Books read in February
A month of Diana Wynne Jones.
Fairest by Marissa Meyer
I talked about The Lunar Chronicles a couple of months ago, at which point I was excitedly waiting for this book to be published. Fairest is a bridge-novel between book 3 (Cress), which I have read and reviewed, and book 4 (Winter), which is yet to be published. It is technically not part of the series, but provides background information. Basically, it is the story of the main antagonist of the series, Levana, and her journey to become queen of Luna, Earth’s moon, which has been colonised in this futuristic story.
In the Lunar Chronicles every main character is a modern version of a fairy tale character. Levana is the evil queen from Snow White, with her vanity and her hatred of mirrors. In Fairest you will learn why she hates mirrors so much and why she is so obsessed with no-one finding out what she really looks like.
You might also want to prepare yourself for the crisis of developing sympathy for this incredibly cruel woman that you already got to know through the eyes of her victims in the other three books. For a villain to really stand up and succeed as a character they need to be highly motivated in their actions and they need to believe that they are really the protagonist. Marissa Meyer succeeds in bringing her villain to life with a well-rounded character and answers to the questions “Was she always like this?” and “How did she become this cruel and ruthless?”
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones
When I was sixteen I was who my favourite author was. I confidently answered “Diana Wynne Jones”. Things have changed a bit since then. Well, I didn’t exactly lose her as a favourite author, I just gained some more favourite authors, which complicates my answer to “who is your favourite author” quite a bit.
You might have noticed that most books I talk about here have some story behind them. The Pinhoe Egg is no exception. Many years ago I bought, all in one go, the first six books about the enchanter called Chrestomanci. But I could never find the seventh and last book in the series.
At the end of last year, just when I was considering ordering it online, I finally found it. Brand new in a second-hand book shop. And then it joined its six siblings on my shelf. Yes, these are children’s books. I don’t care. I had to wait the better part of a decade to finish this series and I’m allowed to be as excited as a kid at Christmas.
The Pinhoe Egg follows the exploits of Cat Chant, protégé of Chrestomanci, a very powerful young enchanter that I took to immediately as a young teenager because he is left-handed but made to write right-handed, like me. And then this little fact turned out to be immensely important to the plot of Charmed Life and Cat’s discovery of his magical powers. I loved that. In The Pinhoe Egg, Cat has a lot more control over his powers as he is a little older, but he is still on a journey to discover his unique magical skills, which happen to be very different from those of his mentor.
I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know where Cat was going in his destiny to become the next Chrestomanci.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Before, during and after reading The Pinhoe Egg I picked over the rest of the series, but I’m not going to discuss them as well right now. It was hard enough to organise my thoughts for one of them.
External link: On reading Diana Wynne Jones
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
I actually read this one before The Pinhoe Egg. I didn’t plan to read mostly Diana Wynne Jones this month but I was on the waiting list for this book at the library and when it came in I had to make time to read it. From there I just continued with her books.
Howl’s Moving Castle is probably one of Jones’s better known works due to the movie by Hayao Miyazaki, which I haven’t seen. I just know a lot of people really like that movie.
It tells the story of Sophie Hatter who goes knocking on the door of the powerful and dangerous wizard Howl, known for eating the hearts of young girls. Luckily, Sophie is no longer a young girl. She had been a girl of 17 yesterday, though, until she was cursed and aged about 70 years in an instant. Sophie is now a senior citizen. Very much so, right down to the arthritis and the sassy attitude.
Howl features Jones’s trademark blend of parallel worlds, both magical and non-magical, and portals between them. Sophie lives in a magical world where quests are real but so is the trope that when three siblings take up the same quest only the youngest can succeed. Sophie is the oldest of three sisters. She knows she is doomed to fail in whatever she attempts.
I thought the book suffers from a slight anticlimax at the end. It doesn’t have a bad ending, it just didn’t have any ending that I was expecting. Not that I knew what I was expecting. So…
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