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Among Others Hardcover – January 18, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. World Fantasy Award–winner Walton (Tooth and Claw) turns the magical boarding school story inside out in this compelling coming-of-age tale. Welsh teen Morwenna was badly hurt, and her twin sister killed, when the two foiled their abusive mother's spell work. Seeking refuge with a father she barely knows in England, Mori is shunted off to a grim boarding school. Mori works a spell to find kindred souls and soon meets a welcoming group of science fiction readers, but she can feel her mother looking for her, and this time Mori won't be able to escape. Walton beautifully captures the outsider's yearning in Mori's earthy and thoughtful journal entries: "It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books." Never deigning to transcend the genre to which it is clearly a love letter, this outstanding (and entirely teen-appropriate) tale draws its strength from a solid foundation of sense-of-wonder and what-if. (Jan.)
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With a deft hand and a blazing imagination, fantasy writer Walton mixes genres to great effect. Elements of fantasy, science fiction, and coming-of-age novels combine into one superlative literary package that will appeal to a variety of readers across age levels. After engaging in a classic good-magic-versus-bad-magic battle with her mother that fatally wounds her twin sister, 15-year-old Morwenna leaves Wales and attempts to reconnect with her estranged father. She was sent to boarding school in England, and her riveting backstory unfolds gradually as she records her thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a series of journal entries. An ominous sense of disquiet permeates the nonlinear plot as Morwenna attempts to avoid a final clash with her mother. In addition to casting an irresistible narrative spell, Walton also pays tribute to a host of science-fiction masters as she peppers Morwenna’s journal with the titles of the novels she devours in her book-fueled quest for self-discovery. --Margaret Flanagan
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I wish that instead of giving a "shout out" to every science fiction book and author she'd ever read, that Jo Walton had concentrated on the story of the main character, her early childhood, her interaction with the fairies, her confrontation with the forces of evil, her dealing with the loss of her twin. I wanted to know more about the story of her life, not every book she ever read. Instead of being a part of the story, the bibliography took over and became the story.
Every time it would start to get interesting again, she'd go right back into listing book after book after book. I realize this was the way the main character dealt with her losses and the way she connected to her new "karass," but it just got tedious after awhile. If one were to snip out all the mentions of books and authors and include just the plot elements, this might have made an almost interesting short story, perhaps a novella. If one were to replace all the mentions of books and authors with details about her early life and her battles against the forces of evil, it would have made it the awesome book I was expecting.
I was so disappointed! She could have let us know the importance of books to her story without turning the whole book into a bibliography. In fact, I wish there had been an actual bibliography at the end listing all the books the main character liked.
In the end, I still enjoyed the book I read, but I longed for the book I thought I was going to read.