rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
Read July 31st. Obligatory disclaimer: the author is a very dear friend of mine.

It took me longer to find this book than I'd have liked, because NESFA Press put it out and therefore libraries elsewhere in the country do not seem to have it. But I bought one at Readercon, and I asked at the press table and they do still have some left.

This is the sort of fantasy novel that sounds much, much more complicated when you explain it than it does when you read it, because when you read it it is all plain and natural and the way the world works and everyone takes it for granted. But when you explain it you have to say, well, the world works in this kind of belt of cohesiveness, where the further West you go the more orderly and routine and uninspired and clockwork everything becomes until you reach the areas where there is no thought possible at all, and the further East you go the more quicksilver and magical and fluid and changeable everything becomes until you reach the areas where there is no thought possible at all (and just before those dwell the gods). Time is affected by this, too; easterly is faster travel than west. And of course this is all perfectly normal, is the thing. You can go east and come back a few generations later. It happens. Why not?

And another perfectly normal thing is that the protagonist has the ability to see all the different versions of people through time, the bits of themselves at different ages that they leave around in the places they've lived and also project into the future. So she's always seeing shadows of what people might mean now underneath, or would have meant when they were teenagers, or what have you, and again since this is how she has always lived the sliding tenses are simply how it is. This is one of those books that sounds overly complex, sounds difficult to get a footing in, but it isn't. It's a domestic fantasy and it's incredibly readable. It's about, among other things, the work of keeping house, and why that's worth doing and the ways people do and don't value it as it deserves; and it's about the complexities of having multiple adults in a household, who have children in various combinations; and it's about archaeology and sex and cooking and harvest and, in the way they always happen to people, the gods. (Never trust a god as far as you can throw it. Not that far.)

This is that rarity, a book which has a plot which is, actually, world-changing and complex, but where that is not, necessarily, the point. Most of these people are not out to change the world. They are out to put dinner on the table and run the village and estate and follow their lifelodes, that thing in them that is what they most truly want to do. It can be difficult for you if your lifelode is yeya, magic, which will make you want to go east.

I enjoyed this, in a way where bits of it were happy and reassuring, and bits were melancholy, and some was downright tragic, and all of it was very much one flowing whole, a book like water, a book which makes you realize how inclusive the term slice of life ought to be. It is clearly one of those books I am going to come back to; there is a lot in it. It is very much worth tracking down. It was very much worth looking for. I have never read anything else quite like it.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
Yesterday's review.

This is where I would ordinarily put a disclaimer, saying that the author is a dear friend of mine, and also that she sent me a copy, and thus you may not wish to trust my critical objectivity. But I refuse to disclaim anything. Of course the review I am writing here would not be the same if she weren't a friend. However could it be? This is a book that is a present from a dear friend on both an existential and a practical level, and how often does that happen? The hell with objectivity anyway.

Another thing: when I was quite young, there was a house in our neighborhood which I had the freedom of, because its owners were friends of my parents. It had a separate basement entrance, which I used frequently; this would be the house in which I once found, wrapped in an old African fishing net, among other books [personal profile] nineweaving's Moonwise, and read it by candlelight in the autumn leaves blowing from the open door. This house had a very large yard, larger than any other for miles, one hillside and part of another with a stream at the bottom, and its own tract of forest. And for years I knew, I was absolutely positive, that that forest was dangerous because it was filled with giant spiders, which had emigrated from Mirkwood after the fall of Sauron. I had seen black squirrels there, and the water of the stream was undrinkable and foamed and was also black, but my main evidence was simply looking at the wood. I went all through it, of course, when I could muster the nerve, but there were also many times I got up one hill and down the other as fast as possible. Because I knew. If I went back there now, I might well still know. You ought to keep this in mind, when you are considering what I have to say about this book; and if you ever knew anything like that, and remember knowing it, you should read this immediately.

Mori Phelps is in England, having spent her childhood in Wales; and is with her father's family after having escaped her mother's, because her mother is a witch; and is in boarding school for the first time, and it is worse than she'd imagined. And there are things in the past that keep coming to chase her, involving her mother's witchery and ambitions, and the death of her beloved twin sister, and of course the fairies.

There is a way in which this is an odd book if you know the author, because some of it is autobiographical, and a lot isn't, and I cannot swear either way about the fairies. But all the books Mori reads are real, and Mori reads, Mori reads the way you do when you have no friends and no trustworthy family and you have realized that the library was designed by the loving Fates to be your best home in the universe. And of course all of it, the reading and the magic and the wanting friends and the not having family, comes together, is all of a piece, is a flowing graceful thing that may not seem initially as though it has plot, but does.

I don't know how this will be if you haven't read the books involved, at least the ones that are most influential on Mori. There is one that seemed important that I haven't read, John Fowles' The Magus, and that worked fine, but I don't know how things would be if you haven't read any. (I haven't read a great many of the less influential.) You could certainly use this as a recommendation list, because it is very good at telling you why you ought to read these other things, and I intend to do that-- I very badly need to reread The Lathe of Heaven now, which I haven't in a few years. I think everything in the book explains itself, has enough context, if you need it. There's a point at which Mori finds a secondhand copy of I Capture the Castle, and thinks to herself that she'll try it the next time she's in the mood for a good historical, and if that makes you smile, to know that she has that ahead of her and what it will actually be, you should read this: and if not, the book will tell you why to read I Capture the Castle. So you see.

Apart from that, I can't tell you how good the book actually is. It has too much of my childhood in it. The books and the libraries, and I went to a girl's school that was modeling itself as hard as possible after a British boarding school, and there are similar things between Mori's family situation and mine. And I had the same incredulous curiosity about the British university system that Mori has about the American one (you didn't want to go to an American university, Mori, they'd have made you take four more years of math), and I also at fifteen got all my rules about sex from Heinlein and then realized that theory and practice are not, on occasion, similar. This is in addition a book that not only has my childhood in it but the ways I survived-- I remember spending my teenage years carrying a go-bag-- I have no idea how this will be for anyone else, this is my book for me and I am keeping it and I will love it forever. Besides which, as I said, it is in multiple ways a present from a friend I love.

So there's my review.


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