01) Hamilton: The Revolution

By: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Date Finished: 01.04.17

by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

This is a book for the fans. If you haven’t listened to the soundtrack yet, please don’t cheat yourself. Read less. Listen more.*

I wasn’t sure if the content was more about the show or the man — frankly, I would have devoured either way — but I was pleased to find that it’s almost exclusively a history of the musical and its creators. There plenty of biographies that cover the life of Alexander (one by Ron Chernow comes to mind…) and this book is for the fans.

There are two authors. Jeremey McCarter wrote the prose sections, the three or four pages that discuss the process from inception to Broadway, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, of course, wrote the lyrics (which are published in full). Fortunately for us, Miranda also provided commentary in the margins of every song. As for McCarter, his pace is perfect; the emotional journey of the show’s creation matches the emotional journey of the show almost beat for beat. Each chapter also focuses on a specific person (director, choreographer, actor, etc.) involved in creating the show. These vignettes are masterfully curated with each subject resting in their featured chapter like Goldilocks lying in Baby Bear’s bed. The resulting mix is flawless — an objective narrative from someone who was peripherally involved and a delightful stream of consciousness from the maestro himself.

I wonder (and I’d be interested to hear) what the book is like for someone who’s not a theatre professional. It’s easy for me to envision the room where it happened** because I spend most of my time in such rooms. (At one point, the commentary mentioned a complex calling sequence for the stage manager and I instinctively starting saying, “GO” at the end of every line.) As a theatre artist, this book was both encouraging and inspiring.

For those of you who haven’t gone off the Hamilton deep end yet, let me assure you that the show lives up to the hype. I beg you to listen; however, I encourage to do so in your time. Set aside an evening so that you can hear it in one sitting; it’s much more emotionally damaging, er, moving that way. The book will be here for you when you’re ready.

At the end of the day: For me

*I couldn’t resist poorly adjusting this quote for my own purposes. It is, of course, very unfair of me to use a show quote when addressing the people who don’t know the show but it’s staying.

**Another show quote. This one’s far more legitimate.

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Dusting The Shelves

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Hello. My name is Chanis and it has been 659 days since my last post.

There are plenty of reasons and excuses I can give for my long silence but the simplest is this: the stress outweighed the joy.

I’ve had moments of missing the blog but lately it’s been more than that. I’ve been craving the blog. The start of a new year seems as good a time as any to wipe the dust off the old Bookjacket and crack it open again. So. Here goes.

A (RE)INTRODUCTION
This started with a challenge to read a certain number of new books in a year and a desire to keep track of my first impressions of a book. After a year or two, I found that mixing old books in with the new was a more effective method of meeting my goal. Which is to say: anything goes, really!

Check out the About page for more details about the history/purpose of this blog. There’s a Ratings page which is a comprehensive list of every book I’ve talked about on the site based on how much cash I’d shell out to keep those books in (or out of) my life.

There is also a page called My Shelves. At the time I thought it would be a good way to acquaint people to the kind of books I favor. It may have been a swell idea but the execution of said idea was horribly ill-conceived. I saved pictures of every book cover, put them in alphabetical order (by author and then by title except that books within a series were kept in story order), made collages, AND gave them matching backgrounds. Well done, Past Chanis. There is no way I’m keeping up with all that.

A LOOK AHEAD
So what’s in store for 2017?

The numerical goal: 26 books
The personal goal: To read all the books I own but haven’t read
The blog goals: To post within a week of finishing a book & to keep the posts simple

I expect there will be a high volume of middle grade novels in the mix this year due to a new book club at work. I like variety in the abstract but it requires a lot of upkeep.

A LOOK BEHIND
I have decided to list all the books I read during my absence and give them each a three(ish) sentence review. Because I can. It will make this post excessively long but if you continue, well, you know what you’re getting into.

2015
Going Bovine by Libba Bray: A mix of Holden Caulfield, Percy Jackson, and probably Don Quixote. Not every book is for every person and this book is 0% for me. I cringe to admit that Going Bovine reminded me of Percy Jackson because Percy Jackson is completely relevant to my interests and Going Bovine is 0% for me.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: AHHHHHH I SO LOVED THIS BOOK! I’m pretty sure I have a post written about it because it was so completely, amazingly, gratifyingly good. E. Lockhart is brilliant, this book is brilliant, and nearly two years later I still like to sit and think about how brilliant this book is.

