Book Review – The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Good evening Blogland!

Sorry this is so late, but I procrastinated by talking with out of town family for hours today. Then I helped walk Trevor through some stretches before he got into his workout today. So, here I am ready to talk all about our book club meeting and The Paper Magician.

Last night the book club congregated at Taproot, our favorite local bar with healthy eats and a very laid-back atmosphere. Towards the back of thetaproot building there’s a nook I refer to as the Book  Nook, where the owner (who also was the Officiant at my wedding) put up a ton of shelves with old hardback books from library rummage sales. Coupled with the worn, comfortable couches and custom wood coffee and end tables, it’s the perfect spot to meet.

And everyone showed up! Those of you following along these last couple years know that it’s a rare meeting when everyone’s in attendance and everyone read the book. I was really excited last night.

But, I’m even more excited because everyone was really thrilled with The Paper Magician.

This is the part where  I tell you that there are spoilers ahead. You were warned.

The book is set in the late 1800s, just outside of London. Ceony Twill has just graduated from The Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, in half the time, only to have her hopes crushed. She wanted to be a Smelter, a magician who deals in metal, but instead will be a Folder- a magician bonded to Paper. Print

It’s important to note that once a magician has bonded with their element, all other forms of magic are unavailable to them

While Ceony never really reveals why she wanted to desperately to be a Smelter, she is crushed when she’s delivered to the home of Mg. Emery Thane, who is to be her mentor for the next 2-6 years.

And though he’s younger than she imagined, and attractive in a thin, nerdy way, she’s an absolute brat her first day with him. He knew that Folding was not what she wanted, and he did his damnedest to show her the wonders of Folding, all prepared before her arrival. Paper snowflakes, cut and painstakingly Folded, and then imbued with a chill all of their own. An entire garden of paper tulips, blooming in the wind. Paper birds flitting about the house, and Jonto, a paper skeleton capable of simple butler-esque tasks.

Oh! And, on the second day, after seeing her stroking a small dog collar mournfully, Thane stayed up all night to fold her a small paper dog, who she names Fennel. He’s the size of a terrier, and has all the anatomy of a dog, Folded in complicated patterns and links. That gesture made me cry pretty good.

And so Ceony starts her studies. But, just as she’s coming around to her lot in life, prepping meals and memorizing her Folds, Emery’s ex-wife shows up and rips his heart of his chest. Literally. She’s what’s known as an Excisioner, a magician who manipulates human flesh. It’s a forbidden practice, and one Ceony knows nothing pretty much nothing about.

Ceony’s quick thinking saves the Magician, but only temporarily. A paper heart, no matter how well Folded (her’s wasn’t) can only last so long. So she sets out, against the Magician Councils orders, to retrieve Emery’s heart and save his life.

Using some advanced magic left behind by Thane, Ceony is able to track Lira (the ex-wife) to a secluded cave on the coast, and there she has the  Magician’s heart in a ceremonial bowl of his own blood.

Unsure of how else to get the heart back, Ceony uses her small pistol on the woman, only to find that the Excisioner was able to manipulate her flesh into spitting the bullet out.

This woman means business. But so does Ceony, because she was starting to fall for Emery. And she refused to go home without his heart.

Lira worked some dark magic that sends Ceony into Emery Thane’s heart, and there she’s on the run, fleeing through the chambers of his still beating heart to try and escape the evil woman, as well as find a way out.

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Fanart entered in a competition, Pages of Adventure by Jynette Tigner

Ceony learns a lot about Thane as she travels through his heart. Each chamber has a different theme to the memories. Good memories, bad memories, hopes, and fears are all presented, and Ceony must maneuver through them to find a way out.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I really liked this portion of the book. What a crazy cool way to develop a character, by literally taking a stroll through his heart!

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much, especially since it’s so short, only 213 pages. The world building is thin, and the clubbers had some questions in that regard, same as I did. Are Magicians a public fact? How much do magicians earn? How many are there? These kinds of things. We wanted more!

