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I enjoyed this multiple award-winner, but I can’t decide if it is more of a realistic young adult novel, a fantasy, or a science fiction novel.
The novel is told in first person by Morwenna (Mori) Phelps, who tells us that her mother is a mad witch who tried to take over the world and that Mori and her twin sister defeated her mother with the help of the Welsh fairies that the twins talked to. However, in the process, Mori’s sister died and Mori was crippled. It sounds like a fantasy, yes – but we never actually see this action. We have to take Mori’s word for it. The story starts a year later, when Mori is sent off to boarding school. Most of the book seems like a young adult diary, mostly centered around the SF novels that Mori absorbs. She has lots of time to read at school because she can’t play sports. There is also a romance and more talking to fairies – maybe. Is Mori telling the truth or is she imagining what has happened in her life?
What is undeniably excellent about this book is its depiction of the “outsider” in school, the bright teenager who does not fit in, is not interested in being part of the crowd, but feels lost in her defiance at the same time.
Very interesting book. Written in journal date style with sporadic story between journal entries. Not much detail on the main characters background but enough to keep reading. LOVED the voracious reading appetite of main character AND all the listed books/authors.
Essentially, this book is a coming of age story. With magic (set in the late 1970s, in Wales and England). The voice of the protagonist is achingly real- the entire story is her diary entries, so we see the world through her eyes. She doesn't want to think or talk about her mother (or her father, much), nor does she go into what happened to her twin sister.
In fact, for the first half of the book I was thinking she was an unreliable narrator (maybe insane, as she claims her mother is) and by the end of the book I was *still* wondering how much of this stuff was in her head. Real for her, but not for the rest of us. That's the magic of this book- the system of magic is "always deniable", and makes a beautiful sort of rule-less sense, so of course the entire story is also deniable. And breaks conventional rules of storytelling.
If you go into this novel expecting an epic showdown, as the synopsis hints, you will be disappointed. The pace is steady but slow, with little to no rising action until the climax itself (in the last 10 pages of the book). But the language, and the process of Mor essentially crawling into the world (not giving up her books, but not hiding behind them of her past anymore), is the true story.
I was surprised this won a Hugo, because the narrator's primary positive experiences with the world are with fairies, which always seem a fantasy element to me. But Mor is an avid reader, and loves science fiction (and given the setting, her SciFi books are the classics) and talks at length about the brilliance or insipidness of the books she's reading. So in a way, it felt like this real person (or perhaps the author? It does feel somewhat autobiographical) was recommending books directly to me.
If you like thoughtful, unique novels that aren't necessarily an adventure story, classic science fiction, magical realism, contemporary coming of age (where love isn't the trite answer to everything), a potentially unreliable narrator, and an authentic MC voice, I highly recommend this one.
Jo Walton’s book Among Others is a librarian’s dream book. It’s about a 15-year-old Welsh girl in a terrible English boarding school in 1979. But Mor loves science fiction. The book is about reading science fiction and fantasy and the power that these stories have. And holy crap does she read. The book is full of commentary on Zelazny and Delany and Tolkien and who might have actually seen elves and known something about how magic really was.
Because Mor’s mother is a witch. At least, she’s alluded to as being a witch. And her twin sister died trying to stop their witchy mother from doing witchy things. But Mor is not an entirely reliable narrator in this story about magic that can always be explained by coincidence.
The librarians in the book are heroes. They help Mor meet other bookish people and place countless interlibrary loans for her. It’s the kind of book that makes me happy when I fill out those forms for my library members.
I believe it won the Hugo and the Nebula awards, but a lot of that has to be because of its near complete immersion in classic science fiction which would be near to the hearts of those prize-selectors. But still. A very good book about books.
This is such a beautiful and different book! Mor is a twin raised by her witch mother, and she regularly sees fairies. However, the novel is really about books and libraries, as well as the joy of finding a group of people who relate to you. It's not often that you find books that involve inter-library loan as a plot point!
