After Alice, by Gregory Maguire

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Preview on Amazon Kindle

This book was difficult for me to get into, and it wasn’t really what I was expecting. Only about a third of the book is actually set in Wonderland. The rest of the chapters are back in England, following other characters. The different stories only loosely tie together, and I found I had a hard time caring about any of the characters or stories. It’s not until the last third of the book that you start to get a sense of how all the stories tie together. But there are still gaps and holes.

I found it a rather disappointing retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story. I kept thinking that the end would tie it all together for me and would change my perception of the entire book. But that didn’t really happen. Maybe it’s a book that would benefit from a second read, but I don’t have much desire to ever pick it up again so that will remain a theory untested.

Language: None
Sex: None
Violence: None

You might also likeThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. LewisThe Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman; Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, by Carolyn Turgeon

Magician’s Gambit, by David Eddings

51vnhH25Z-L._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_I remembered this book being my favorite of the series when I was younger, but I couldn’t really remember why. Then, as I started reading it again, I realized it was because this is the first book where you get a female narrator. The change of narration is refreshing, and the female narration, in particular, has a different voice than Garion, the main male narrator.

This book picks up right where Queen of Sorcery ends. I recommend reading the two books back to back so that you can keep up with continuity. If you liked the first two books in the series, then you’ll like this one. The story keeps moving along, following our merry band of adventurers.

Language: None
Sex: None
Violence: Mild

You might also likeThe Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson; The Sword of Shannara, by Terry Brooks; The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Queen of Sorcery, by David Eddings

51AJ+VhgyuL._SX299_BO1,204,203,200_I don’t think I appreciated this book in The Belgariad series when I read it as youth. I didn’t connect with some of the new characters, and I didn’t really understand some of the detours that the group of main characters took. However, as an adult, I can see that Eddings took this book as an opportunity to have fun with the genre. I think the dialogue is wittier than the first book, and the new characters are well-worn types of the genre that Eddings breathes life into in a tongue-in-cheek way.

As I mentioned before, Eddings is well aware that this book/series is formulaic, and you start to see him playing with that formula in this book. The characters start to realize that they are cogs in a larger machine and that each of them is there because they have a specific purpose to fill. Eddings knows exactly what he’s writing and rather than apologize for that, he leans into it and creates a masterful, if predictable, world. And because you think it’s predictable, he’s able to throw in delightful surprises (such as when one of the protagonists starts a magical duel a bad guy, but it gets cut short by another protagonist sneaking up and knocking the bad guy out cold. As a reader, you gear up for a fantastic duel that is cut short by something far more practical and efficient).

Language: None
Sex: None
Violence: Mild

You might also likeThe Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson; The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss; The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan

Pawn of Prophecy, by David Eddings

51PV1njIRAL._SX296_BO1,204,203,200_I am not even sure how many times I have read this book and series. I first read it when I was probably 11 or 12, and it became a type of escapism for me. There are ten books in all, across two series, and I became intimately acquainted with the characters while in my youth. But I had not read the series for probably 10 years before picking it up again recently. I wasn’t sure if it would hold up as well as I imagined from my youth. I’m still not sure that I am able to read it impartially enough to give a good judgment on it. However, I am re-reading it now on the tail end of reading a number of The Wheel of Time books, and as I’ve posted in another post, that series does not sit well with me. (One major positive characteristic of Pawn of Prophecy and subsequent books is that Eddings collaborated heavily with his wife, Leigh. Later books also bear her name as co-author. I think because of that, the women, though they are few, are written much better than the women of The Wheel of Time. Jordan should have let his wife read his manuscripts before publication.)

Pawn of Prophecy introduces us to our prototypical fantasy hero — the young boy of humble origins who sets off on a trek to rescue something of great value. Eddings has admitted that this story is a rote fantasy, and it is extremely formulaic. However, as a youth, I think I found comfort in that. (**Spoiler**) I knew that the hero would win by the end, and good would prevail. As an adult reading it again, I still oddly find that familiarity comforting. What sets this book and series apart, in my opinion, is the characters. And the fact that Eddings doesn’t take himself too seriously in this genre. It is not a silly book, but as you progress through the story, you get the sense that the characters know they are part of a formula, and Eddings plays with that idea (almost breaking the fourth wall but not quite). It creates a world that is easily understandable, a plot that is not too confusing, and characters who have surprising depth and instant familiarity.