But, ultimately, this story is about Ceony and Emery, and establishing the magic, which is all done very well. The book club agreed, all of them eager to read on to the next books. I already have the rest of the trilogy on the Library Book table, waiting for me to finish up with The Six-Gun Tarot.

So, I very much recommend this book. It’s whimsical, romantic, and cute, but also has some darkness to it that keeps it from being too sappy. You can tell it’s Holmberg’s first novel, but I have every confidence that things get ironed out as she continues to tell Ceony’s story. As it is, I did enjoy the dialogue and the prose very much, and I will admit that I would read aloud to myself in British accents, because I’m a nerd like that.

Don’t worry, only my dog was subjected to it. I was otherwise very much alone.

Anyway, I hope you all give The Paper Magician a shot. It was a ton of fun, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Until next time, Blogland.

 

BZ

Recap and Stats

Hi Blogland,

I had some things I wanted to talk about, but tomorrow’s book review just isn’t the place.

First, I wanted to share some stats with everyone, mainly because I’m proud of them, and by talking about them I hope to keep the momentum going.

February was a record month for the blog. Over 300 views in one month is unheard of here, and I am blown away by it. So thank you, everyone who stopped in to read what I had to say. You’re awesome! Also, the blog has surpassed 400 followers, which is unfathomable to me. I hope you all enjoy what I write here, and I promise I’ll keep coming back, sharing my life story by story with you all as I take my own steps on the “writing journey”.

In January I started my writing journey anew. Now, if you haven’t been following me since the beginning, let me throw some history at you. I started this blog in September of 2011 after a professional writer visited my Planning and Structuring the Novel class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Per his advice, I started my social media presence with a blog, followed by a dedicated Facebook page and twitter account.

I didn’t know the first thing about blogging. I probably still don’t, since my views don’t typically number in the thousands. But, I knew it needed to focus on writing and my experiences working toward fiction as a career. That’s all this has really ever been: a place for me to get the buzzing thoughts out in a constructive way, and to share these thoughts with like-minded folk.

Here we are in 2017 and the blog has become an inseparable part of me. I list everything I read, review books, as well as track my personal writing goals and learning experiences as I go through the steps of writing, editing, rewriting, and polishing manuscripts, as well as the editing and submission process for short fiction.

So, thanks again for following this page and hearing me out. It’s been amazing.

Another thing I wanted to mention was that I’m keeping much closer tabs on my word count accomplishments. I was tracking them weekly, and then including them in my weekly Goal Summary post, and I’m still going to do that, but now I will be tracking it monthly and setting monthly word counts.

So, how’ve I done so far?

January was my first month back in full writing mode. I used to write almost 9k words a week, back when I wrote five days a week.Before school and the the second job. Back when it was just me and Starbucks in a new town. I really want to get back to that, and I set a lofty goal for January because of it. I wanted to write 12k words, but came in at 5,134 instead.

For the first month back on a (somewhat) dedicated schedule, that’s not too bad. In fact, I feel pretty damn good about it. 5k words is more than I wrote in the six months prior to that, so I’m calling it a win.

Now, for February the plan was to start editing The Steel Armada, plus it’s a short month, so I knocked my goal down to 8k words. Honestly, still pretty intense seeing as I’m still working this writing muscle into shape.

But, I just tallied it all up, and I finished February with a total word count of 8,700!

That is insane to me. I can’t really believe it. I wrote 2.5 chapters this month, and outlined the manuscript through to the end. And I’m well on my way through the read through/initial edits of The Steel Armada. February was just a really great month for me, all around.

I’m hoping to keep the momentum going through March, but have dropped my word count goal again. Mass Effect Andromeda releases in less than three weeks, and once it’s in my hands I am at its mercy until who knows when. So, I’m shooting for 6k words this month and continuing edits. Also, if I can get the next book club title finished before the game releases, that’d be great.

