore does tell it as it is–he says he’s using Harry as an incentive. But I feel like maybe, maybe, this is only partly because JKR had entered the zone of Last Chance To Acknowledge That Dumbledore Is Kind Of Usey And Terrible. Maybe it is also partly that she at no point stood in front of a mirror and said “I’m going to dangle you in front of an old man who obsesses over fresh young things” to see how that might come across to anyone else.

There is also–UGH! There is also the first episode of Tonks being horribly depressed for the eventual reason of thwarted heterosexuality. HONESTLY, TONKS? IF YOU’D LIKE A LITTLE INPUT? IF IT IS THIS HARD ON YOU, MAYBE IT’S JUST THE WRONG PATH TO BE GOING DOWN. I MEAN I AM NOT SAYING YOU’RE CODED, BUT YES I AM, YOU ARE, MAYBE OLD SAD MEN ARE NOT YOUR ULTIMATE FATE. IT WOULD NOT KILL YOU TO TRY SOMETHING ELSE, and nor would it kill JKR not to furiously inscribe straightness into every single one of her characters who isn’t old/dead/boundary issues/boyfriend to wizard Hitler Dumbledore.

Two complaints so far, though. TWO COMPLAINTS IN 150 PAGES AND IT IS SO DARN FUN! Very little withery Dumbles yet, or moralistically horrifying Tom Riddle backstory, and I am savoring every moment apart.

ULTIMATE HARRY POTTER QUESTION, THOUGH: WHY DOES NEVILLE NOT JUST GET TREVOR A CAGE?

5.28.14 Egil’s Saga

Well, having finished with Fangirl and its overall trend towards making me miffed on behalf of fandom and deeply upset on behalf of my bipolar self, I have moved on to greener pastures.

Egil’s Saga, author unknown. Translated by Bernard Scudder. First read:205/205.

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CW: VIKING VIOLENCE. VIKOLANCE.

Periodically I like to read a saga. This is one of the quintessential sagas, about a giant, hideous Viking type named Egil who likes two things, which are to kill people, and to compose poetry. Sometimes he pairs his two great talents and makes poems about killing people, sometimes in a threatening way and sometimes because he’s already done it and he’s got a minute to spare before someone tries to get revenge.

Egil likes to ruin things. When he’s a kid he’s in a kid’s game full of kids, but he gets mad and murders a guy he’s playing with because the guy annoys him. This is essentially like killing someone in a game of pick-up football. No one is happy about it. Egil never makes anyone happy. He keeps getting kicked out of Norway and running off with his pal Arinbjorn to slaughter awhile, and then he gets in land disputes and comes back to Norway and complains that he’s not getting a fair shake, to which various kings always wonder what the heck he is doing there, complaining to them, when as they remember it they banished him for all time.

Somehow this never gets him killed. This is mostly because lots of people try to kill him, in various numbers, everywhere he goes, but then he always kills them instead. Or more accurately, he kills seven to nine of them, and the rest run for the woods feeling very afraid, and then Egil hunts them down and composes a poem.

Egil’s poems run along the lines of: “A coward lies dead/I used a large sharp weapon/But let’s be real/Probably I could have used my skull/P.S. Odin rules.”

I would not say that I enjoyed Egil as much as my last quintessential saga, largely because Egil’s a real jerk and Njal’s actually a pretty okay guy. On the other hand, in truest fashion, pretty okay guy Njal and his family end up burning to death in their own house, whereas Egil outlives scads of people who should definitely outlive him, and eventually dies of sickness, leaving behind a legacy of a few SUPER BEAUTIFUL Norsemen and a lot of REALLY UGLY Norsemen. It’s all or nothing in Egil’s house.

5.17.14 Akata Witch

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. First read / library book: 349/349.

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TW: violence, child murder, death, gore, bad parents, insects

It is unbelievably great to read a fantasy novel not set in Europe or pseudo-Europe. Akata Witch is set in Nigeria, and it paints in broad strokes (and well-selected details) the complexity and variety of Nigerian cultures, as well as a full and fascinating culture of magical people–Leopard People. The main character is Sunny, an albino Nigerian who was raised in the United States, but who has moved back to Nigeria with her family. She finds out about her juju and becomes part of a four-person coven of young Leopard People, whom the high-ranking Scholars plan to send up against serial child-killer Black Hat.

