Well it ended rather abruptly...
Do I feel like I know what is going on? Not really. When I read the synopsis, I really had a sense of adventure and excitement. I didn't get that from this short story though. I got that there was a couple of brothers, but didn't really go beyond that for me.
Will I read Forbidden? Probably, I love Ted Dekker's writing. Will I be rushing to get it today? No. I'll get it at some other point.
The Rules of Magic
ISBN: 1501137476 (ISBN13: 9781501137471)
|I've always liked Alice Hoffman as a writer. She is definitely a strong story teller, and she brought "Practical Magic's" back story to life with a good plot, and some great characters. I loved Aunt Isabelle. Part of the story is set in the 60's, and Hoffman works that into the storyline well.|
When it’s been more than 20 years since the publication of an awesomely successful trilogy, there must be a temptation to just leave it alone. Notwithstanding the frenzied publicity, there’s an attendant apprehension for the (now older) fans that a savoured memory might be about to be irreparably tarnished. Of course, my bluff was called by the Christmas gift of a copy of Phillip Pullman’s prequel to the original “His Dark Materials” (my family know me so well). Though, to be fair, I did delay my gratification until January and the last remnants of festive chocolate, before gorging myself in sumptuous sessions of novel gluttony. 546 pages swept past with all the force of the flood that has beset Pullman’s parallel Oxford. And, amid the carnage, an unlikely pair of guardians for Lord Asriel’s baby daughter – Lyra Belacqua.
Still, it was reassuring to discover the author’s story-telling has not dimmed at all in the intervening years and this latest adventure unfolds at a gloriously break-neck pace. All the familiar components are present, the fascinating animal dæmons accompanying each human, like an external emotional core; the alethiometer – an instrument of almost mystical qualities, powered by ‘dust’; and the ongoing struggle between the malevolent Magisterium (church) and scientific schools of thought. Throw in a giant, a witch and a fairy and what’s not to like?!
What I do like is the seamless way Pullman has laid the foundations of the later books here and even offered some deeper explanation for why, in due course, Lyra will find herself the subject of ‘scholastic sanctuary’ at Jordan College. We haven’t learnt much more yet about the relationship between her parents, Asriel and the enigmatic Mrs Coulter, but their absence from the life of their daughter is curious, especially since the baby’s safety is instead reliant on eleven year-old Malcolm Polstead and fifteen year-old pub washer-upper, Alice. But, what great heroes they turn out to be!
For younger readers there’s surely a certain satisfaction in seeing these main characters outwit their elders, however, that’s not to suggest the book cannot be appreciated by an adult readership. Indeed the brutality of some scenes and the protagonist’s struggle with their part in the violence suggests that this is more than simply a tale of derring do. In any event, Pullman’s compelling storyline that pits good versus evil fizzes along and readers (young and old), can expect to be rooting for the good guys and hoping the cruel wrong’un with the three-legged hyena for a dæmon, gets his comeuppance!
Using Malcolm’s canoe (the ‘Belle Sauvage’), the youngsters need to navigate the flooded Thames valley and get Lyra to safety in London, traversing the natural barriers and avoiding the chasing Magisterium agents, who have other designs on the child of prophecy. For me 'His Dark Materials' set the bar very high, but I'm delighted to report that ‘The Book of Dust’ is a magnificent romp that skilfully adds to the existing classic trilogy and has left this reader wanting more. What more could I ask for....the next two books in the new series perhaps (family take note)?
James has managed to get a scholarship for Oxford University. He expects challenges from academics, from sports, from being a poor notherner in the elite college. He even could handle a dangerous and unpleasant room mate
He did not expect murder. He certainly didn’t expect witches, witch hunters and being in the middle of an ancient war.
One of the hardest kind of reviews to write is for a book that…. Isn’t terrible? Especially when that kind of covers everything you need to say about it. Honestly I find reviews like this are both harder to write than a review that condemns the books very existence and an utter offense to the eyes of everyone who read it and in some ways more damning. I mean, everyone can read my passionate loathing for a book yet somehow it feels better than my… mild amusement?
But unfortunately mild amusement is the best this book gets from me: I don’t dislike by any means, I enjoyed it, it was an entertaining read, but there was nothing especially unique or compelling about it that drew me in or made me want to pick up the next book
Like the enemies - they’re witches. I do appreciate that the book took steps to distance evil, non-human witches and actual wiccans so we’re not demonising a whole religion, so applause (I also like that secrecy in this case is maintained because past witch hunts have shown what damage revelations can bring). But the book also did very little to define what witches were other than “evil”. Inherently evil - evil for being born, power hungry, ruthless and dangerous. It feels.. Cheap to just decide “hey evil” especially when your antagonist is so very near-human. This leads to things like the Council “binding” witches magic so they can’t use power - does this happen every time or just witches who commit crime? Is there any kind of nuance in terms of sentencing? Can witches be seen as possibly innocent? Do all of them need binding? These are all elements that aren’t explore and even james, as a man who chatters incessantly as he tells us, fails to look at even remotely.
There’s also very little exploration of magic beyond “it exists” and less real making magic an actual appreciable of the story or the witch’s existence. You could, honestly replace “witches” with vampires, demons or wereracoons and not appreciably change the story. The actual nature of the bad guys is pretty much irrelevant, they’re just a rather Generic Bad Thing to fight
Similarly, while there’s a little more information on the Hunters, in that we know they have a council and Generations, with each generation having more abilities. But there’s, again, painfully little exploration of this. How do they get these powers? (And their large stash of magical artefacts for that matter) WHAT are these powers (beyond an ill-defined magic sense?) Are they human? What counts as a generation? Does one or both parents have to be a Hunter? What about James who is a “first gen” does that mean his children would become second? If so how is this inherited?