So, that’s where I am here on March 1st. Things are going really well, and I’m making use of all this unwanted free time while I work part-time.

Also, if anyone is wondering, I’m getting used to this new laptop. I got a small wireless mouse, and disabled the touchpad, which helps tremendously. I no longer accidentally scroll the wrong way, or magnify or shrink things for no apparent reason. Plus, I wrote this blog, listened to music, opened multiple webpages, Scrivener, and  OneNote (and drew a stupid whale scene like the ones I did back in grade school) without the computer freezing and panicking and generally being a twit. Plus, being able to move windows with my fingers is pretty cool. Makes me feel like Iron Man.

I’m keeping it.

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to chat about. And I wanted to spend more time typing on this computer in preparation for tomorrow. Thursdays are always my big writing days, what with book reviews, fiction, and edits. I didn’t want to sit down tomorrow and feel intimidated or uncomfortable, so any excuse to get typing is a good one.

Thanks for getting this far, Blogland. I’ll see you all tomorrow when I finally get to talk about The Paper Magician!

 

BZ

Editing: On Research

Blogland!

It’s been a quiet week spent reading for Book Club. I just finished The Paper Magician last night, but won’t be posting the review until next Thursday, after our meeting. But, at least you have that to look forward to!

What I’ve really been focused on this week is research for The Steel Armada. Now, this is the first time I’ve ever actually done full blown research for a book. I’ve done some quick Googling on the spot to get clarity on an issue or scene, but I’ve never sat down with a text and taken notes and built up details and the world from there.

I had my first study session on Monday. For the first time in a long time, I took the manuscript out into the wild (Governor’s Cup, a local coffee shop downtown) and put in my earbuds to bring the din of espresso machines and conversations down to the comforting bustle of business.

It was a nice hour spent pouring over Sailing Ships. As previously mentioned, that book is a gold mine of info, but it’s actually a little advanced for me. It’s giving me terminology and diagrams, but it doesn’t really explain what the various parts of the ships do. So, I know where the mizzen is a on a ship, but I don’t know what function it serves.

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Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer, not an artist!

So, my research is leading to more research. Which is awesome! I’m taking notes, learning new things, and letting those things further develop the world. And when the world develops so do the characters who live in it.

But, I want to talk a little about research in general, in terms of writing fiction.

Those of us who took any Creative Writing courses have heard the “tried and true” advice spoken with finality: Write What You Know.

…Yeah. About that…

Funny thing for Speculative Fiction authors is that this advice falls flat. I’m writing about a desiccated planet and the small fraction of humanity that survived on a flying armada of steel ships above it. I don’t exactly know what that’s like.

But, I know what it’s like to be a seventeen year old girl falling in love with her best friend. I know what it’s like to lose your father figure. And I know what it’s like to demand more from the people and the world around you.

And anything I don’t know, like the architecture of rigged ships, I can research.

Which is really the most important thing I’ve learned so far. Speculative Fiction authors can still write what they know, they just have to know a lot about a ton of different things. The key to great world building is developing the small details that lend your world credibility. Yes, there’s much in Fantasy and even Science Fiction that is made up of things we can never truly know before we set out to write them. But, I can learn as much as I can about the things that are real, or based on reality.

Do giant sailed ships made of steel fly through the air? No. But, those ships of my creation can follow the look and feel of wooden rigged ships from human history. And the more I know about that, the more realistic I can make the ships of my creation.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to be an expert of fully rigged ships after this book is finished. And I doubt I’ll ever try my hand at sailing even the smallest of sailed craft. That actually sounds terrifying to me. But, I will be able to name the parts of a ship with clarity and confidence.

Watch out Jeopardy! I’ll wreck that ship category when the time comes!

(See what I did there? Wreck? Ship? Hah!)

 

aeroponics-vs-hydroponics

I have only the slightest idea of what any of this means…

Another big research topic I’ll be doing soon is Aeroponics versus Hydroponics. These people have food, both plant-based and livestock, which means they grow crops. How? What’s their nutrition like? Their livestock’s nutrition? These are questions that need answered.