Now, I don’t think it actually serves a book (except in sales, maybe) to offer the praise of, “Great for fans of Harry Potter!” I don’t know that it is great for fans of Harry Potter. However, I’ve been reading all this Harry Potter, and there are a lot of structural similarities, and I think it’s great to see a book that uses all those elements really well. So I don’t want to compare as much as I want to contrast.

I loved reading a book with a twelve-year-old protagonist (although, side note–I never believed she was twelve, which was one of the few moments of dissonance in the book for me) who discovers she has magical powers and joins a magical school and meets magical friends. I loved that she has a complicated background–a white Black American or possibly Nigerian–and constantly negotiating her own identity is unapologetically written as part of her everyday life.

I like that the the magic is dangerous and grisly and this is the fact of the matter. Everyone takes a fairly casual view towards death–but that it’s acknowledged as the price of magical culture and is a stated good reason for not getting above yourself, magically speaking. I like that punishment is brutal and death is frequent and no one plays it off as a joke or a pantomime. In this book, there are no pantomimes, but a Masquerade is something you can raise that brings monsters that can destroy you.I like that they have knives–real tools!–instead of wands, and the way you know which is yours is which leaps up and bites you.

I love, LOVE, the idea of Leopard People’s true faces. They’re incredibly private–seeing someone’s true face is compared with seeing them naked–and they have their own shape and their own voice. They also tend to be incredibly masklike–exaggerated, still, geometric. It ties into traditional mask arts–about which I really wish I knew more, not least because of the way Okorafor draws on them. At any rate, it’s really darn cool.

I liked that the hidden piece of magical world, Leopard Knocks, isn’t a few tiny villages with no amenities, but a sprawling, bustling, vibrant, perilous place that you actually have to work to get into. And yet, Leopard People, living in secret among Lambs, know how  Lamb society works.

I like that instead of repeating the same economic inequalities of the “muggle” world with a confusing, baseless wizard currency, in Nigeria you do magic well or you learn something doing it and little metal rods fall from the air at your feet. Merit-based, heavenly money. I like that in this world, a Scholar is the greatest level you can achieve and being Head Librarian is a prestigious position.

I like that NOTHING IS AN ALLEGORY. Everything is what it is and you meet it on those terms.

I like that the person who stands against the evil magic-user, at the end, isn’t a white boy but an albino African girl, fighting–not really a man. I like that she is taken aback and horrified by all the parts of this new world that are actually horrifying and strange, but she learns fast and works hard. I like that she finds her confidence and her strength, and that her magic lets her walk in the sun without being burned.

I also think there is plenty of room for an apocalyptic sequel, and I really hope Okorafor is writing it.

5.07.14 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. Reread/audiobook by Stephen Fry: 870/870.

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THIS IS WHAT I PROMISED, TO PUT ALL THE REST OF THIS GIANT BOOK INTO ONE FINAL ATTACK POST. PLEASE PLACE YOUR FAITH IN ME!!

GRAWP. Okay, I’m sorry, this post is starting off with chapter GRAWP, which is just–listen, we’ve been here. Let’s make it short: Grawp is a violent savage with a “misshapen” face and what sounds like the Nordic version of natural hair, but maybe being brought to civilization and taught English will cure him. NO NO! Giants will never be “fit to mix with humans” ghghghghghghsdhghh and then we get some great stuff about centaurs where Hagrid thinks the forest is his and that the centaurs (who live there) are greedy, selfish, and stupid, and then calls them mules. In sum: fantasy racism. Fantasy racism. I’m so tired. Fantasy racism. He’s just a centaur, he’s not two things literally stuffed together. I’m so, so tired.