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale: The last book of the Princess Academy series. It is just as lovely and thoughtful and not-what-I-expected-but-totally-better-than-I-expected as the others. Princess Academy on its own is absolute magic; this is a very satisfying extension of that world.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh: If you want to laugh until you cry, are gasping for air, and your stomach aches even when the topic is depression, get this book immediately. You can also check out the Hyperbole and a Half blog — I do believe everything in the book is on the blog — but it is oddly thrilling to turn the brightly colored pages and to hug a physical object when you’re LITERALLY laughing out loud. This is for me and unless you’re physically sickened by swear words it’s probably for you, too.

Cinderella’s Shoes by Shonna Slayton: This is exactly the book you want after you’ve read Cinderella’s Dress. It delves more deeply into the story and lore of the original Cinderella and sends Kate across a post-war Europe. It’s beautiful and sad and full of magic and full of life.

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller: Yes, THAT Jason Segel. I read it because he came to my town for a book signing and it seemed like the thing to do. It’s a story that respects children, assumes that they can handle uncomfortable subjects, and although it’s not a feel-good book, the experience of reading this book felt very good. I would recommend it for pretty much anyone.

Sideways Stories From Wayside School, Wayside School Is Falling Down, and Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger by Louis Sachar: I re-read these because I worked on the play and I remembered loving these books as a kid. They are stranger, darker, and far more brilliant than I remembered.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor: The novel to accompany the genius and bizarre podcast. This was my first audio book experience because Cecil Baldwin (the voice of Night Vale) did the narration and it seemed appropriate to listen rather than read. I enjoyed it but don’t know how well it reads for someone who’s not already a fan of the podcast.

Frog and Toad Are Friends, Frog and Toad Togetherand Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel: Again, I re-read these because I worked on the show and had fond childhood memories of the stories. My remembrance of these books was quite different from reality. The stories are completely lovely even if my memory was inaccurate.

Winter by Marissa Meyer: The last book of the Lunar Chronicles — and the only time I ever looked forward to winter. I made a weekend out of this; reading it late into the night, sleeping for a bit, and then reading until I finished. It’s a good book and a great conclusion to the series but there’s not enough Cress and Thorne.

The Princess in Black and The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale: I bought the first book for my niece, found out she already owned it, and decided not to return it. I sent the second book to my niece but I had to read it before wrapping it. A fabulous series for young/reluctant readers.

2016
Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath by Scott Westerfeld: This series was actually the subject of my very first post (read it here). This time around I listened to the audio books which are narrated by Alan Cumming. How do you make a flawless series even better? Alan. Cumming.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab: And this is the book that introduced me to the magic comes from V.E./Victoria Schwab. When she conceived this book, she asked herself, “Can I take two villains and make you root for one of them?” The answer is YES.

Paper Towns by John Green: Believe it or not, this was my first John Green novel. I enjoyed the Paper Towns movie more than the Fault in Our Stars movie (*dodges thrown objects*) and so this was the book I chose to read. There is a line that says something like, “It is a treacherous thing to see a person as more than a person” which I’ve almost certainly misquoted but the sentiment resonates deeply with me.

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab: These books cemented my Schwab obsession. It was a slowish start for me as I adjusted to the style of ADSOM but ultimately, this series is probably better than Vicious. I recommend reading Vicious first so that you can properly appreciate how brilliant it is and then move onto ADSOM so that you can marvel in the increasing genius.

The Islands at the End of the World and The Girl at the Center of the World by Austin Aslan: These are by a local author and I finally got around to reading them. They are far more doomsday than I usually read or watch so it took a while to get used to the style and the construct. I did enjoy the stories though and plan to read his next books more promptly.

The Chronicles of Narnia (all except The Last Battle) by C.S. Lewis: I’ve read each of these multiple times but I recently discovered that there’s a set of audio books narrated by Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, and the like. The narration is as wonderful as it sounds but, with all due love and admiration for Patrick Stewart, it’s difficult to get past the opening of The Last Battle and I abandoned ship. Traditionally The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite but I found the audio of The Magician’s Nephew to be the most compelling.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale: I need an emoji for this — one that I’m not sure exists — with gritted teeth and Xed out eyes. I read it on an overnight flight and that may be the only reason I finished it. Guys, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger Shannon Hale fan but this book made absolutely no sense to me (and, when combined with travel delirium, it made the Seattle airport super creepy).

