The Magician’s Book examines the world of the Narnia books and the great mind that created them, C.S. Lewis. This book is part biography, part literary analysis, in addition to the author’s (Laura Miller’s) personal history with the Chronicles of Narnia. Laura Miller read and loved the Chronicles as a child. As a teenager, she learned of their Christian symbolism and the apology and beliefs of C.S. Lewis and felt betrayed. How could she love something that was intended to convert her to a belief she had already rejected? With this in mind, Miller studied Lewis as well as the Chronicles to gain a deeper understanding into the series and what went into creating them.
I really, really enjoyed this work of non-fiction. Although it contains some literary analysis, it isn’t strictly a work of scholarly criticism and the writing is very fluid and fast-paced. The author also put a lot of herself, her own experiences and beliefs into the book. That made it perhaps an even more compelling read (although I am, strangely, one of those weird people who reads literary criticism for fun). It is very clear up front that she is no fan of Christianity and seeks to look at the Chronicles of Narnia as stories that contain more than a mere “allegory” (a term that is not even properly applied to the Chronicles, I do have to give her that) for Christianity. And indeed, I must agree with her. Lewis drew on a wealth of literary and mythological influences to tell his story. His characters aren’t mere shadows, mere placeholders for virtues or vices. He built a richer world than that. However, every now and then her invective against Lewis and Christianity is sharp (especially towards the Catholic church). Every now and then, as a Christian reader and someone who is a fan of Lewis and his writing, I couldn’t help but think “ouch!” Every great writer has flaws, and Lewis is no exception. However, learning about the flaws of the writer and his writing didn’t necessarily ruin my admiration for both C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles. If anything, this book sparked my interest in some of Lewis’ writings of literary criticism, which I haven’t read yet, but I plan to. For all of his shortcomings, Lewis was a fascinating man (though he might disagree) with a brilliant mind. And his friendship with fellow Inkling J.R.R. Tolkien is certainly of interest to me. My next non-fiction endeavor is a book solely dedicated to their friendship.
It’s no surprise that Lewis makes the top of my Old British Man Crush list (and he loved the Romantics–we ARE soulmates!)
I mean, c’mon, look at that face. And the jacket. I’m in love with his jacket alone.
This is the sequel to the amazing Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I realize that it has taken me awhile to get to reading the sequel, especially since I enjoyed the first book so much. I read the first book in the series for a class I took in Spring 2013, a class where I was encouraged to seek out many new books and not read sequels. That is part of the reason why I waited. The other reason was reading A Song of Ice and Fire and also The Demon King series this summer. What can I say? I love me some fantastical worlds.
In any case, I wish I had been able to pick up sequel closer to when I read the first book, because I was simply enthralled, once again, by the world of angels and chimaera that Laini Taylor has created. I love that she has chosen such interesting places to ground the reader in our world, first Prague and now Morocco, to then transport us to the world of Eretz. I really like that none of Karou’s choices are simple, her path is not straightforward, and she is faced with the immense and lonely task of growing up and taking her mentor’s place amongst her people–her people who killed her in a past life. For Karou, the guilt and the loneliness is all-consuming. Taylor once again balances the strangeness of the fantasy world she has created with the fierce inner struggles of her characters. I especially enjoyed when Karou’s friends, against all odds, find and invade her world and refuse to leave her alone. I will be looking forward to the final chapter of this riveting series!
The Book Hunter
Beatrice Prior lives in a futuristic, post-war world of factions. Factions are groups of like-minded people that take care of different functions within their community. Amity are farmers, the artists, the peacemakers. Dauntless are the faction of the brave—those who are the police, the warriors, the guardians. Erudite create new technologies and medicines: they are scientists, teachers, and doctors. There is also Candor: faction of the unflinchingly honest, the lawyers and policy-makers. That leaves Abnegation, the faction Beatrice was raised in. They are the selfless, those who run the government and make sure that even the factionless are taken care of. Beatrice longs to escape her parents’ world of gray and selfless caregiving. She longs to be free, but there’s just one hitch in the plan—her abnormal aptitude test results. In Beatrice’s world, she has the choice to pick any of the factions she wants, but will her choice bring her the freedom that she longs for?
I found Divergent, the first book in the series, to be fast-paced and action-packed, much like its accompanying movie. It was a fun read that kept me on the edge of my seat, wanting more. I liked Tris and Four. They were the most well developed characters. Some of the humor in the writing falls kind of flat, but overall I still found Tris and her Dauntless crew to be enjoyable. The world of the faction system became much more fascinating to me once I found out that Veronica Roth originally intended this world to be a Utopia, rather than a dystopian world. I have to agree with her, no human being can really imagine the perfect world. What is paradise for one person is absolute hell for another. I also appreciated Tris’s constant inner struggle with leaving behind Abnegation. This struggle is known to those of us who have grown up and grown just a bit farther away from the teachings and philosophies and ideas we were taught in the environment we grew up in. However, I also like that Tris continues to remember her Abnegation beliefs about the world and fits them into her new way of life.
I did not enjoy Insurgent as much as I did the first book in the series. It doesn’t really pick up until about halfway through the book. Tris’s struggle with her loss was very well drawn, but as it usually goes in a dystopian novel—there was a bit too much fighting and sometimes not enough explanation or description. The writing also didn’t feel as tight. However, there were a few really great scenes (the scene between Tobias and Marcus in the Candor cafeteria was very…interesting) and, of course, a cliffhanger ending that makes me itch to read the third (though it will be awhile before I do).
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written a post, but that is because I have been busy finishing up my Master’s degree! I can’t wait to graduate not this weekend, but the next. I will be sporting my Information Science lemon and burnt orange regalia. Hook ‘Em!