Among Others, by Jo Walton

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Author’s website
Publication date – January 18, 2011

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled—and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Thoughts: There are few books that I can close and say with certainty that they have an assured place on my bookshelf for the foreseeable future. This was absolutely one of those books.

Among Others is the fantasy tale for realists, a story for storytellers, and a companion for those who were bibliophiles and loners through their childhoods. This is a book that not only makes you wish that it didn’t end so that you could keep on reading, but also makes you want to pick up every single other book mentioned within its pages so that you can read them all, too.

And believe me, there are a lot of them!

I loved how magic worked in this book. Not in big loud flashy ways but in all the subtle ways that make the world work, the ways that reach out and back and connect everything to everything else, and where the real trick is in believe it and knowing it for what it is.

That interconnectivity is what made this book truly amazing. We come in not at the beginning or end of a story, but somewhere in the middle, because the story is life. At times, it felt like a wonderful homage to all those who ever put down a story and wanted to know more about what happened later, because the bulk of the action, the powerful event that shaped lives, happened before Mori starts telling her tale in the first place. But there was still the connection to it. As was there also the connection of the end, the fall of Liz and the events surrounding it, to the very beginning when Mori dropped that first flower in the water and set magic in motion. It was gratifying to see that.

Also interesting was the way the story was told as though reading Mori’s diary. Which meant that in addition to the big events that you expect in fantasy, like magic and fairies and all the supernatural elements, you also get a focus on school and growing up and personal likes and dislikes. These things are just as important to the main character as they would be to anyone who can do magic and yet who still is forced to live in the real world, with all its mundane troubles and trials. A good balance was struck.

Ultimately, I think that anyone who passes over this book is going to sorely miss out, because what Walton does here is profound, powerful, and deeply affecting. More than just creating a good story, more than just making a character who can be related to, more than striking that balance between the mundane and the supernatural (or rather, the natural, if you want to look at it that way), all of these things combined to make something that I think is greater than the sum of its parts. This is truly a novel not to be missed.

(This novel was provided to me by H B Fenn, and arrived in my mailbox only a day before I found out the whole company shut down. How’s that for connectivity and coincidence!? Anyway, I did not pay for this novel, did not receive financial compensation for this review, and all opinions expressed are my own.)

8 comments on “Among Others, by Jo Walton

  1. Liked reading your review. I've had a note to look for this one at the library, so once I get through the current stack o'library books, I'll grab it. :)

  2. Wow, this sounds absolutely amazing. I'm curious at how the combination of magic and fantastical elements meshes so well with real life– either way, I'm going to find a copy of this right away.

    I love your new blog name! Bibliotropic is such a clever title, haha.

  3. Pingback: My Real Children, by Jo Walton | Bibliotropic

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