Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist
Brandon Sanderson is known for his collaboration with Robert Jordan on the epic Wheel of Time fantasy series. Here he has created a new world and a new system of magic that should appeal to that other epic series, Harry Potter.

Joel is a young man who was not able to complete the all important ceremony that would let him know if he was a rithmatist or not. A rithmatist is able to use chalk to draw figures on the ground to defend or attack other rithmatists. At the beginning of each chapter is one of these shapes with an explanation of the theory behind it.  Joel is not a rithmatist but that doesn't stop him from knowing as much about the art as he can.  He sneaks into classes and reads everything he can get his hands on.  After he becomes friends with Melody, who is a rithmatist, he persuades her to let him into the restricted section of the library for even more in-depth books.  They have both been assigned to Professor Fitch for the summer - Melody needs to practice her drawing and Joel needs to assist on a special project tracking down graduates and determining if they are dead, living, or missing.

What is determined is that there have been disturbing disappearances of rithmatics and the two students become instrumental in learning what is going on.

This system of magic lacks the glamour and excitement that readers of Harry Potter are more familiar with. It may take time to appreciate this method of casting charms. We will have to see with the next installment of the series.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Love in the Time of Global Warming
Francesca Lia Block is known for her edgy stories loaded with amazingly different characters and settings. And this book doesn't fail to challenge the reader.

It is a relatively short book full of genetically modified giants, magic butterflies, a transgender teen, an evil scientist, and characters straight out of the Odyssey. It starts with the bright young Pen (Penelope) left alone after a huge flood takes away her family and most everything else in the world. She survives due to the foresight of her father who stocked the basement with water and food. 

Pen is attacked by some marauders but is helped by one of them who lets her escape in his fully stocked van. He tells her to look for her mother in Las Vegas. On her way she meets/rescues more young people who join her on her odyssey (pun intended).

I recommend this book to fans of magical surrealism, action, and the story of the Odyssey.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Saints and Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

As you can probably tell from the covers, these two books are companions. They take place at the same time and place and even overlap briefly. However, they are about very different people. They take place around 1900 in China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, a very violent and tumultuous time.

If one should be read first, I think it should be Saints. It is about Four-Girl, the fourth and only surviving daughter of a family in a small, poor village. Girls have traditionally held little value in Chinese families and it is not a surprise that she is attracted to the words of a priest who offers her a more worthwhile existence. Four-Girl has visions of Joan of Arc which give her courage to strike out on her own and leave her family.

Boxers is about Little Bao, the third son of a family in another poor village. A stranger named Red Lantern comes to their village and trains the young men in kung fu. Many of them leave to defend China against the foreigners and Bao follows. A huge fan of Chinese opera, he and his friends transform into gods and dead emperors when they go into battle. They go all the way to Peking (now called Bejing) before meeting their violent deaths.

I highly recommend these books to fans of graphic novels and historical fiction.