Books read in February and March
A very diverse little collection of books this time round.
The Nostradamus Prophecy by Theresa Breslin
The Nostradamus Prophecy is a YA novel set in France during the second half of the 16th century. This was a period of upheaval in Europe, and the French Wars of Religion fought between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church, including the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, play a big role in the story.
The main character is a young girl named Mélisande and the story follows her throughout her teenage years as she becomes entangled in the prophecies of the great prophet Nostradamus. Mélisande’s father is a minstrel who plays at all the popular royal courts of Europe and takes his daughters along with him. At the French court of the teenaged King Charles IX, Mélisande learns about the intrigue and deceit of politics, but not fast enough, because in her naiveté she dares to accuse one of the noblemen of a terrible crime and turns the favour of the court against her family.
Mélisande must flee and hide from the king, but especially she must hide from the power behind the throne, Charles’s mother Catherine de’ Medici, a ruthless and powerful woman. And so Mélisande becomes involved in an intrigue of another sort: that of the prophecies of Nostradamus and the fate of France.
I read this book as a teenager and now re-read it to see if I still love as much. Well, I still enjoyed it very much. Perhaps I’ve become somewhat more jaded towards historical politics and prophecies, or maybe it is simply because I’m not part of this book’s target audience anymore. However, one thing I still like as much as I used to is that it doesn’t deal with only a short period in a girl’s life, like many other YA novels, but instead covers several years and so also a girl’s growth to womanhood.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Equal Rites is the third book in Pratchett’s Discworld-series and it is the first to introduce his twist on the classic witch. I believe it was also the fourth one of his books that I ever read, years ago in my high school library. Since then, I haven’t read it at all and I’ve forgotten everything but the major plot points.
Equal Rites is a typical Pratchett story: normal fantasy with some crazy twist. In this case, a wizard who happens to be a woman. It is all the fault of one old dying wizard who didn’t bother to check the sex of the baby he was appointing to one day become his successor. And so little Eskarina Smith grew up a wizard among witches and other people convinced that a female couldn’t do men’s magic. Wizards would not accept her either, after mumbling that the wizard university doesn’t have plumbing that caters for women, they run out of direct reasons and fall back on the old saying that a woman cannot be a wizard.
Pratchett uses this opportunity to talk about gender bias, feminism, the patriarchy and male privilege. All those words that the Internet love to throw around.
Plus it was funny and a great story. 🙂
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Plugged by Eoin Colfer
At the top of this book’s front cover it says:
If you loved Artemis Fowl… It’s time to grow up.
Well, that sounds like it was meant for me.
As a kid and teen, I loved Artemis Fowl. Yes, he’s pretentious, but then, so was I. I really connected with Colfer’s funny and smart characters who lived by brains rather than brawn. Now that’s something I could get behind.
As a teenager, I loved Colfer’s Airman and it is still one of my favourite books. It was another book filled with characters who survived the odds on brains alone. I wanted to identify with them; I looked up to them.
So, with a history like this, I felt that I should try Colfer’s novel for adults. (Plus, it was on sale.)
Plugged follows Irishman Daniel McEvoy, an ex-army man working as a night-club doorman in America. Daniel used to think that his biggest problem is that he’s going bald. Then one of the hostesses he worked with is murdered and he is framed for the crime. When he tries to prove that he is innocent and move on with his life, he accidentally gets involved in the schemes of a drug lord.
Pretty soon, a) the drug lord, b) the police, and c) his crazy neighbour are all after his blood.
Colfer is as good an observer of humanity as I remember and his story-pace is just as fast as always. However, this time I could not find that connection with his characters that made his other books so engaging. I don’t feel like this was the fault of the writing, more just that I don’t have anything in common with these characters. I don’t frequent clubs and the only doorman I know sits at the door of the office block where I work and makes visitors sign the ledger before letting them in. I don’t even think she has a weapon.
So, the story was good, but the grown-up version not as much fun as Artemis Fowl.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
(Note explicit language use.)