Pawn of Prophecy is a foundation book. Not much happens to advance the plot, but there is a lot of world building and character building. The good news is that it is a very quick read, and you don’t feel bogged down by details. There is enough action to keep you entertained, and the banter between characters is engaging.

Language: None
Sex: None
Violence: Very mild

You might also likeThe Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson; The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien; A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

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Preview on Amazon Kindle

One of my goals this year is to go back and re-read books. When I was younger, I used to re-read books all the time. Certain characters became as beloved and well known to me as my closest friends were. But as an adult, I have found that I hardly ever go back and re-read books. I think a big part of that is because I have easy access to a library, and I don’t have to wait for a ride anytime I want a new book. So I’m going back through my Goodreads “Read” list and working my way through it backwards.

Although I was familiar with the BBC version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I didn’t sit down and read this series until I was an adult. It was at that time that I discovered there was some controversy about the reading order of this series. Although The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was published first, it is actually often considered the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Prince Caspian is the first book in the series, chronologically (that is, the events in Prince Caspian take place before the events of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). I am not going to sit here and tell you that you MUST read one of these books before the other. You are in charge of what you read, so you can make the decision. Instead, I’m going to gently suggest that if the only story of the series  you are familiar with is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, then I think you should start with that book. It will give you the best idea of Narnia and Lewis’ style of writing. And you’re starting with the familiar. Then you can treat Prince Caspian as a prequel.

This series is very allegorical to Christian ideologies, and as the series progresses, the allegory becomes more and more obvious. In these first books, though, the allegory is very subtle, which I prefer. You can read it as a straight children’s story and enjoy it deeply for that alone. Or, if you want, you can read more into it and find symbolism that will enhance your reading experience.

I listened to the story this time on audio, performed by Michael York, and I think York does a brilliant job of catching the warmth and whimsy of the story, while adding just a touch of gravitas. The story is whimsical, while at the same time addressing heavier topics, such as lying, stealing, and death. I think it can be hard for an author to capture a balance between the whimsical and the heavy, but Lewis does so brilliantly.

Language: None
Sex: None
Violence: Very, very little

You may also likeThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Frank L. Baum; The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett; The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman (although, fair warning, this is not a children’s book)

A Crown of Swords, by Robert Jordan

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Preview on Amazon Kindle

I have a love/hate relationship with The Wheel of Time series. I first read the first few books when I was a young teenager, and I think that’s probably the age that these books are targeting. I love the epic fantasy genre, and The Wheel of Time series has been the standard of that genre for a long time. So for that alone, I think it’s worth reading if you are into epic fantasy. But there are things I really hate about the series, and after this book in particular, I’m ready to put the series down for awhile, maybe forever.

I think Jordan is great with action sequences, but I think he’s terrible with the more mundane parts of the story. It also really bugs me how insecure all the main characters are. And I don’t think he writes women well, or the man/woman relationship. A Crown of Swords, especially, has the women acting shrewish, stubborn, argumentative, and mostly, as objects for the men.

I actually started this book several months ago, after I had binged the three preceding books in the series. But I had to put it down because it became too tedious for me to slog through. A Crown of Swords is the most political book of the series so far. And, like I said earlier, Jordan isn’t that great when it comes to the mundane part of the stories. I feel like he’s a little too wordy in this book, and he’s in the characters’ heads too much. Like most of the books in the series so far, the beginning is slow and kind of hard to slog through, and by the end of the book, as a woman, I was pretty offended by the portrayal of all the female characters throughout.

I want to finish the series, but only because Brandon Sanderson is the co-author of the last three books in the series, and I think Brandon Sanderson is the best epic fantasy author on the market right now. But I don’t know if I’m going to make it that far.

Language: None
Sex: None (although it is alluded to, perhaps more in this book than in previous books)
Violence: Mild

You may also likeThe Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson; Pawn of Prophecy, by David Eddings; The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss