Way back in March (I swear that was like a week ago), Kristen from We Be Reading hosted a little party called March Magics. Every year she dedicates March to Diana Wynne Jones, and with Terry Pratchett’s passing she decided to add him to the month.
I’ve had Mort on my shelf for years, and I heard quite a bit about Fire and Hemlock from other bloggers during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, so I knew I needed to participate. Both books were good fun and I enjoyed them both–though they were very different from each other. If you’re a fantasy fan and haven’t read these yet or you’re looking to expand your reading horizon a bit, go ahead and add both to your list to read (but if you’re going to choose one, I’d vote for Mort).
Title: Fire and Hemlock | Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: 1984 | Pages: 341 | Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating: Curious and Curiouser (in a good way)
In Short: As a child, Polly wanders into a a funeral in an old mansion near her grandmother’s house. Although it is clear she does not belong, she befriends a young man, Thomas Lynn, with whom she forms a strange friendship. As Polly looks back on her childhood, she is not always sure how true some of her hidden fantastical memories really are. Could it really be that she and Thomas Lynn had the ability to imagine something and have it become part of reality?
Bottom Line and Recommendation: I read Fire and Hemlock for Kristen’s March Magics after seeing it mentioned several times during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I’ve only read one other DWJ book (Howl’s Moving Castle), so I assumed this book would be about witches and warlocks and all kinds of different hocus pocus magic. What I received instead was an intriguing little story for which I didn’t quite understand what was going on but I was compelled to continue.
Fire and Hemlock was a curious and fun ride, and one that made me think and ponder quite a bit. I was especially struck by two thoughts as I read: the fascinating way in which a child’s mind works to make connections between fantasy and reality and the way that we remember our past in tandem with how our past actually occurred. Memory is an amazing thing–even if it isn’t always reliable. Recommendation? I’m not sure that I can recommend Fire and Hemlock widely–it is often a very strange read, but it’s a great way to dip your toes into fantasyland.
Title: Mort | Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 1987 | Pages: 316 | Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Rating: Death is always good fun!
In Short: Young Mort is offered an apprenticeship with Death–yes, the grim reaper who ushers individuals into their next life after they die. While Mort is given more and more responsibility, Death decides to take a little vacation from his duties to see what this “living” thing is all about. Meanwhile Mort decides to play with the fates when he decides a certain princess might not be quite ready for the next world. Pandemonium ensues. Because of course!
Bottom Line and Recommendation: Are you like me and find the Discworld series to be a bit overwhelming? So many books! So many threads! This is my third Discworld book (after having read and enjoyed the first two in the series), and even though a few years have passed since I read those I was able to dive into this one without any problems. Well, except that I find Pratchett sometimes difficult to read. He doesn’t use chapter breaks, his writing is sometimes colloquial, and the paragraphs are metaphor rich that sometimes make my head spin.
But but but, Pratchett is also a delight to read (despite the head spinning) and I find myself chuckling quite a bit at the nonsense or astuteness of his social commentary. Mort was an enjoyable read, even if I have trouble wrapping my brain around fantasy plots sometimes–there was a lot of talk about alternate time and space and woooooo my brain is tired from newborning and a lot of the book went over my head. If you’re a fan of fantasy, satire, or just general fun, Mort is definitely a book to pick up.
A (nonspoilery) taste:
History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved into a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always – eventually – manages to spring back into its old familiar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It’s been around a long time (150).
There should be a word for the microscopic spark of hope that you dare not entertain in case the mere act of acknowledging it will cause it to vanish, like trying to look at a photon. You can only sidle up to it, looking past it, walking past it, waiting for it to get big enough to face the world (280).
Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Are you a fantasy fan? Any go to authors I should add to my list?