I’ve complained in the past that I’m tired of female Victorian/Regency protagonists who have no real goal other than to be non-gender-conforming. So I went back and reread Patricia C. Wrede’s MAIRELON THE MAGICIAN because I’d remembered it as a good Regency fantasy, and I was correct. The protagonist Kim is a street thief uncomfortably aware she’s getting too old to pass as a boy when she stumbles into a partnership with the title stage magician, who’s actually a real “frogmaker” happy to have the thief’s assistance in recovering a mysterious McGuffin. This is on the farcical side—one attempt to reclaim the McGuffin is befouled by half a dozen burglars all trying for it—but fun as such.
The sequel, MAGICIAN AND WARD, is less humorous as Mairelon and Kim (now, obviously, his ward) investigate the strange techniques of a magician intent on stealing an old diary from Mairelon’s library while Kim endures the agonies of life in society as a young woman having her season (and beginning to notice how Obnoxious and Irritating she finds her guardian). Kim’s a strong enough character and Wrede a good enough writer that I didn’t flinch at her coping with society, which says a lot for the book.
THE LITTLE WHITE HORSE is such a remarkably sweet children’s book I wonder if author Elizabeth Goudge wasn’t deliberately inverting the usual tropes, as the orphan heroine’s governess is loving and kind, her guardian adores her, the isolated county house is beautiful rather than sinister and the faithful dog is mostly in it for the food. Heavy on religion (atheism is a sign of an absolutely awful human being) and quite light on plot (as I noted earlier this week) but I found it charming nonetheless. I know JK Rowiing is an admirer but I wonder if Peter S. Beagle is too (not only a unicorn, but the imagery of horses among the waves). Way better than the movie.
SECOND SIGHT by David Williams was adapted quite well as Two Worlds of Jennie Logan, which didn’t change much except simplifying some plot points. This story of Jennie discovering she can slip back to the 1800s when she dons an old-style dress didn’t work for me—way too much nostalgia about how wonderful the past was, and a kind of reserved literary style that didn’t let me get into the story. But then again, the fact I already knew the plot didn’t help.
SILVER ON THE TREE is Susan Cooper’s excellent finalé to the Dark Is Rising series, in which Will, Bran, Merriman and the Drew Kids must go up against the resurrected Dark Rider and the White Rider (“Perhaps the Dark attracts extremes, like those blinded by the brilliance of their own ideals.”), traveling to Lyonesse and the Age of Arthur before the big showdown. Well done, but very much a Boy’s Own book—the Lady only gets a couple of scenes and Jen gets to be plucky without really doing anything—and I can’t see any reason either logically or dramatically for erasing everyone’s memories at the end. (All rights to cover with current holder)