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti: This is the book I read on the flight home. It was interesting and I’m glad I read  it but it’s nowhere near the genius of the Leviathan series. The sequel (Swarm) came out recently and it’s on my to-read but not necessarily my to-buy list.

Thanks for reading! The irregularly scheduled programming will start soon!

4) The Shadow Cabinet

Book Three of The Shades of London

By: Maureen Johnson

Date Finished: 02.22.15

by Maureen Johnson

 Busted by a girl and her trusty bicycle. Well played, MI-5.

Rory’s world is crumbling fast, and the only protection she has is in lying low. She is whisked away to a safe house and allowed no contact with her family and friends who think she’s a missing person. But Rory isn’t the sort to sit still for, well, any length of time when people she cares about are in danger. She will take on secret societies, death cults, and covert government agencies to get back the people she’s lost.

My love for this series has been proclaimed twice on this blog and does not falter with this latest installment. The Name of the Star remains my favorite while The Madness Underneath is a fascinating look at the aftermath of a trauma… all leading to even greater trauma in The Shadow Cabinet. This one is by far the grittiest of the three, but doesn’t neglect Rory’s Southern sass (or the wonderfully entertaining tales of her crazy Louisiana relatives). Which is important. The book is well-balanced with new characters to fall in love with or to fear, old characters to have feelings about on a deeper level, and another blasted cliffhanger. Something big is coming. And I hate waiting.

IF YOU ARE MAUREEN JOHNSON, SKIP THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH:
But ultimately, I prefer to have these books in my life than wait for the complete set. This way I get to remember the many great moments as I wallow in impatience.

IF YOU ARE MAUREEN JOHNSON, CONTINUE READING FROM HERE:
This series is brilliant. All three books are masterpieces of pace, wit, danger, and surprises. They’ve made me scream at the printed page, laugh out loud (in embarrassingly public places), and cry. And I am devastated that I can’t have it all right now. I would totally read an 800 page Shadow Cabinet if it wrapped everything up.

If you start this series (and you really should), let me draw your attention to an additional Shades of London story called The Boy in the Smoke which gives an account of how Stephen gained his ability and started working in London. Stephen is one of my Favorite Fictional Dudes of All Time, and The Boy in the Smoke is a beautiful read. I suggest reading it either before or after The Madness Underneath (it would spoil part of The Name of the Star and part of The Shadow Cabinet wouldn’t make as much sense without it). It’s available for free here.

P.S. I pre-ordered this book, so it came with these awesome stickers. All of which apply.

Shadow Cabinet stickers

At the end of the day: Really, really for me

3) Fairest

Prequel to the Lunar Chronicles

By: Marissa Meyer

Date Finished: 02.09.15

by Marissa Meyer

Princess Levana has grown up in the shadow of her sadistic older sister, Channary, and is the constant target of Channary’s cruelty. A good-natured palace guard is the only person to show her any sort of kindness. Though he is married and devoted to his family, what could his courtesy mean if not love? Levana relentlessly pursues him, demanding the love she’s never known.

Fairest is part of the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress with Winter to be published later this year) that tells the backstory of the series’ evil queen. The previously published books contain a few chapters from Levana’s point of view, but this is all Levana all the time. The chapters in Scarlet and Cress sparked my interest and so I was ecstatic when Meyer announced that she would publish an entire book that told Levana’s story. I waited with bated breath for the volume that would show Levana as a misunderstood young soul before her transformation into power hungry evil queen. Which isn’t Fairest. Belatedly, I read in article in which Meyer explains that Fairest is meant to let the reader understand Levana’s journey and not necessarily to make her a sympathetic character. Mission accomplished.

It’s a bit of a harrowing read, truth be told. The book is a rather up close look into madness and brokenness. Levana’s experience of love has been so twisted that her expression of it is hostile and poisonous.  I want to believe that kind of abuse is exaggerated, but I know it’s a reality for too many people. And the entire book is spent inside a madwoman’s mind who believes she is completely justified, even wise. This is not your fluffy fairy tale or a cute twist on the classic villain. Levana is a seriously unsettling adversary, and she started young.

So where does Fairest fit into the rest of the Lunar Chronicles? Chronologically, it’s at the beginning, but I would recommend reading it after Cress as it was released. That way the surprises of the first three are still surprises and you have Winter to look forward to. And, hopefully, this story will make Winter even more satisfying. It’s the hardest of the series to read – not that it’s dull or plodding, rather it’s heartbreaking – but I’m glad Meyer was able to publish it. Levana is a major player in the Lunar Chronicles and her story set the entire series into motion. I very much look forward to re-reading the original three books armed with the information revealed in this book.