Not because they’re vital to the plot. They aren’t. At no point does a potentially under-nourished cow play a critical role in freeing this society from its oppressors. But, if I can lay the foundation of my own understanding, I can address any questions that might come up.

For instance, now that I think about it, goats are a far more believable protein source than cows. They’re way more versatile eaters and take up less space, while providing milk, cheese, meat, and hide.

Goats.jpg

Who doesn’t love goats? Look at ’em!

But, if you haven’t noticed by now, the research spiral can be a dangerous thing. I think it’s why I’ve avoided it so far. Because questions only lead to more questions, and I have a tendency to want them all answered.

Let me tell you now, that is not necessary. You don’t have to answer every single question. Because ultimately you just need enough truth to wrinkle out any doubt from your manuscript.

Of course, it’s not a bad thing to do too much research. You just have to recognize when to rein it in and bring your focus back to what really matters: the manuscript.

So, I’m spending a lot of time doing research this round of edits. But, I still feel hopeful about an August finish. I think this round of edits will go by faster because there’s a lot of content creation happening. That’s way more interesting than going through line for line and reworking things.

But, all this content creation means I’ll probably have to do a fourth draft, to clean up the lines I’ve added in order to flesh everything out. Bummer. I still want to have all of that done by August.

I’m going to need an endless supply of coffee and snacks.

 

BZ

 

Just So You Know…

Hi Blogland,

I just wanted to stop in and let you know where I’ve been. I came down with a pretty nasty cold on Wednesday, and by the time I felt moderately better on Friday, I had a full blown migraine.

So, I’ve been down for the count all week. Hooray!

But, I’m feeling really well today, and it’s been a productive one as far as household chores go. My husband was also sick through the last half of the week, and when two people in the house aren’t well it’s amazing how much mess they can make.

But, the good news is that my friend Patty got her edits back to me for The Steel Armada, and they’re amazing! She went completely above and beyond by tracking changes on the manuscript document and posing lots of really critical and thoughtful questions.

I can’t wait to dig into all of it and really flesh out this book!

Book club meets in just over a week, and I have a lot of reading to do. But, I did get a lot of audiobook time in so check out the What I’m Reading page for an update.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know where I’ve been, and I’ll see you all tomorrow!

 

BZ

Book Review – Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Hello again Blogland!

Yesterday ended up being very productive. I wrote the Interlude for From the Quorum from start to finish, wrapping it at 3,508 words. For the time I sat writing, that was extremely productive. This book is writing itself!

Beyond that, I also finished reading all the installments of Locke & Key, as well as Low, vol. 1. That’s all the graphic novels I had checked out, so I get to return a bunch of items to the library today and move on to reading Arcanum Unbounded, which I’ve put off for far too long.

But, before I get too wrapped up in that, let’s talk about Ghostly Echoes. Beware the spoilers!ghostly-echoes

This was the largest of the three Jackaby books so far. The other two were under 300 pages, but this one had 352. And that’s because there’s a lot happening.

The book opens with Jenny and Abigail experimenting with possession. Yep. You read that right. Now, most of us sane folk would say, “that’s a terrible idea.” And it is. But, Abigail adores Jenny and wants to help her anyway she can. Even if that means subjecting herself to the disorienting and painful process of letting her friend take over her body.

But, the catch is, that when Jenny is in Abigail’s body, Abigail has access to Jenny’s memories. That’s really useful since Jenny can’t actually remember the circumstances of her death.

That’s the case they’re working on, by the way. Jenny’s murder.

Well, as they investigate they learn that Jenny’s murder is tied into the string of murders from the last book, and it’s all one big case. Add in some political ties, and this book gets interesting fast!

Charlie arrives out of concern for Abigail’s safety as she tackles this enormous case with Jackaby, much to her delight. I was a little bummed because he’s not very critical to the story. I mean, he plays an important role, but he doesn’t get as much screen time as I’d like.

