Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotsen

Eva Ibbotsen has been a favorite of mine for a few years now, ever since I picked up a delightfully illustrated copy of "The Secret of Platform 13." I had not read something of hers for quite some time, until I spotted "The Star of Kazan" at the library last week. It's 400 pages long, set in pre-WWI Vienna, and mentions the Spanish Riding School (the Lippizaner horse training academy)...and it's a world of its own.

Ms. Ibbotsen has a great gift for clear pictures of her world. It's like looking at an impressionist painting, but looking closer, you can see tiny bits of detail...

She's fabulous. And The Star of Kazan was so lovely that after it was over I wanted to cry.

The Star of Kazan is about Home, and the story is woven delightfully like a fairytale.

It's a bit mystery, a bit historical fiction, and tinged with fantasy.

Highly recommended. 9.8/10 just because I wish she had ended it with an epilogue detailing certain characters' marriages to other certain characters...:)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I realized yesterday what was missing in the Percy Jackson series.

Great children's literature has a THEME.

Take Harry Potter for instance - if you asked me what HP was about, I'd say "It's a story about love, sacrifice, and death."

Same goes for Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles of Prydain, and every other great children's story - they all have a theme that brings the whole series together.

If I was asked what Percy Jackson was about, I'd have to say something like, "It's about a boy who finds out he's a demi-god and in the first book...and then in the second book..."

There are certainly hints of where the books could have gone - Percy could have been about growing up, or betrayal, or family, or what have you, but there isn't a unifying theme in the books.

Not that they're bad stories. Book II is loads of fun and I adore one of the newer characters. They're really good, solid stories.

But they aren't great children's literature.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Harry vs. Percy

I finished reading the first Percy Jackson book by Rick Riordan last night. (The Lightning Thief) While I thought some of the ideas were new and really (REALLY) isn't the next Harry Potter.

For one, he used first person to tell Percy's story. FIRST PERSON?! Please. 3rd person is the norm (am I right?) for children's fiction for a reason. Percy's story was stopping and starting and I had to keep reminding myself that Percy was young and not a late teen or even an adult.

I think third person would have been a better choice, for the above reasons. It would have moved the story further faster, and it would have kept the voice of the author, who can be however old they choose without confusing the age of the main character.

I applaud Rick Riordan's ideas and I'm going to give the second book a go, but honestly, I can't see what the hype is all about.

It's an...interesting story. Or at least, it has that potential. Time will tell if it continues and grows into something more epic.

I kind of wish Rick had picked another name besides "Half-Blood" for the demi-gods. (And what's wrong with demi-gods?) That's not original. Rowling made up words that ended up in our DICTIONARIES. That's revolutionary.

And I know, not everyone can be revolutionary. But there are quite a few things Rick could have done to make his books better - I mean, he's got the whole pantheon at his fingertips! RE. INVENT.

Slower editing might have helped him, which is why I'm so determined to let Violet's Monster: Volume I go through several, several, several drafts before it's even ready to see an agent, much less a publisher.

Even Rowling suffered from quick edits. (And Meyer DEFINITELY suffered from a severe lack of editorial eyes)

I guess what I'm really trying to say is:

Percy ain't no Harry.