From R.R. NUMBER 1, by Grace E. Funk, in Once
Upon a Time, a children's fantasy apa: "Recent reading:"
Fantasy Award nominees:
The Boggart, by Susan Cooper (NY. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1993)
Celtic is "in." Computers are with us. So combine the two and
because this is Susan Cooper it almost works. The situation is plausible
(the Boggart comes to present-day Toronto, Canada, in an old desk). The
incidents are humorous/scary/disastrous. Boggarts don't mean to do harm,
but they don't understand traffic lights. The solution is certainly ingenious.
The Boggart uses a computer game to put himself on a computer disk to be
mailed back to Scotland, where playing the game again releases him. This
is an "adults keep out" story of the modern type where adults
are not absent, or absent minded, as earlier stories, but all too present
and all too uncomprehending. The child characters are developed enough to
be interesting, and the book is sure to please. Put it on the short list.
Thanks for the introduction to Falcon's Egg by Luli Gray (New York,
Houghton Mifflin, 1995).
I enjoyed reading it, as a good urban fantasy, inevitably recalling Jeremy
Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. However, I am a bit puzzled. The jacket blurb
says "when magic comes into someone's life, it comes for a reason,
and at last Falcon discovers why magic has come into hers." Well, Falcon
may have discovered, but I haven't. The denouement seems lacking. Jeremy
Thatcher knew his job was to hatch a dragon under the circumstances it needed,
and release it when the time came. His struggle was to let go of the hatchling
he had grown to love. But Falcon has no such clear mission. Girl Falcon
has trouble changing from child to adolescent. Girl Falcon discovers egg.
Egg hatches. Dragonlet grows. Dragonlet must be released, and is released.
During the release Falcon has, properly, to sacrifice part of herself in
temporary pain (her burned hands will heal) The helping characters are a
mixed lot, but not particularly arresting or even eccentric themselves.
Aunt Emily experienced dragons when she was buried in an overwhelming sorrow.
Just why does Falcon need help? At the beginning of the book she seemed
to be coping with a preoccupied but still loving mother, a demanding baby
brother, and a still loving though absent father. So what has changed? "Falcon
gazed into the depths of the dragon's sea-green eyes and saw herself reflected,
unique and shining with her own special magic." Is this supposed to
indicate some personal awakening? Falcon already knew she was unique, as
each person is, and she has had plenty of affirmation before this moment.
Her mother will presumably illustrate more books; her father is unlikely
to return; adolescence will continue its disturbing way. What have I missed?
And what is the significance of that ring, like the dragon's tear which
comes at the end of Jeremy Thatcher? There are too many meanings
to a ring. What did this author intend? Not a first choice.
Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones (London, Mandarin, 1993 pb)
Fourth in the Dalemark series, preceded by Cart and Cwidder, Drowned
Ammet, and The Spellcoats. This is 'classic" fantasy: the
museum objects to focus the time travel, the oddly assorted companions,
the pure-hearted but unwilling hero, the "historical" setting
(about 17th century, I would guess), the quest, the occasional unpredictable
magic, the cold and hunger and, of course, the evil mage (in this book,
actually an evil spirit), even the convention of THE GREAT WORD. Besides
that, Diana's own twists. Maewen, girl of the twentieth century, is sent
back through time, on an entirely mistaken quest, to take the place of a
girl murdered before she can claim the crown and the throne to unite Dalemark.
Nothing is as it seems. There are "undying" but all-too human
and fallible characters. All the characters in the 'quest' are actually
serving only their own ends. The apparently benevolent guide deserts when
he discovers he has been mistaken. The talisman ring turns out to be a fake.
Even the "angelic" voices are those of the evil spirit who must
be defeated. As in most murder mysteries, the murderer is the most overlooked
character, but his motives are the same as the hero's. The author even tells
us: "Mitt pointed a thumb at Kerils' back. 'Never rely on things being
reasonable'." Although Maewen has sometimes a feeling, not a knowledge,
that something is wrong; it is her own moral sense that saves her. The unwinding
or denouement takes place as the returned Maewen wanders through the museum,
putting together the history as it is written with the history she lived
through. And with understanding comes, finally, compassion, and a very traditional
religious 'Providence": 'The One had turned everyone's cunning schemes
around .... and used them against themselves. Maewen herself had not been
able to change history; she had just helped it to happen as it should."
The book is looking to a sequel, as Maewen, restored to her own time, realizes
that the hero is an 'undying" and promises herself to find him again.
The book is a pleasure to read. Language and sentences are very simple,
making it accessible to younger readers, and there is plenty of action to
attract them. And some penetrating satire, which need not be recognized
to enjoy the story. Short list this one.
Wren's War by Sherwood Smith (New York, Jane Yolen Books Harcourt
Brace & Co., 1995).
As David said, the third one. Wren and her friends as very young teens playing
tricks at school and learning to dodge boring duties while beginning to
discover their identities were quite charming. Wren and her friends as almost-adult
teens replacing the rapidly-dying-off older generation are not quite so
charming, but still very readable. The pace of action is swift; the magic
is dizzying; the villain is an evil magician of great power, and the youngsters
are trying to fall in love. I've been waiting for this one, but can't say
I'd give it an award. There is a sequel coming: the villain escapes; and
now that the kingdom is stabilized again, Wren must set out on her "journeying."
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