So, all kinds of crazy things happen in this book. Possession, Abigail throws a brick in a vampire’s face, forcefully pushing him from their home, they cross into the Anwynn, a place between life and death, and Abigail is the one chosen to cross the river Styx to try and find a particular spirit that could help them solve the case.

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Except, she doesn’t find who she expects, but Jenny’s fiancé.

Yeah, this book is all over the place. But, when you’re reading it everything makes sense. It’s only in this summation that I see how wild some of these events are, but I ain’t even mad. This book was fast-paced fun!

Anyway, they learn that a group known as The Dire Council is behind all these deaths, and that they’re trying to create some sort of enormous scientific device, that has something to do with energies. And while Jackaby and Co., catch the main murderer, a henchman for the Council, they are no closer to actually thwarting their dastardly plan.

And that’s where the book leaves off. The next (and final) book is titled The Dire King, and I am ready for it now! I don’t want to wait until August!

Now, my favorite aspects of this book are Abigail’s newfound confidence. She loves these people she’s met and built a new life with, and she feels empowered by them to do anything for them. It’s a good look on her.

I also really loved the tender moments where Jackaby opens up about himself. There’s a lot of Jackaby’s history in this book, because The Dire Council needs him to complete their device. And so the history of how he acquired the Sight and how he coped with that gets fleshed out a bit. I loved it! He’s also more vulnerable in this book than in the others, because of his concern for Jenny. He’s hesitant to solve her case because he doesn’t want her business to be finished. He doesn’t want her to leave.

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Two of Jackaby’s companions

It’s not like Jackaby has a lot of friends.

There was a moment in the book that, while not critical to the plot, was really powerful for me. Early in the novel Abigail and Jackaby come across a transgender woman being attacked. They stave off her attackers and get her home, Jackaby never faltering in calling her ‘her’ and treating her with respect. Abigail does her best, but she’s a little bewildered by the encounter.

When she asks Jackaby if Miss Lee was, in fact, a man, Jackaby’s response is perfect.

“‘Underneath she was herself- as are we all. Lydia Lee is as much a lady as you or Jenny or anyone. I imagine a midwife or attending doctor probably had another opinion on the matter, but it only goes to show what doctors really know’

‘Shouldn’t a doctor be able to tell at least that much?’

Jackaby’s expression clouded darkly. ‘I have great respect for the medical profession, Miss Rook,’ he said soberly, ‘but it is not for doctors to tell us who we are.'”

It struck me as immensely profound, coming from this man who most doctors would label insane. And a true representation of his character that he would stand up for Lydia Lee and defend her in a manner less defensive and more educational, even to Abigail.

I love this eccentric, fictional man. A shame I have to wait all summer to see what happens…

You probably won’t hear from me again this weekend, but I’ll see you all on Monday!

 

BZ

Book Review – Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Hello, Blogland.

I’ve been a busy little reader these last few days, and have completed both Jackaby novels, as well as a few installments of Locke & Key. Pop over to the “What I’m Reading” page to get a full update.

Today we’re here to discuss the second novel in the Jackaby series, Beastly Bones. If you’ve not read my review of Jackaby, now would be the time.

beastly-bonesIn this installment, Abigail and Jackaby find themselves on a case in Gad’s Valley, which is lovely since that’s where Charlie Barker, formerly Charlie Cane, now resides. There’s been a string of murders, seemingly unrelated save for a peculiar wound to the neck: a single puncture surrounded by bruising.

Along the way they catch up with an old friend of Jackaby’s, Hank Hudson. He’s a hunter and trapper, with a focus on unusual creatures. He’s also huge. I pictured him like a frontiersman Hagrid, but less approachable.

On this adventure, Abigail is torn. The official reason they’re sent to Gad’s Valley is to track down a stolen fossil, and her paleontology roots call to her. It was really great to see Abigail in her element, and she had several occasions to one up the male experts who were quick to disregard her. Jackaby was proud of her, but her interest and aptitude meant that he spent a bit of his time on his own, hunting the unseen forces behind the theft.

