Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Magician of Hoad

Title: The Magician of Hoad

Author: Margaret Mahy

Heriot Tarbas is the odd one out in his farming family. Prone to fits, both of pain and of vision, he occupies a place on the periphery of his extended family, but he remains relatively happy thanks to the land itself. He enjoys being a farmer. Which is why he tries to run when one particular vision draws the attention of the king’s court. He doesn’t want to be a magician for the king, reading minds and performing magical entertainments. But the Magician has a role, just like the King and the Hero, in the land of Hoad . . . and he’s sure being at court isn’t it.

This one surprised me. I nearly didn’t read it because I hadn’t cared for Alchemy, but this one did a lot better building a fantasy, in addition to having strong characters. I liked the eye to detail both in the farm and drawing out the land. Hoad is both a place and more than a place: the King, the Hero, and the Magician all seem to have ties to some greater magic of the land. And I really liked the vastness and mystery of the magic. Where in Alchemy it was more of a free-for-all, this feels more fitted to the universe.

I particularly liked the exploration of sanity. Heriot and the third Prince are both considered mad by their families—and there are good reasons for it. With Heriot especially, being a Magician could be said to have left him in tune with a reality others can’t perceive, except he usually comes off as somewhat insane. On the other hand, we have other characters who are decidedly sane who have gone so far down their own paths that it turns into insanity. Where that line is drawn, and where each person is, isn’t always clear.

Only two things bugged me, one really minor and one major. The minor point: for about one paragraph, Heriot turns to drink. I had really hoped for more from him. On the other hand, this did take pretty much one paragraph to both come up and resolve, so it wasn’t like the story let him wallow in it. The more major problem is that Heriot’s pretty clear on how much he doesn’t care for the whole “court magician” role, but he never actually tries to run away. The story spans so many years it’s rather surprising he doesn’t make the attempt (in fact, the only time he does leave, it’s not exactly under his own power). He knows his power isn’t being used appropriately. He knows his self is fragmented and needs to be whole. But he doesn’t actually do much about either of those. That said, at least he comes around by the end, even though I was wanting him to do something much, much earlier in the narrative.

Overall, I enjoyed this, and will definitely have to read it again to pull some of the better quotes from it. I rate this book Recommended.

Spirit Gate (Crossroads #1)

Title: Spirit Gate

Author: Kate Elliot

Series: Crossroads #1

I’m not going to attempt a summary because I couldn’t force myself to finish. Besides, the main reason I quit reading was because 75 pages in, basically nothing had happened yet.

I wanted to like this, and gave it a good shot. But the glacial pacing killed my interest, and I wasn’t overly fond of any of the characters either. Marit has way too much page time for being a minor character (and the way the book starts I had initially assumed she would be the main character). Joss’s main concerns are getting drunk or laid (and how often the story is going there in the first few chapters reminds me of yet another reason I don’t usually care for adult books. Even though it never gets explicit—can’t we have someone with an INTERESTING hobby/obsession for once?). Mai didn’t seem too bad, but Ti, her cousin, is so childish and annoying that was a good enough reason to quit rather than plug away hoping it got better.

The depth of detail is very good, in one sense: it’s easy to get a picture of the world. I like the reeves, and the way their partnership works. The eagles are basically eagles, and the flying contraption pictured on the cover makes a lot more sense than most renditions I’ve seen of flying on a bird. Unfortunately, it’s a world where relatively normal life is happening for an extended period of time. Joss is sent to guard a caravan of merchants—and nothing happens. Dark things happen to the side, or in the background, but Joss is concerned mainly with doing his everyday duties in his everyday manner, and . . . I lost interest. After what he discovered with the Guardians, I had been hoping he’d actually go off and do more about it (I suppose he does, but it’s explained away in about two sentences of backstory).

So this may be a wonderful book for people with more patience, but I prefer more movement in the plot. Not Recommended.