O.W.L.S. In partaking of the fantasy racism Hermione and Harry miss Ron being actually good at quidditch, but he goes totally out of character and takes it in stride–growing as a person??–and then also reacts well to the revelation that Harry basically bought the twins their joke shop. Then Ron and everyone else are never happy again, as they must sit Wizard A-Levels, which are the most realistic thing that has happened in the last three thousand pages. McGonagall makes them promise not to fail just to spite Umbridge, and the examiners upset Umbridge by liking ole Dumbledore. At this point I developed a desire to take exams like a dog has the desire to befriend or possibly eat a cat that demonstrably wants to kill it. EXAMS. Oh, your lost, sweet mystery.

BUT THINGS GO TERRIBLY. In the middle of their Astronomy exam, Hagrid is accosted by government officials who shoot McGonagall into a coma as Hagrid flees the country. THEY ARE NOT AFTER THAT EVEN GIVEN EXTRA TIME FOR THE EXAM. And then everything just goes horribly wrong, because poor perfect Harry has a vision of Sirius being tortured in the Department of Mysteries, and he hasn’t understood enough of the occlumency to think it could really be fake, and he thinks one of his only friends is dying and if he does, it will be Harry’s fault.

Out of the Fire. I’m going to admit RIGHT HERE AND NOW: Sirius’s death scene still didn’t work for me. Not at all. I will get to why, but what does work for me starts here: Harry absolutely believes what he’s being shown, and Harry absolutely is more truly good than he is ego, and the idea of someone taking his credulity and twisting it into the worst possible thing–that makes me so, so angry. I know Harry is the hero, but I want so much to just take him out of there and DESTROY EVERYONE WHO DOES BAD THINGS TO HIM–his relations, Snape, Voldemort, and Dumbledore, the other powerful old wizard who shamelessly manipulates all of Harry’s greatest virtues to his own ends.

Right now–the other thing that works in this book–it’s not about the terrible adults you can’t trust, but the friends you can. It’s a perfect Gryffindor moment for Hermione, who doesn’t even think the vision is real and at a decisive moment sets aside her certainty and puts her loyalty to Harry ahead of it. Luna and Ginny and Neville really haven’t gotten to prove themselves like this way, and it hints at a fullness of character that makes your heart ache. In a really marvelous scene, they get past Umbridge (who by now is willing to resort to torturing children in the name of Cornelius Fudge) and her pack of Slytherins, and if you are not 100% in love with Hermione Granger by the time she’s lured Umbridge to the Forbidden Forest on a pack of lies, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOUR HEART IS FOR.

Fight and Flight. Of course Hermione’s plan is cringeworthy–namely, rile the centaurs into attacking her. And here Rowling makes a grand attempt at putting herself on the side of right–Umbridge gets called out as racist! She tries to tie one up! The centaurs hate being used! THEY CARRY HER OFF INTO THE WOODS TO DO–SOMETHING BAD? SOMETHING BAD. THEY ARE NOT PRETTY TALKING HORSES! It is extremely satisfying to the reader! This bit is meant to show that Rowling is not racist, except it gets erased by Grawp barreling through full of arrows, trying to murder everything that moves and Harry hopes he murders all the centaurs, WELP, as they say, y o u t r i e d. They fly away on magical death horses.

The Department of Mysteries. Thestrals are clearly really good flyers because even in England it shouldn’t be this easy to get across the country before someone has time to get a bubble off a shelf. The kids arrive at the guest entrance to the Ministry of Magic and uh–tell it exactly what they’re doing, which is an amazing solution I personally would not have come up with. (Neither did the movie director, as I remember.)

–Okay, here’s an aside, so placed because this is when I thought of it–but how weird is it that being magical is inherent to you and is like…your identity…but for the most part you need a wand to do it? Like, yeah, you need paints to paint, but YOU ARE NOT LITERALLY THE PAINT POT, as it were, and it seems like with magic you kind of are. I mean, kind of. One ASSUMES? But it’s not really clear where power is coming from, in the Wizarding World. Internal? Ambient? The only real rules for how magic works seem to be linguistic, which can’t even be universal. FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS.