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I’m still waiting for a moment like this…

As the story goes on, things remain relatively light. The two paleontologists bicker and argue over all sorts of minutia, there’s a femme fatale reporter who befriends Abigail, and Abigail has a few delightfully awkward encounters with Charlie, who is even more endearing in this book.

 

But, when it appears that an actual dragon, thought extinct for a few thousand years, is terrorizing the valley, things get dark quick. Houses are razed, a nearby couple are killed, and in the final battle the reporter, Nellie Fuller, sacrifices herself to give Jackaby and Abigail time to figure something out.

And, Abigail does. That was my favorite part of this story. Abigail saves the day, and Jackaby’s life. She’s the hero, finally the strong female character, even if she refuses to see herself that way. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Abigail even kisses Charlie by the very end! Very bold indeed.

But, the events of Gad’s Valley also trouble her immensely, giving Jackaby the opportunity to wax philosophical, as he often does, and it’s always a treat. But, the events also set the stage for the next book, and help establish a larger arc for the series.

I would say that this book is very much Abigail’s. Though she’s the main character of the series, the first book had to introduce us to Jackaby and his unique place and function in the world. Now, with all that established, Abigail had the opportunity to really grow and shine.

Ritter did a good job of making his likeable narrator even more so, and keeping things fun while he did.

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William Ritter

That would be my number one selling point of these books. They’re fun. The characters are endearing and well-developed, and the city of New Fiddleham feels like home. I want to spend time in this world, with these people. I’m happy to report that the third book is probably the best of them all, and the next book is due out this summer!

There’s no shortage of time with Abigail and Co., just yet.

Unrelated to the actual plot or books, I found out that William Ritter is a local author. He lives in Springfield, Oregon, about an hour south of Salem, near Eugene. He’s an educator, and I look forward to catching him during his promotion of the next book, The Dire King.

Aaaand, I just read that it’s the conclusion of the series. I am not OK with that. Not in the least. How can that be the end? There’s too many possibilities! You can’t just wrapghostly-echoes everything up in one book, right?

Now I’m sad. Damn it. Well, I’ll see you all tomorrow when I return with the book review for Ghostly Echoes.

Until then, Blogland…

 

BZ

Book Review – The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

For once, I can barely hear the clack of the keyboard as I write this. Instead, my office is overwhelmed by the jilted crash of my $30 printer doing its damnedest to give me a refined physical copy of The Steel Armada.

It’s mostly working. It can only print about 20 pages at a time, so I have to keep stopping to refill the paper, and the contraption is housed in a less than convenient place, so I have to get out of my seat, grab a sheaf of papers, and then kneel under my desk to actually feed the beast.

But, having a physical representation of all the hard work that went into making draft #2 look as good as it does feels amazing. Now that it’s sitting here, all pristine and shiny, I almost feel bad about tearing to pieces over the next few months.

Almost.

But, we’re here to discuss The Last Unicorn.

This was the flast-unicornirst book of Book Club session #3. We were all pretty excited for it, and it was a quick read. I was thankful for that because I cut it pretty close trying to read a million other things. But, it only took about two days to read Beagle’s fantasy classic. Only myself and one other person showed, the rest being ill. So it was a quick meeting too!

I would say that this story is a modern fairy tale. It doesn’t follow any of the writing conventions I’ve been taught, which made it a little difficult to read. Sentence structures are often awkward, and character perspective shifts all over the place. These are things that would be a death sentence for a book seeking publication today, but Beagle’s novel managed to get away with.

Probably by the virtue of its romantic whimsy.

Like most fairy tales I’ve read, there are a lot of consistent themes in this book, and when they raise their head they take the form of lines so startling in their beauty and truth that they stand out from the rest of the clunky prose.