At the end of the day: For me (in context)

2) Fangirl

By: Rainbow Rowell

Date Finished: 01.16.15

by Rainbow Rowell

While most teenagers look forward to their independence, Cath dreads going to college, especially after her twin sister, Wren, says that she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is uncomfortable with change and uncertainty — more so than most people — and so she retreats to a world that she knows intimately, the world of Simon Snow. The Simon Snow book series started when Cath and Wren were kids, not long after their mom left. It became a cultural hit, and both Cath and Wren grew up as devoted fans. They wrote Simon Snow fanfiction together until Wren moved on to other things, but Cath didn’t give it up. And even when the new rhythms and influences of college life wrap around Cath, she can’t bear to let go of Simon.

This book is the real deal. It’s a celebration of life in all its messiness and of fiction in all its iterations. Rowell paints a positive picture of fanfiction and fangirling, but doesn’t let Cath off the hook for burying herself in Simon’s world at the expense of the real one. There is a time for fiction, and a time for living; this book covers both.

I really enjoyed the experience of reading this book because I had no idea how things were going to play out. I could guess where some of the threads were going, but Cath, despite her aversion to change, was rather unpredictable. She didn’t respond to every trigger, but when she did engage, she committed completely. I liked that about her. But she made me nervous too, when she ignored the good things in her life. It was difficult to watch Cath’s world crumble, but it was that much more satisfying to see her rebuild. I was always rooting for her.

The book is divided into two parts — the fall semester where Cath is almost paralyzed by discomfort and the spring semester where she really begins to grow. While Cath’s transformation is gradual throughout the course of the book, there is a distinctive shift in tone for the second part. The spring is more hopeful, and, in a way, more active. Between each chapter, Rowell includes snippets of Simon Snow stories — never more than a page. Some vignettes are from the Simon Snow books and some are from the fanfiction that Cath (with or without Wren) wrote. I enjoyed this feature at the beginning because it gave more context to what Cath was obsessing over (Rowell also helped give context by starting the book with a fake Wikipedia article on the Simon Snow series). Further into the book, the snapshots started to feel repetitive since they were too short to give much information. Even though these scenelettes lost their potency as the book went on, I was still grateful to have them.

All in all, it’s a fascinating read. Rowell doesn’t hold back from the pain in these characters’ lives, yet the story is always hopeful. Consider me a fan.

At the end of the day: Really for me

1) House of Ivy and Sorrow

By: Natalie Whipple

Date Finished: 01.13.15

by Natalie Whipple

Josephine Hemlock lost her mother when she was young to a curse that had followed their family for generations. Several witching families suffered from the same threat, but with her mother’s death, Josephine and her Nana are all that remains of the Hemlock bloodline. They live a pretty quiet and normal existence, all things considered, until a man shows up at their door — a door that he shouldn’t even be able to find. Although he means them no harm, he carries with him the darkness that they have been running from for decades. It’s the end of the line for Josephine: either fight or succumb to the curse. There’s nowhere left to run.

This was my first Natalie Whipple book, and even though it technically falls in my preferred genre, it’s a slightly different flavor of YA fantasy than I’m used to. The witches in this world are your traditional Halloween fare — potion-brewing, black-cat-owning, and loudly-cackling. But their type of magic doesn’t come cheaply. The bigger the magic, the bigger the cost (the more serious the magic, the more seriously disgusting the cost — like, cover-your-eyes-so-you-can’t-see-what’s-happening-but-it-doesn’t-work-because-it’s-a-book-and-not-TV-cost). (Okay, so yes, one of the scenes included a personal horror, and yes, it was completely scarring, but I liked the rest of the book. And it only made me squirm because it was so realistic, so at least that’s good writing, right? Right?) The point is, this magic isn’t a simple superpower; this magic requires intelligence, precision, and personal sacrifice. I respect that.

It has a great mixture of characters, from Josephine who is a worthy leading lady and pretty great at thinking on her feet to her eccentric and protective Nana. Her friends are a great match, funny and passionate and every much as protective of Josephine as she is of them. The relationships feel very natural and they all play a role in the final showdown. It even had one of those characters that could be either a devious villain or a surly anti-hero. Granted, Josephine was pretty hard on him, so I saw more of the ambiguity than she did. I don’t blame her for thinking the worst of him though when he was remarkably gifted at being creepy and saying the exact wrong thing. Better safe than coughing up black blood.