Anyway. They get to the Department Mysteries, which is one of the most atmospheric–well, no. Possibly one of Rowling’s greatest abilities as a writer is in her settings. Every place has a feeling, like a total, solid, could-walk-right-in feeling. The Department of Mysteries feels cold and terrible, echoing, vast, and like it’s sucking you down and down. Like it’s always on the edge of catching you and destroying you. That’s before any of the bad stuff happens. They find a vat of brains and they find the Veil–and it’s really surprising Harry doesn’t kill himself accidentally right there–and the stacks stuffed with prophecies. They don’t find Sirius.

Beyond the VeilWell, then death eaters arrive and hurt all the perfect children and I get MORE AND MORE UPSET. THEY ARE BRAVE THEY ARE PERFECT THEY ARE BRAVE AND PERFECT. There are all these foolish things going on–like Harry says “Voldemort” and all the Death Eaters sort of freak out and hiss at each other and their eyes dart and they get so generally British about dark lord etiquette that you almost forget one of them is inexplicably Russian. Except then everything gets bad. Legitimately upsetting. One of the Death Eaters–who remembers this? I did not remember this TERRIBLE THING–gets his head stuck in a bell jar of time and it keeps growing old and shrinking young, and then he’s wandering around the hall with a screaming baby head, it is literally a nightmare

And she hurts her kids. This turns out to be something I have a really hard time with. The books have never been violent in quite this way before, but suddenly Neville’s nose is broken and Hermione won’t wake up, and Ginny can’t walk, and they’re being attacked by brains, which is much more horrible than it even should be, and Ron is giggling and stupid and his mouth is bleeding and he doesn’t understand what’s going on. And Harry doesn’t know what to do, and it’s his fault they’re there.

This is when the grown-ups arrive–the Order and Dumbledore. And before they actually fix anything, Sirius dies. And it just–doesn’t work for me.

Sirius’s death, before we knew it was him, was the biggest talking point of book five. I know I spent the whole book terrified about who it would be, and there were so many sharp, violent, awful moments that made me think this is it. But Sirius’s actual death turned all of those crucial, excruciating moments into red herrings. It tried to take the horror and the fear of a horrible, fearsome scene–listen, when you set brains and death eaters and curses and baby-headed murderers on a bunch of brave children, you’ve done it. You’ve built up a perfect pitch. My heart is with you all the way.

But Rowling wrote all of that and then gave the crucial moment to someone else. She builds up all the emotion around the kids, and then forcibly points the reader towards someone else–someone who had a lot of potential but who had barely been able to develop his character, or even more than a shallow, worrying version of what could have been his relationship with Harry. I’m riveted, watching the kids, begging them to be okay, furious at what’s happening, and Rowling says HANG ON I NEED YOU TO WATCH THIS SLOW-MOTION SHOT OF A GUY OVER HERE FALLING THROUGH A CURTAIN. It’s an abrupt about-face of emotional focus, a sudden bloodless vanishing, while all around them, children are bleeding and falling down and going wrong. It’s not a moment of a style that would work for me necessarily ever, but what precedes it matters immensely, and the quiet in Sirius’s death requires you to take your attention off of everyone else in an instant when you’re not ready.

Maybe if she had at least thought to make Harry realize that he had essentially made the lie come true, it could have worked. But she didn’t, and to me his death is not only divorced from the emotional arc of the scene, but it completely undermines all of Sirius’s importance and development as a character.

The Only One He Ever Feared. Give it to Rowling, her chapter titles in this book are KILLER. Take it from Jim Dale, ALERT TO EVERYONE, JIM DALE’S BELLATRIX HAS A FRENCH ACCENT, IT IS AN ABOMINATION. Okay. So. There’s a really really long part where things are happening in the Department of Mysteries, lots of shrieking French Bellatrix and coolly threatening Dumbledore, and then DUMBLEDORE FIGHTS VOLDEMORT AND VOLDEMORT TRANSFORMS INTO HARRY’S SCAR AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW ANYONE THOUGHT HE WAS NOT A HORCRUX, WHY DID WE NEED TO CONVERSE, EVEN? Postscript: “Harry felt the creature use him again” is an EXTREMELY UPSETTING SENTENCE.

