Thursday, 21 March 2013

Once Upon A Time VII


As I sit here watching the snow gently falling outside my window, with layer upon layer of woollies and the heater switched back on, it is time to think summer-y thoughts of One Upon a Time VII. Our wintry conditions are fairly half-hearted compared to those I know some people are still enduring, and at least there's the odd crocus in the garden now, but my thoughts are still tending towards what I think of as winter books - ghost stories and dark mysteries -- rather than those of faerie which is somehow intrinsically linked for me with summer. For me, the Summer Isles off the coast of Scotland, and Tir-nan-Og, the land beyond the setting sun, are one and the same place. They probably encompass Hy Brasil as well. (Please note, this is my personal mythology - no good telling me I've got it all wrong.)

So my reading for Carl's challenge this year is going to be a bit of a mix of light and dark. The sweetly pretty depictions of the lands of faerie always seemed wrong to me anyway, as though the people who drew them had already partaken of fairy fruit, so that there was a glamour over their eyes. Fortunately, many writers and artists seem to be wise to their guiles. And here in the English-Scottish border country you can't help feeling that, at the end of one of those little lanes that often turn into farm tracks, you might just happen upon the village of Wall, the setting for the start of Neil Gaiman's Stardust. Carl is holding a read-along of Stardust alongside OUaT7, and I'm hoping to join in -- it's a lovely book and I'd been thinking for some time about re-reading it.

That's the only absolutely fixed plan, but I have a pool of books to dip into as I feel inclined, and bearing in mind my aim of completing Quest the Second, which calls for reading a book for each of the challenge's four categories: fantasy, folklore, fairytales and mythology. Not long ago I read Lev Grossman's The Magician King and liked it enough to want to read the book that precedes it, The Magicians, if the library will oblige. I've been saving The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones for a special occasion - that will be for towards the end of the challenge, when I've promised myself a bit of gardening leave, a couple of weeks to dig flowerbeds, paint the bathroom (finally!) and contemplate the future. DWJ rarely disappoints.

More immediately, I've downloaded to Quoodle-the-Kindle two books by Phil Rickman, his foray into writing for young adults. The first is called Marco's Pendulum (also published under the nom-de-plume Thom Madley) and is follows one of his adult novels, The Chalice (hope I'm going to remember what happens in that one!). It's a Glastonbury-and-the-Grail book and I'm sure I've said before how much I like Arthurian legends. I have high hopes and may even start it tonight. The sequel is called Marco and the Blade of Night. If more darkness is called for I have all of Rickman's Merrily Watkins books on Quoodle now (although those will undoubtedly last me until this year's R.I.P.), and also his two historical creepies about Dr John Dee.

This year I'm adding an extra element for myself -- an audiobook. I know lots of people just count that as reading but I've always been a purist. In fact, I've only taken to them at all recently, as the result of insomnia, where they work fairly well, so I'm always backtracking to where I can remember before I fell asleep. Because of this, I rather like books that I've previously read (it's easier to find my place) and the next one on my wishlist is Good Omens, a joint venture by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.I also have The Once and Future King (T.H. White) and may start that too.

So, that's the plan. But no doubt I'll get sidetracked by amazing discoveries as people post their reviews, and/or not manage to post about all my reading, despite all my good intentions. One thing is certain, I'll enjoy myself, and wish everyone happy reading!






12 comments:

  1. Sounds like an excellent plan! I'm very curious about the Madley book -- Arthurian fiction hasn't historically been my thing, but I've never seen any reason why it shouldn't be.

    (The Once and Future King excepted. That book is amazing.)

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    1. Don't think it quite counts as Arthurian fiction, Jenny, as it's set in the present, but the graves of Arthur and Guinevere got a mention (only part way through so I don't know if that's significant).

      Have you read Mary Stewart's Merlin books (The Hollow Hills, The Crystal Cave...)? I think they sit well alongside The Once and Future King.

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  2. Oddly enough, I have The Magicians on my library pile... forgot all about it when I did my post but hope to read that for the challenge too. Must look into Phil Rickman's YA books. Have fun!

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    1. I'm enjoying Marco's Pendulum, Cath - not as scary as The Chalice so far (and yes, I find I am remembering the relevant bits of that as I read). The Magician King reminded me rather of The Fionavar Tapestry.

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  3. What a beautiful post! Between this and Carl's always-lovely launch post, I am feeling very eager to go dancing away through fantasies and fairy lands. Sounds like you have some good books lined up to start--I'm much the same way, with a VERY big pool to choose from, and the first several ready to start me off. Good Omens is a couple books down the row for me too.

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    1. This post and the one for R.I.P. are the most fun to write every year, I'm so full of anticipation and eagerness. Good Omens is wonderful!

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  4. The Once and Future King! I've been meaning to read that for years, I have it on my shelf. I'm not sure why I haven't, I think because I think of it as a children's book. I do want to read it though, it's supposed to be very good. I have The Merlin Conspiracy on my shelf also! I'm not sure I will get to it for this year, I have so many lined up already for this challenge (like that ever stopped me anyway!). You have a wonderful list there, Geranium Cat. I did not know that Rickman was writing for children - must go look them up, and what two Dr Dee creepy historicals did he do?????? I'm in the mood for ghosties too, all this snow and cold (and we have a bit more tomorrow, and lots of cold continuing for another week) has got me feeling wintry still. I feel like you do, it seems! darn winter won't end.

    Happy reading, Geranium Cat!

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    1. The Once and Future King stops being a children's book (if it ever was) after The Sword in the Stone, though there is the most wonderfully funny passage in The Queen of Air and Darkness and there's always humour even in the most dreadfully dark bits. The last two books used to make me weep buckets, as a teenager I never knew which of the knights I was most in love with (maybe Gareth). Such a huge cast, and you feel you know them all. The closest I've come to the feeling of total immersion it gives me is probably Connie Willis's Doomsday Book (and I know you love that too!)

      Rickman's Dr Dee books are The Bones of Avalon and The Heresy of Dr Dee. I've read an extract from the first and think it's going to be excellent. And it's so cold here today, Rickman feels like perfect reading.

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  5. surprisingly (for ME) I read the Once and Future King trilogy long LONG ago and really liked it.. I am generally not a "king arthur" reader (do like him in movies though lol) I hope you enjoy all your books!!

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  6. I used to read every book I came across that had King Arthur in it! Now there are lots, so I don't, but I can still enjoy revisiting from time to time. I like non-fiction books which try to trace the story too., perhaps because I've lived in a number of places which have Arthur or Merlin connections.

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  7. I have heard so much about The Magicians, very mixed opinions I think? I can't quite decide if I want to read it or not. The Merlin Conspiracy is on my possible library loans and I think your mention and the comments above may just have persuaded me that I need to read The Once and Future King.

    Enjoy all your reading :)

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    1. Iris, I do think The Once and Future King is required reading, it's rather special. The Magicians isn't really in the same league at all, but it does fit into the relaxing read category.

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