I really enjoyed this book - the magic wasn't over the top but it was a major plot point. I can't wait to read more
Beautiful and brilliant. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider should read this book. Made me go back and reread some of my old favourite science fiction novels.
A wonderful, thoughtful, genre-bending read for lovers of Science Fiction and those who don't think they love Science Fiction. In other words, everyone.
If you were an adolescent bookworm like I was, this book will break your heart. I saw a lot of myself in the protagonist. It's actually very low-key with its fantastical elements, more slice-of-life than anything. I definitely recommend it.
A great books for teens, too! Morwenna is a 15-year old lonely, disabled student in an English boarding school (but this is NOT a girl version of Harry Potter!). The author weaves together the past and the present, revealing dark memories of Mori's childhood with present day journal entries of great sci-fi and fantasy books that sustain her. Her journey includes new friends and old enemies, but I won't give away the details of the final confrontation with her ambitious, black magic obsessed mother. You will have to go there yourself!
Hugo Award winner 2012
This is a wonderful wonderful book - no wonder its won so many awards. Follow up the many books & authors referred to with her other title "What Makes This Book So Great: Re-reading the Classics of Fantasy and SF"
It is the kind of book that will make you fall in love with reading all over again.
I absolutely LOVED this book. I loved the protagonist, and the story is very well told. 5 stars.
Other than mentioning it’s exquisitely excellent and I loved it, I don’t want to say too much about this book. It speaks for itself eloquently, including parceling out just enough information at just the right times for the character to ring true--for this to work as her diary recording her thoughts--and for the pacing and plot to work so effectively. So a few quick introductory facts:
It’s 1979 and Mori is 15. She’s desperately lonely. She used to have a twin, but doesn’t anymore. She used to run wild in the untamed woods, but now is lame in one leg and relies on a cane to make her way painfully through the world. She used to live with her mom and their extended family clan in Wales; now she doesn’t quite live with the father she just met and his three sisters on an estate in England. She used to enjoy public school with a group of friends, while now she’s starting at a boarding school where she knows no one and definitely doesn’t fit in. And she used to hang out with the woodland fairies and practice vague magic, but now . . . she still hopes to. Her one, sure constant--her comfort and support and refuge--is science fiction literature.
This is a book for anyone who’s ever loved books.
The details in the description blurb are quite wrong and need to be corrected. Mori does not have a "dubiously sane half-brother."
nearly outside of genre... well-written, charming without being too dear...most of us can surely relate to literature being a lifesaver through difficult times (ie; childhood!)
I am happy to have discovered this wonderful author! I loved this book that is homage to science fiction and fantasy literature and as well as those who read it. It is a perfect blend of fantasy and reality!
One of the things I find brilliant about it is that throughout the time I was reading it, I was constantly questioning if perhaps everything, the incident, the sister, the mother, the Faeries, the magic were real or just Mori’s imagination. I have my opinion but I don't want to give any spoilers!
I also liked the her take on Magic as well as her depiction of the faeries as wild feral beings.
If you like Science Fiction then you will probably like the constant references to books, authors, and plot lines. For the most part it's a decent story with a good main character and a good ending. At times though it felt like it wasn't really going anywhere.
Its scooping the 2012 book awards so probably worth a try even though reviews here are mixed.... [later] I LOVED this book (as audiobook) - wonderful writing. If you want to follow up on the sci-fi book/author references she has also published a book "What Makes This Book So Great: Re-reading the Classics of Fantasy and SF"
Much of this story is inferred, which was irritating at times - I kept coming back to this one. Enjoyed the discussion of older SF. Not sure why it was set in the late seventies - to limit the books available? Recommended by the Book-a-Day calendar.
I loved how this story was so very ordinary, and yet so suffused with magic. I generally don't love modern fantasy, but this one was lovely.
I am ambivalent about this. I found the over-citation of science fiction authors and titles irritating and not believable - more like an interruption in the flow. Feels like well-done fan fiction. I did like the characters, but the story of her relationship with her mother was buried in the other storylines and the ending was rushed and abrupt.