The Last Unicorn is a book about beauty, love, and time. The Unicorn, for she has no other name, is a creature whose beauty is unmatched, and her immortality leaves her immune to love and time. She wants nothing, needs nothing, and likes it that way.

But, when she hears two hunters say that all the unicorns have vanished from the world, she is driven to leave her secluded wood to seek them out. An unwilling adventurer, the Unicorn soon realizes that men cannot see her true form, because they no longer believe that unicorns even exist.

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Schmendrick meets the Unicorn, artwork by Mel Grant

But, not everyone is so convinced, especially not those who have any hint of magic in them. Schmendrick is one such man. A magician of the bumbling variety, he is plagued with doubt and ineptitude to the point that his rescue of the Unicorn from an evil circus owner turns into the Unicorn rescuing him from a furious Harpy.

He’s also my favorite character.

Ever hopeful and bumbling, Schmendrick accompanies the Unicorn on her quest, and they soon meet up with Molly Grue who is a bitter and cynical woman who lived with a would-be Robin Hood. But, the glory days of their robberies were far behind them, if there ever were such days, and upon seeing the Unicorn Molly Grue leaves the band of thieves behind.

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King Haggard’s Castle, artwork by Mel Grant

And so the story goes on, and it follows a very fairy tale formula, while at once mocking the fairy tale formula. I think that tongue and cheek element also redeems the story from its choppy delivery.

In order to save the Unicorn from certain death, Schmendrick turns her (quite accidentally) into a startlingly gorgeous human woman. The three of them then visit the castle and gain employment with the bitter and cursed King Haggard. Ah, but the cursed king has a noble son, Prince Lír, who promptly falls in love with the Unicorn, now known as Lady Amalthea. And the longer she’s human the less she remembers of herself and the more she falls for the Prince.

But, in the end, Molly Grue and Schmendrick figure out how to release the unicorns, and help Amalthea return to her true form. But, her love for Lír has changed her forever. She tells Schmendrick that some small part of her will always be mortal, will always long for something, though she wants nothing, and that time suddenly matters to her, though she is immortal again.

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Molly Grue meets Schmendrick, artwork by Mel Grant

And that’s all sad and whatnot. But what I think was the more powerful element in the story is the love that blossoms between Schmendrick and Molly Grue. They started out as bitter opponents, literally keeping to their own sides of the Unicorn, and by the end they were an unspoken team. After the Unicorn leaves their presence, Schemndrick watches Molly laugh and shake her head until her hair fell loose around her shoulders, “and she was more beautiful than the Lady Amalthea”.

They came together naturally, and their normalcy is only enhanced by the presence of the Unicorn. Her undeniable otherness shows just how beautiful normal love can be. Another line that struck me was when Schmendrick lifted he and Molly Grue up the cliff face. “The magic lifted her as if she were a note of music and it were singing her.” It’s such a delicate and pretty line, made all the more meaningful because it’s Schmendrick’s newfound magic it refers to.

I should add that I’ve never seen the film, though I hear it’s currently on Netflix. I’ll have to add it to the queue. And, I’ll have to add this book to my shelf. It deserves a place with my other favorite fairy tales, Howl’s Moving Castle and Stardust.

I really wish I’d seen the movie and read the book as a child. I think it would have been more powerful and influencing to me then. Now, as an adult, I read everything a little too critically to fully appreciate the magic in it. At least, I feel that way sometimes. The clunky passages wouldn’t have mattered to 12 year old me; I probably wouldn’t even have noticed. But 27 year old me got stuck on each one.

But, 12 year old me would have had a completely unhealthy crush on Schmendrick, so at least I avoided that. Who am I kidding? I loved the guy! I just get to move on a bit quicker. On to Jackaby!

Anyway, this is mandatory reading for fantasy fans. It’s an essential of the genre, that knows its tropes and uses them purposefully to show how silly they are. It’s clever, and poignant, and fun to read.

Now, I just have to watch the movie!

 

BZ