There’s not a lot of glitz in the storytelling — it’s a book that knows what it wants to say, and just says it. I don’t mean that the writing is bland; on the contrary, the writing has momentum. Even in the quiet moments, the story is always going somewhere. It’s a promising start to a new year of reading, that’s for sure.

At the end of the day: For me

2014 Year in Review

Three years completed and it just gets keeps getting better. I surpassed my goal for the first time, ending the year with an even 30. Yay! Mixing in the re-reads definitely helped — they cleansed the palate after heavier reads and allowed me to keep up momentum. Plus, I enjoyed reacquainting myself with these past favorites.

So, statistics:

*22 new books
*8 re-reads
*11 new authors

There weren’t any resounding disasters among this year’s books — the ones that didn’t suit my taste were impeccably written. Here’s a rundown of the more dazzling discoveries:

*Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein broke my heart in all the best ways. It’s probably the purest historical fiction I’ve ever read and devastatingly beautiful.

*Unnatural Creatures, the short story collection curated by Neil Gaiman, proved to be entirely magical. Despite the numerous authors and settings, the spirit of the book remained cohesive.

*Shannon Hale’s Dangerous defied the boundaries of genre to create an absolutely thrilling contemporary-superhero-sci-fi.

*The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress) by Marissa Meyer blew my mind. The characters, the world-building, and the sneakily logical use of fairy tale elements all combined in a deeply complex and connected manner. Cress in particular was a marvel and a delight.

*Shonna Slayton’s Cinderella’s Dress was a lovely debut novel that blended historical fiction with fairy tale. I hope there are many more books to come.

*E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars was an off-the-beaten path gem. I found it absolutely compelling, and could use more of this type on my reading list.

*I fell head-over-heels in love with Bridget Zinn’s Poison for its charm, wit, and levity.

*Kiersten White’s Illusions of Fate captured my heart with its brilliant characters and complete fearlessness. I will quickly snatch up her subsequent novels.

This year I added a rating system which is, at least in my brain, more quantifiable than the standard one to five stars. Technically, it is as arbitrary and subjective as anything else, but it eliminates gray area by asking how much would I be willing to invest in each title? Would I buy the full-price hardcover, new paperback, discounted e-book, borrow it from the library, or just walk on by? This list is a good place to get an at-a-glance look at my recommendations.

So, what’s in store for 2015? Well, since I breezed past my goal, I suppose it’s time to raise the bar. Next year, I’m aiming for 35 books, and will still keep it a mix of new and old. Four of the series I love get new books within a six week period so prepare yourself for some sequels, especially early in the year. I will probably keep exploring the work of authors I discovered this year, but will try to keep adding new authors. Although my to-read list is pretty long, I always welcome suggestions! Chime in if you have any requests 🙂

May your new year be full of grand adventures!

30) Illusions of Fate

By: Kiersten White

Date Finished: 12.27.14

by Kiersten White

“I saved my own life. You are simply keeping me company on this leg of my escape.”

Jessamin left her home in search of a better education. As a dark-skinned islander, Jessa is hated by her professors and her peers, but she overrides their derision with hard work. A chance encounter a young lord sends Jessa headlong into a dangerous world of politics and magic. She doesn’t have the resources compete on their level, but she has her wit and she’s never been one to resign herself to fate.

Can I just say this was the perfect book to wrap up the year? I read it in a single day because it was just so delectable. When I finished, I very nearly started it over. This is not a common impulse — I understood why my sister read Dangerous twice in a row and would have been happy to do so as well, but the feeling was much stronger with this one. Many of the early scenes will have a very different color on the next read, and I can hardly contain myself until I see just how significant those seemingly benign encounters are.

There is so much to love about the characters. Jessa is at every disadvantage — she’s a young woman, a despised foreigner, nearly impoverished, and cannot perform magic no matter how much she studies it — and yet she insists on holding her own against those far more powerful than her. Despite being fiercely independent, Jessa cares deeply about her friends and will do anything to protect them. She is complex, delightful, and definitely someone you want to root for. The wealthy Finn certainly redeems the corruption within the upper classes with his pure goodness. He has his moments of arrogance (although many of these are good intentions misinterpreted by our dear narrator, Jessa) but he unequivocally uses his power for good and not evil. He’s smart, kind, awkward, and a little bit cheeky. So basically, he complements Jessa perfectly.

