There are three books I’ve read a few months back that are quite a challenge to review (my own version of a “review”, which is actually more of a ranting and raving) because they are chunksters, and I had this notion that since they’re chunksters, I must come up with lengthy write-ups too. But I’ve come to realize now how silly such notion is so I’m coming up with these pseudo-reviews, all long over due, albeit short and quick.
JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL/Susanna Clarke
Two magicians shall appear in England.
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me…
The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation’s past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.
I’ve read this along with some buddies in the book club but despite its length, it was an enjoyable reading experience. For all its 900 plus pages, this is a book which does not feel like a chunkster at all. The story egged me to read continuously even up to the wee hours of the night, and believe me, I am not easily fascinated by stories about magic at all. (Yes, I am not a hardcore Harry Potter fan.) But this book, it made me appreciate magic more through the way it made magic sound scientific and professional and not just mere sleight-of-hand trickery.
What is more, the story is being interspersed with European history (the Napoleonic wars) and history is a topic that greatly interests me. The two principal characters, Strange and Norrell, as well as the other minor characters, including the faeries, are all a wonder to read. The scenes are so vivid, sometimes I feel that I was the one being transported from my world to the world of faeries.
The footnotes are worthy of mention. Yes, this book has footnotes, some taking up an entire page, and I found it a drag for me at first. However, I’ve learned to enjoy them as I went along, as they add to the beauty and wonder of the story.
When I decided to read this book, I thought I would be entertained. Magic is supposed to entertain after all, right? But I was wrong. I lost some hours of sleep because of cliff-hanger chapter endings thathad my heart palpitating, and the ending of the last chapter left me teary-eyed.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a highly recommended book. Don’t let its length intimidate you.
Thank you, Monique, for lending me your copy. I shall return it soon. 🙂
THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY/Michael Chabon
Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.
Finishing this book was such a huge relief. It was a slow burn for me as the chapters tend to drag on and on, sentences run on for as long as paragraphs, and I can’t count how many times I clicked on the dictionary button of my Kindle in order to learn about the meaning of certain words. Oh yes, this book is quite a challenge to read, not to mention its daunting length. Plus that it’s a book about comics of which I am not a huge fan. And the symbolisms just escape me. Or maybe, I don’t really care about them at all.
I must say, though, that the story of Josef Kavalier is its redeeming part. I love reading about his Escapist adventures and his own struggles to escape the bleakness of his life. My heart simply bleeds for him. He is a man (boy?) I’d love to meet in person. Uhm, book-crush? Haha! And Sammy Clay. He has his own issues too but I love his resilience and his passion for the comics.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a rather melancholic book. It would have been an interesting read, if only it isn’t too, uh, verbose.
A CLASH OF KINGS (A Song of Ice and Fire #2)/George R.R. Martin
A comet the colour of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk at night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel…and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.
Ah, this book. It’s been a long while since I’ve read the first book of this popular series, but the story is still fresh on my mind as I find it riveting and powerful and riveting, and yes, riveting. This is why it wasn’t hard for me to get back into the story when I read this second installment. I was supposed to read this with friends in the book club but I lagged behind when I gave birth. Still I was able to finish not long after the buddy reading schedule ended because just like the first book, this book is also as engrossing. Every chapter makes me want to read more, even if it means losing hours of sleep. It was fortunate that I was reading this while I was on maternity leave so I had all the time in my hands to cheer Arya on, feel sorry for Theon, learn to love Sansa, grieve with Catelyn, applaud Tyrion’s wit, and simply shake my fist at Joffrey and Cersei. More characters were added which initially confused me, especially the similarity in names, but I’ve learned to be familiar with them as I went along.
Treachery and power struggle and war. And magic. Yes, there is magic here and it is the kind of magic which can either terrify or fascinate you. This book is action-packed and I did not feel sorry I lost precious hours of sleep over this. I’ve never loved fantasy this much until I came across this series. Now, on to A Storm of Swords.