The Lost Prophecy. In this chapter Dumbledore thinks Harry’s state of shock and grief is a great opportunity to act like a complete trash pile. He is calm and optimistic and superior and also goes on a lot about how Sirius was racist against House Elves (NO, JKR, THAT IS YOU. IT’S JUST YOU.) which are some things he could maybe NOT do right now. He says that he and Harry are ~closer than headmaster and pupil~ WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SAID IN A REAL LIFE CONTEXT THAT IS NOT REALLY CREEPY AND EXPLOITATIVE. Oh, and then he straight up admits that he knew Harry would be abused with the Dursleys but ANCIENT MOTHER BLOOD MAGIC was the only way to keep him safe. OH, ALAS IT WAS HARD FOR DUMBLEDORE, OH, HE CARED TOO MUCH. AH, THE SUFFERING OF HIM. Literally sheds a tear at the end. Can’t wait for you to die, Dumbledore. Can’t. Wait.

The Second War Begins. The degree to which Draco and Harry hate each other now that Lucius is in Azkaban is very attractive, for people, you know, other people, who are into their horrific interpersonal dynamic. The degree to which JKR thinks it’s okay to mutilate people as long as you are a Gryffindor is mind-boggling. The good thing is that after FIVE YEARS, some grown-ups have finally decided to do something about the fact that Harry’s family is always trying to kill him. GREAT.

THAT’S THAT.

(See you in Half-Blood Prince.)

5.3.14 The Islands of Chaldea

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones / completed by Ursula Jones. First read: 350/350.

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The Islands of Chaldea is simple and gentle in comparison with many of Diana Wynne Jones’s books, and also relatively brief. There are four islands; one is blocked off by a magical barrier and the high king’s son (and his hunting party) are trapped behind it. Only a Wise Woman, the guardians of the islands, and a man from each island can tear it down. Aileen accompanies her wise woman Aunt Beck on the quest; but it is Aileen’s story, so it contrives fairly quickly to put her in charge of the quest and its snowballing (but never crowded) troupe of adventurers. She learns rather classically to understand and use power she did not know she had–and also how to stop thinking that incredibly irritating prince is a perfect future husband.

The pacing is not perfect–some of the jumps and skips in character development. Literal and personal growth spurts are incredibly common to DWJ’s young characters, and they are always surprising. Here they are a little more rushed and less convincing than in some of her books. (For example, Ogo gets very much taller in a few short weeks while they’re traveling, and Aileen is supposed to be impressed by prince Ivar, but he’s so blatantly whiny and pointless from day one that even Aileen doesn’t seem to really think much of him.)

However–the story pushes along, and it feels important. It feels like a real rich place that has been alive and magical for thousands and thousands of years. Green Greet the parrot feels like the heart of his island. Plug-Ugly (the hideous cat not drawn as hideous, I notice, on any of the covers) is magical in such a specifically real CAT way that he feels equally true and credible as a common cat and the soul of his lost land, Lone. The whole world felt like a blanket you could wrap yourself in, with the tug of the tide underneath you; and it was fun. It felt like such a comfort and relief.

I’m really glad about that. This is the last new Diana Wynne Jones book. She grew too sick to write before she finished it, but her sister Ursula found the partial manuscript (with a habitual lack of extra-textual hints or notes of any kind) and ended up writing an ending to it herself. It’s a lovely success and I’m really glad she did–some of DWJ’s later books (The Pinhoe Egg, The Game, and Enchanted Glass) are among my least favorite of her books, but Islands of Chaldea feels full and perfect.

There is speculation about where Ursula’s writing begins (and she says at the end that no one had guessed correctly to her where the line is). I myself have a very specific idea of the moment–those who do not want to know, avoid the rest of this paragraph: I think it happens when they first arrive on Gallis, somewhere in the time when they’re being shuffled between priests. It’s about here that the characters grow a little more aware of people’s body types. Aileen’s narration reminds you she speaks from the future with slightly more frequency than it should. At one point you read the word “panties,” which as far as I recall offhand happens in no other book by Diana Wynne Jones. And there are lines, here and there, that give you a little more help than Diana likely would.