And then there’s Eleanor. Truly, she is one of the most enjoyable characters to grace the printed page. She’s a shameless gossip, apparent airhead, and absolute mastermind. I liked her instantly (I briefly worried that she would play just a passing role in the story; White did not disappoint, thankfully) but even I didn’t realize how brilliant she was until late in the book. Every sentence pertaining to Eleanor made me love her more. Now for the bad guy: he is utterly vicious. White doesn’t shy away from putting her lead in mortal peril, and it pays off so well. The stakes are high from the beginning, and while Jessa’s victory is relatively simple, it is hard-earned.

Much of this book is reminiscent of Howl’s Moving Castle  — sometimes in very obvious ways — but White works her own magic using these familiar elements. While this story is distinct in many ways, like Howl’s Moving Castle I can recommend it as representative of my tastes. I can recommend it as nothing short of sheer brilliance. The only thing I don’t suggest is reading this book right before you visit a place heavily populated with ravens. Freaky.

At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me

29) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

By: Mark Haddon

Re-read Finished: 12.18.14

by Mark Haddon

Someone has killed the neighbor’s dog, and Christopher Boone has decided to solve the mystery. He writes down what he learns as a book, but the search for Wellington’s killer leads Christopher to uncover dark secrets within his own family.

The word is never used in the book, but it is clear that Christopher is autistic. As the narrator of the story, Christopher’s worldview is not the least bit extraordinary to him. He understands that others see the world differently than him, but he is his own normal. And that is why the book works so well: it is told with the utmost sincerity.

I first read this for an English class my senior year in college. Many of the other students were thrown off by the unconventional storytelling such as the chapters being numbered with prime numbers and numerous vignettes that seemed like digressions instead of linear plot. I was delighted by these idiosyncrasies (and still am). Ultimately, all the pieces fit together and not a single sentence was out of place. Christopher explains why the chapters follow the sequence of prime numbers rather than numerals, and it’s brilliant. It makes every detail of the book, even the commonplace elements, an extension of Christopher’s character. Once you embrace the quirks of the story, it will take no effort at all to slip into Christopher’s mind, and only after you step back to consider the book as a whole will you see Haddon’s hand.

28) The Hero and the Crown

By: Robin McKinley

Re-read Finished: 12.02.14

by Robin McKinley

She was wry and funny even when she could barely speak,
and loved best 
to find things to be enthusiastic about.

Aerin is the daughter of the king, yet she feels like an outsider in the land she loves. Her isolation is perpetuated by the rumor that her mother was a witchwoman from the land of demons, and Aerin’s own insufficiency in wielding the magic all royals possess. When Aerin discovers a recipe for a fire-repelling salve called kenet, she decides to take her future into her own hands by fighting dragons. This is not an honorable occupation for the daughter of a king — even a daughter of dubious origins — but with demon-induced trouble stirring, Aerin is exactly the hero her country needs.

I’ve mentioned this book several times, and now it finally gets a post of its own. This time through, I read it slowly and analytically, looking for just why I love it so much.

Here is my conclusion: this book is magic.

I can’t quite put it into words, but I do understand why it resonated with me when I first read it in eighth grade. I understand why it keeps drawing me back. I understand some of the ways it has influenced me, as a human and in my writing. And it has been very influential in ways both conscious and unconscious.

My devotion for this book is unwavering, but I struggle to put it into words. I’m reminded of a passage in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my favorite of the Narnia series) where Lucy is sent to find a particular spell in the book of a feared magician. Among the many interesting things Lucy finds in the book, the most delightful is a story that quickly fades from her memory. Even though Lucy cannot remember the details of the story, she remembers the impression it made. The narrator concludes, “Ever since that day, what Lucy means by a good story is a story that reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book.” The Hero and the Crown is what I would read in the Magician’s Book. It is, to me, the quintessential Robin McKinley with its non-traditional heroine, its exquisite language, and its captivating story. Aerin is the gold standard of leading ladies, and I must see something of Aerin in a female character if I am to support her (and I prefer to see something of Tor in the males). Everything I hope to see in a story — be it the most respected literary fiction or a baby’s board book — can be traced back to this book in some form.