Fantasy · Fiction · Jean R · Magic · Young Adult

Carry On | by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
(St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015, 522 pages)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is the young adult tale of Simon Snow, magic, vampires, friendship, and love. The first quarter of the book reads like a Harry Potter wannabee novel. Simon is 11 years old when he becomes involved in magic. He doesn’t know his parents. He is taken to a school of magic. He is the chosen one. The list goes on. But when Simon’s roommate, Baz, returns to school after an unexplained absence, the story takes off and becomes more interesting. There are holes in the magic in Great Britain. No one is sure why. Someone is attacking the school of magic. Simon’s life is in danger. Simon, Baz, and Simon’s friend, Penelope, work together to try to save their magical world.

Simon Snow first appeared in Rainbow Rowell’s earlier novel, Fangirl. I did not read Fangirl. I was still able to understand and enjoy the book. Rowell says that Carry On was written as a standalone novel. Once I got past the feeling of “I’m reading Harry Potter all over again,” I did enjoy the book. The characters are interesting. There are a couple ghosts thrown in for good measure. I did think there was a loose end or two, but that may be just me.

Audiobook · Fantasy · Fiction · Magic · Theresa F

The Magician’s Land | By Lev Grossman

Magician

The Magician’s Land By: Lev Grossman
(Viking Adult, 2014, 416 pages)

I really can’t begin to describe the plot of this book but I will say it is the last book in a trilogy by Lev Grossman (The Magicians, The Magician King, The Magician’s Land) that follows the story of Quentin Coldwater through magic school (a twisted American Hogwarts), the magical land of Fillory (a twisted version of Narnia), and his expulsion back to earth.  Grossman borrows heavily from these other famous series but still makes it unique.  I listened to the audio version of all three and the reader, Mark Bramhall, is one of my favorite audio narrators.  The Magician’s Land was a great ending to a great series.

“In The Magician’s Land, the third book in Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, Quentin Coldwater returns as a jaded, slightly humbled, white-haired 30-year-old whose life hasn’t turned out exactly as he thought he would–exiled from both the magical land of Fillory and then fired from the magic school Brakebills in quick succession. The series, infused with heavy doses of Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings, used these fantasy tropes in the first two books to explore adolescent alienation and twenty-something excess. Now, Grossman ushers the sarcastic, pretentious, and flawed cast of magicians into a painful maturity. Traumas from their youth tinge their life with regret, love lost doesn’t stay lost, and magic–which despite making almost anything possible–doesn’t simplify the complexity of adulthood. This is a book about grown-up fantasy nerds for grown-up fantasy nerds, but it’s also a page-turner with some serious literary ambition. Adult readers longing for that lost childhood sense of awe that can only be found in make-believe will feel it here, the best and most mature book in the series.” — Amazon.com

Fantasy · Fiction · Magic · Sooooooo Big (700+ pages) · Theresa F

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell | by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
(Tor Books, 2006, 1006 pages)

It took me a long time to get through this book but I liked every minute of it. It’s not a page turner but it’s well written and it’s interesting to see how the return of magic to England plays out. The middle section, where Strange get involved in helping the English army during the Napoleonic wars, gets a little tedious but picks up when he starts investigating the “wildest” forms of magic. Jonathan Strange is no angel but the character of  Mr. Norrell is particularly off-putting, bringing to mind those people we all know that are nitpicking and conniving but hold themselves up as exemplary individuals.

“At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England–until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.” – Amazon.com

Audiobook · Fantasy · Fiction · Julia P · Magic · Young Adult

Siege and Storm | by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
(Henry Holt and Co., 2013, 432 pages)

This is the second title in Bardugo’s “Grisha” series which began with the title, Shadow and Bone. In this book Alina and Mal are still trying to stay clear of the Darkling and have set sail, leaving their homeland behind. But the Darkling needs Alina by his side and will stop at nothing to get her back. Alina and Mal manage to elude him and form alliances with the notorious pirate, Sturmhond, who has ideas of his own for how they can work together to defeat the Darkling for good.

Unfortunately, given that Alina has been gone from Ravka for so long the narrative about her has changed so that she is now being viewed by many as a saint and savior, a title she’s far from ready to embrace. It looks like things are progressing towards all out war between the Darkling and the rest of the country. Can Alina be trusted to help lead forces against him?

This book kept me engaged but I’m not really invested in the story anymore. I’m glad that this audiobook kept the same narrator but I’m still on the fence on whether or not I’ll finish book 3. The series itself has been well-reviewed and has a lot of appeal for the young adult market.