Friday, February 20, 2015

What we're reading: Classic Fantasy

Still "weeding" the young adult fiction collection, which is to say that I am looking up the number of times each teen book at the Central Library has checked out in the past few years, to decide whether it should stay (because it's well-loved) or go (because no one is appreciating it). The Magician of Hoad, by Margaret Mahy, is one of those with few check-outs, but…being the fantasy/sci fi maven that I am, and having liked others of Mahy's books, I took this one home to read first.

The description of the book on Goodreads is uncharacteristically brief:

A legend is born. Heriot has always known that he was different, with his terrifying dreams and psychic powers. Ripped from his family farm, he is forced to serve as the King's magician in the capital city of Diamond. Isolated and lonely, his only friends are the 'mad prince' Dysart and Cayley, a mysterious wild city child.

So I didn't really know what to expect, which is sometimes the best way to go into a book, right? My conclusion...

This is a wonderful book. With all the debates about high fantasy versus low fantasy and what makes something one or the other (with all the conflict about world-building and which world where and why), I can't decide where this would fit. The descriptions of the city of Diamond and the islands and the countryside do remind me of those in A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin--that level of high-flown romantic realism.

Its simplest description is that it's about a boy who becomes a magician through no conscious choice or knowledge of his own, and is acted upon by and acts upon people he never expected to meet in his life as a farmer: kings, princes, the life of a great city far removed from his bucolic beginnings living in a family tribe ruled by his great-great aunt.

But the thing I like about it is that although it is about people, and among those people are kings, heroes, magicians, warriors, nobles, and street rats...and that some of these end up being interchangeable, and all of them are important to the story...what it is also about, in the fine tradition of people like Ursula Le Guin and Patricia McKillip, is earth, water, air, the great world and how we are all connected to it, expressed by it, destined for it, contained by and yet made greater for it. If that sounds a bit mystical, it is; but it's also immensely practical and greatly satisfying.

And my favorite part? No Orc battles. Not one.  :-)

It's a keeper. Look for it!

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