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The merciless Macdonwald,
Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
The multiplying villainies of nature
Do swarm upon him, from the Western isles
Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied…

Macbeth, (1.2.7-11)

Finally, it’s here [alack, alas, the interwebs have been uncooperative today, but Joe says we’re working on Mountain Time today] – our interview with Maggie Stiefvater! Listen to Maggie read us a section from Lament, then talk about writing, art, and her neurotic dog.

The fairy tales mentioned in the podcast will be up tomorrow; Lament will be available at Borders next Tuesday, and Barnes and Noble on the 28th. Can’t wait that long? Order it from Amazonnow!

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From Sheryl:

Something uplifting to get us into the swing of things for a new week:

I’ve just started the latest offering from Maggie Stiefvater, “Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception”. So far I’ve met Deirdre Monaghan and a handsome–perhaps Victorian–boy, Luke Dillon, from her dream, who demands greatness from her.

“Do you know how some people can do anything?”

I opened my eyes. I realized he was waiting for me to lead the way to the auditorium, so I started walking up the stairs. “What do you mean?”

As we got closer to the auditorium, there were more students waiting in the halls, all talking noisily, but I heard Luke’s voice behind me without difficulty. “I mean, you tell them to write a tune, they give you a symphony right there. You tell them to write a book, they write you a novel in a day. You tell them to move a spoon without touching it, they move it. If they want something, they make it happen. Miracles, almost.”

“Uh, not really,” I said. “Except for on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Do you know anyone who can do that?”

Luke’s voice dipped. “I’d ask them to do a few miracles for me if I did.”

It got me thinking – who am I going to demand greatness from this week? – and who will demand it from me?

Read the prologue and first chapter now.

Read the Les Bonnes Fees review of Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception here.

And don’t forget to come back tomorrow for mp3 downloads of Maggie’s Lament inspired soundtrack!

(Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater © 2008. Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Publishing 2043 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. Used with the permission and best wishes of the publisher. All rights reserved.)

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Les Bonnes Fees, September 2008

Les Bonnes Fees, September 2008

The September issue of Les Bonnes Fees is now online–so settle down with a cup of hot chocolate, something to eat, a box of tissues, and get reading!

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Un Lun Dun - Written and Illustrated by China Mieville

Un Lun Dun - Written and Illustrated by China Mieville

Un Lun Dun – Written and Illustrated by China Mieville

  • Un Lun Dun is the tale of two twelve year old girls, Zanna and Deeba in the strange, backwards, world of UnLondon.
  • UnLondon is a twisted version of London, filled with a combination of the unsettlingly almost-familiar and the blatantly fantastic.
  • Zanna and Deeba have a great evil to stop and a prophecy to fulfill – if it only it was that easy.
  • One of the wonderful few YA novels that can entertain adult readers too.

(More details and mild spoilerage below)

As a preteen reading Lord of the Rings for the first time,  I probably didn’t notice how pivotal Sam was. Without the valiant sidekick, all would have been lost. This aspect became clearer on later rereading and especially as I watched the movie versions. Sam is, in many ways, the hero of the story – he carries the ring (well, he carries Frodo who’s holding the ring) into Mordor without being tempted by its power, he follows Frodo into great danger, not because he needs to, but because he chooses to. The obvious question then is, what would have happened if Frodo had fallen early in the story – perhaps at Weathertop? Would Sam have picked up the ring and taken his place? I’d like to think so: Merrie and Pippin were not adult enough at that point in the story to take on such a responsibility, while Strider/Aragorn probably knew that his internal darkness and human weaknesses would have left him corrupted by the ring.

China Mieville asks this sort of question in Un Lun Dun. What do you do when the obvious hero, the chosen one of which the prophesies speak, falls?

Un Lun Dun is of that strange class of young adult novels that manages to remain interesting even when the reader is an almost-thirty-grad-student-type. It neither talks down to the younger readers, nor is filled with themes that are inappropriate for the sort of preteens who would attempt to read a book of this size (around 470 pages).

UnLondon is a warped mirror image of the real London – the river Smeath cuts a straight path through the city, turning the UnLondon-I, passing under the Battle-Sea and the Towering Bridges. UnLondon contains strange creatures – some wholly fantastic, like the smoglodytes and smombies that serve the Smog and some all the creepier for their almost-familiarity, like the unbrellas and the giraffes (giraffes in our world do not show their true, bloodthirsty, sides) – and amazing adventures.

Zanna is the Shwazzy – the chosen one – who will, according to the book and the propheseers, save UnLondon from the malevolent Smog. As it is written, the Shwazzy and her sidekick/best friend Deeba are pulled into UnLondon. As it is written, they make their way to the propheseers to learn of the destiny that guides them. As it is written, the propheseers are attacked – the first battle, one where the Swazzy is meant to triumph. At this point, what is written and what happens starts to diverge.

Of course, this is good for us – a bunch of kids and hangers-on fulfilling a prophecy would just be another standard kids’ story.  Instead, we get a tense, dramatic tale with moments wonderful wit (and a few moments that made me groan – some of the jokes are aimed more at the “intended” audience) as we are taken on a roller coaster of betrayal, lies, heroic sacrifice and unexpected turns.

Divided into many short chapters, this book reads much faster than it looks on the shelf, and the author’s sketches of the fantastic vistas and strange creatures evoke the creepy almost-familiar or the outright bizarre aspects of his world. Mieville also injects a well written dose of slightly subversive politics into his world, reminding readers not to take everything they’re told at face value and criticizing the easy abuse of the term “terrorist” and security powers we see these days.

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I have never been a fan of Salman Rushdie; I find his work too overblown, too in love with itself. But, after an interview about The Enchantress of Florence–a book that sounded like a literary and historical Harry Potter–my interest sparked.

Then, during my escape to an air-conditioned coffee shop this morning (it’s 33 C as I write this), I discovered a New York Times Book Review, pages still unsmeared and just itching to be read. Within, a review of the new Rushdie book.

David Geter, The New York Times Book Review:

From the very beginning of his new novel, “The Enchantress of Florence,” Salman Rushdie plunges us into a world of marvels: “In the day’s last light the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold. … Perhaps (the traveler surmised) the fountain of eternal youth lay within the city walls — perhaps even the legendary doorway to Paradise on Earth was somewhere close at hand? But then the sun fell below the horizon, the gold sank beneath the water’s surface, and was lost. Mermaids and serpents would guard it until the return of daylight.” And sure enough, that’s where he began to lose me. I’m probably not Rushdie’s target audience: in literature, at least, I find the marvelous tedious, and the tedious — as rendered by a Beckett or a Raymond Carver or even a Kafka — marvelous. But if I can upset myself over the plight of a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning as a bug, why did this ingenious and ambitious novel — no less than a defense of the human imagination — leave me unmoved? [more]

Still interested? Read the first chapter here.

Will I still read the book? Probably. Enchantress falls within the looser bounds of fairy tale literature. But, based on the first chapter, I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

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What if their lives continued beyond happily ever after? What if they all existed in the same universe and interacted? What if they had been forced from their homelands and set up shop in “Fable Town” – a couple of blocks of Manhattan that the “mundies” (that’s us mundane types) seem to never really notice?

That is essentially the premise behind Bill Willingham’s multi-award winning series “Fables”. Old King Cole is Mayor of Fable Town, Snow White his deputy. The Big Bad Wolf is the sheriff of Fable town and Prince Charming is a charming, womanizing cad, with a string of ex-wives including Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

This first collection starts with the very suspicious disappearance of Rose Red – Snow White’s slightly less famous (and not-so-upstanding) sister – from the apartment she shares with Jack (yes, that Jack, the one from all the stories) in very suspicious circumstances.

Part whimsy, part detective thriller, Legends in Exile is a tremendous beginning to a series that goes from strength to strength.

One small word of warning though – despite the fairytale nature of the protagonists, there is enough violence and adult themes in this book that you will want to check it out before buying it for a young reader.

Fables V.1 Legends in Exiles (Bill Willingham)

By way of honest disclosure – the above link, like essentially all Amazon.com links on Les Bonnes Fees is an affiliate link. Les Bonnes Fees makes a small commission on any purchases you might make via that link.

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