Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

No knitting's a day for MAGIC!

In a comment, Alyssa asked me about the Harry Potter-esque books I've been reading. This summer, in a state of Harry Potter withdrawl, I searched for some other books that have that same feeling. While (to quote Prince), Nothing Compares to You, Harry, these books are pretty good.

1. The first series I discovered is written by Michael Scott (no, not the manager of the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper company). Scott is British (always a plus) and expert in Celtic Mythology. The first book is "The Magician", followed by "The Alchemist" and "The Sorceress" and the fourth book, "The Necromancer" will be published next spring.

Things I Like: the stories are set in modern day and 'star' two twins, Josh and Sophie, who are the next hope (we think) to save the magic world. In their quest to build their new powers, they are helped by people with magical pasts (Nicholas Flamel...he didn't die!) as well as fought by some well known evil doers (Machiavelli!). The action moves between major world cities (Paris, London, and SF) and magical worlds. The depiction of magical creatures, particular the Celtic ones, are incredibly well described and I finish each book feeling like I learned something new.

Things I Sort of Don't Like: Scott is the Dan Brown of magical literature, and most of his chapters involve a cliff hanger that is resolved magically in the next chapter (or maybe three chapters away). They are a bit too action oriented for me, lacking some of the nuanced character development of Harry Potter.

I am eager to read the fourth book, so this is a good series.

2. The Bartimeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud (Brit, check). The first book is "The Amulet of Samarkand" and the second "The Golem's Eye". I haven't read the third one yet but it is on my nighttable. In these books, magicians have taken over England and apparently are planning to take over the world. Magicians aren't really the good guys. The commoners gather together to plot to take over the magicians. They're not really the good guys either.

Things I Sort of Don't Like: these books are very dark. They feature a young magician who is highly ambitious and wants power. There are almost no 'good guys' and magic tends to be used for bad. Did I mention these books are dark?

Things I Love: the books switch narration between an omniscient narrator and the voice of Bartimeus, a djinni (think Barbara Eden) who serves the young magician. Bartimeus is about the funniest narrator that I've ever read....I laugh out loud reading his chapters. This character with his dry, witty, and snarky take on his life as a djinni is delightful, and lightens up these very dark (did I mention that?) books considerably.

If it wasn't for Bartimeus, I would have given up a long time ago. But I'll keep going.

3. The Septimus Heap series, by Angie Sage (a brit chick! Yay!).

I just started this series (I think there are five books) and this one is my favorite. Not sure when it is set, but the characters live in a castle-like area where magic (or Magyk as magical words are described in the book) once used to reign but the wizards have been taken over by a big brother-like communist-ish powerful group where no one has names and most people have numbers. The main characters are, again, young magical people, assisted by an assortment of creatures,witches and wizards.

What I like: Wonderful characters, vivid magical creatures, basically evil villains, and good lessons on life all rolled into one. The good characters have inner conflicts which I like...questioning the value of their wizardhood and stuff like that. Really imaginative places and things make me want to keep reading.

What I sort of don't like: the kind of annoying way every magical word or phrase is bold and printed in a different, 'magical' font. It's cute the first five times. After that, not so much.

Like I said, I think this series will end up my favorite.

So there you have it: Happy Halloween. Oh, and if you haven't read "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" yet, get ye to the bookstore or library and get it. It's an excellen, grown-up book for Harry Potter lovers.


Alyssa said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I'm adding them to the library list now. (And I l.o.v.e. Strange & Norrell)!

Julia Morrill said...

Thanks Kim. I have read the first two of the Michael Scott books and I'm always looking for books in this genre since Georgia and I are both fans. :)

Ling said...

Thanks for the recommendations. These books are right my street. Looking forward to them. Must read Jonathan Strange....