But with the line in mine, the book is still satisfying, rhythmic, round, and full of living green mythology. There is imperfect pacing–but it did not ruin the soothing, confident, comfortable push of the story toward a good ending. There are those tiny differences you can detect between Ursula and Diana–but the tiny differences would not be weaknesses in a book that wasn’t matching two writers to one incredibly particular, practiced style.

Without the line in mind–well, I do not think a new Diana Wynne Jones reader will sense the line at all, and I can’t think of a reason in the world not to hand this book to a young lover of fantasy. Or to yourself. If you’re old.

 

5.1.14 Summer and Bird

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull. First read: 344/344.

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This is such an odd book.

It’s a first book, and it’s a fairytale. It is about two girls, Summer and Bird, whose parents disappear one night, and who have to go underground to find them in a land filled with birds and open sky. It’s a swan princess story and a selkie story, because their mother is the missing queen of birds, and their father stole her coat of feathers once. There is a further place where birds go, called the Green Home, but without the queen to lead them, they die trying to get there; and there is a World Tree being gnawed on by a snake for thousands of years until the snake wins. There is a phoenix. There are maps made of songs and languages owned by birds. There is a woman called the Puppeteer who used to be a dancer and who eats birds alive, who wants to be queen.

The language of this story is confident, evocative, brittle and bloody–line for line it’s just really good prose, and so many of the images have a crackling uncomfortable feeling that I couldn’t help getting it under my skin. The ideas in it are excellent. But I had trouble with this book anyway.

One thing, I think, was that the book tries to weave through its in a way that is practically impossible to manage. The two strong cords that run through it are Summer and Bird, who spend most of the story separated both geographically and emotionally–that is to say, their changing emotions and relationships, unable even to react directly to each other, are not always strong cords. And weaving around them, frequently out of linear order, are stories and the living reincarnations of stories, and things that one sister finds that we later learn another sister has already done, and that is why she was able to find them. Occasionally the omniscient narrator appears for the space of a line or two and tells you what Bird will say a hundred pages later, or that this is the last time such and such a character will ever appear; that’s pretty daring, and I was wary of it while I was reading. In any case, the pattern never quite seems to mesh, and sometimes amidst all the birds it’s hard to recall if you’ve read this particular legend before.

The narrator’s spoilers are a gambit that could have wound up either irritatingly repetitive or slotting together perfectly the reader’s tension and the written story. What happens, though, is I think a symptom of the other odd fault of this book–practically nothing. The moments come and then they go and there’s hardly a ripple. This happens all along–for all the evocative language and the strange, alienating perils and the slow growth of self-awareness in Summer and Bird, the book has almost no dynamics. It plucks along at a mezzopiano, and there are essentially no crescendos. Regardless of the intensity of the imagery of the intensity of the characters’ emotions, nothing happened to me, emotionally. I couldn’t feel the shape of the story in how it was structured, but I also couldn’t feel it through the blanket of Catmull’s chosen voice.

It’s an odd problem–she is good at controlling her voice, except the book is about wildness in many respects, and it doesn’t ever feel wild. It’s too controlled. It’s too loyal to its fairy-tale origins. It does not break out anywhere in the places where it ought to be kicking and screaming, and it gives you the facts in places where you should be teasing them out for yourself with your breath caught. In the end, I understand that things have changed, but I can’t find the weight of them.

There is one line, where Summer is horrified at the realization that her actions have enough weight with her sister that she could literally cause Bird’s death without meaning to–that line is very good. “Bird, why are you always being killed by me, please stop being mine to kill.” That reaches down and scoops out the heart of a complicated, deeply important sentiment, about love and anger and unwanted mutual destruction. The book suggests so much of this without its suggestions being able to touch me, though.

What I would do with this book is paint. I would paint every single scene, because all of them are stark and prickling and the savor of them sits on your tongue. They are excellent paintings–but the problem is, I think, that paintings is what they are, paintings and weavings, and this is supposed to be a song.

 

(Quote from p281 of the hardcover edition.)