Jephthah & Inanna

Title: Ever
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Youth Fantasy/Mythology
Pages: 256
Rating: 3.5 of 5

Gail Carson Levine regularly passes the C. S. Lewis test of “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Even as an adult, I find her stories like Ella Enchanted (the book, NOT the movie!) and A Tale of Two Castles  to be charming and entertaining with strong, resourceful heroines. Ever is a little more mature and little less whimsical in tone, but I still enjoyed it overall.

Levine leaves behind her usual fairytale subject matter in favor of more historical and mythological elements. The plot riffs on an interesting combination of the biblical story of Jephthah’s rash vow (Judges 11:29-40) and Sumerian/Akkadian culture and mythology (especially Inanna/Ishtar’s descent to the underworld). Our main first person POV characters are are the Jephthah’s-daughter-equivalent and a young god of the winds.

The plotting veers a little toward the “and then this happened, and then the next thing happened for inscrutable reasons, and then something else happened just because, and then the convenient deus ex machina happened…” manner of ancient mythology. People expecting Levine’s usual style may find it a little off-putting or flat, but I think that it works well with the subject matter and is fairly interesting even if it isn’t quite as charming as usual.

Also, this is another book checked off my 2019 TBR Challenge!

Konfused

Title: The Other Side of Magik
Author: Michael Lingaard
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy (YA?)
Pages: 411
Rating: 2 of 5

I really wanted to like this book because it was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review (thank-you, by the way, to the author!). Unfortunately, there was a lot of it that I didn’t enjoy as it felt a bit amateurish.

I appreciate that this wasn’t just a ripoff of some better-known author’s work. Michael Lingaard definitely tried to craft his own world and storylines.  In “mirror world” they have well developed complex magic instead of physics, however there was no major divergence in history from our world until some crossover stuff in 1066 makes the Norman Invasion fail, and now in 2017 they have basically a magical steampunk society (and they use the letter K in place of C a lot). Kind of cool, but I’m not sure that the connection between those three main points is believable…they feel kind of mashed together. Even worse, the way that magic works or fails to work in our world or around people from our world (a major plot point) is either completely inconsistent or very confusingly explained throughout the book.

I really enjoyed the few non-human/semi-human characters in the book, but most of the characters are flat and unbelievable. For the most part they sound so similar that the frequent perspective shifts can take a few sentences to notice, and many of their emotional reactions just don’t ring true (e.g. hilarious laughter at a minor incongruity or barely batting an eye at discovering a doppelganger from a parallel world).

There were some odd formatting choices as well. Like the overuse of elipsis…
…like this.
…every few pages.
…for dramatic effect.

Overall, this author definitely has creativity, and if he improves his style and story cohesion I think he could write some really good stuff…it’s just not there yet.