Saturday, April 19, 2014

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

I love that in Discworld anything goes. Pratchett has created so many stories in this world because it has infinite possibilities. It's the only series I can think of that lets you read it out of order and even skip books without missing out on anything. I tend to gravitate toward the books featuring witchcraft or, in the case of Equal Rites, wizardry. 

Magic in an unequal profession in Discworld - men are wizards, women are witches, and magicians are somewhere at the bottom of the barrel - for those possessed with magical acumen. Things get complicated when a dying wizard accidentally passes his magic down to a baby girl instead of a baby boy. Granny Weatherwax, an accomplished witch, attempts to train the young girl in the magic more associated with her gender, but quickly realizes Esk (the girl) has wizarding magic whether she likes  it or not. So, they have to figure out how to debunk the stereotypes, which of course is extremely complicated, in order for Esk to learn how to properly use her magic before she hurts someone. This mission of creating equality in the wizarding world drives the rest of the action in the book and leads to some intense action and near-death experiences (and a lot of rain.)

Overall this book was entertaining and aligned with what I enjoy most about Pratchett but it definitely wasn't my favorite. I found certain spots hard to follow; some plot points felt very abrupt and I never really connected to any of the characters. Granny Weatherwax wasn't even that entertaining this time and she's a character I've liked a lot in the past. I would definitely recommend the Discworld series to anyone looking for something a little off kilter and comic, but maybe not this specific book.

Here are reviews I've written in the past for other Discworld books:
Witches Abroad
Wyrd Sisters

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A surprisingly quick read, this funky story captures one particular instance in a boy's childhood that not only brings him into contact with the supernatural, but puts him in the face of death numerous times. Even though the boy never completely remembers the event after it happens, it's something that sticks with him indefinitely. The story gives our narrator a chance to survive while simultaneously allowing a young girl to become a hero. With so much magic sprinkled in and very unique folklore, there is never a dull moment.

We first meet our narrator as an adult, aged to the point where his own children are grown. He's returned home for a funeral and ends up being drawn back into childhood memories he's been made to forget. Specifically, the suicide of a man with a gambling problem and the magical evil his death allowed into the world. The evil sneaks in through the body of our narrator and defeating it requires the assistance of three women, older than time, living together on a nearby farm (magical in its own right.) The women all seem to be of specific ages with a timeless knowledge of the world. Their land, with its own magical attributes, contains a pond capable of becoming an ocean.

So, the evil hitches a ride in the narrator, ruining his heart in the process and temporarily turning his whole family against him so that he's basically in life-threatening danger. In order to defeat this evil, other mystical beings have to be called on that bring with them their own dangerous agenda. It's the youngest of the three women, Lettie, who becomes the hero and selflessly saves the boy in the end. Her devotion to protecting him is the bright spot in a very dark tale.

Fitting nicely into the style Gaiman has built in his writings, this book is dark and dangerous but not without hope. It's a satisfying read and I really enjoyed it.