Books, Grimm

Child’s Play

17.02.09 | Comment?

Ever feel like you’ve read every good book there is (that interests you)? If you’re looking for something new to read I’d like to commend the children’s fiction collection to you (remember children’s fiction?), after all, it is the home of Harry Potter. Here are some titles you may or may not have noticed.

Airman, by Eoin Colfer (the person responsible for Artemis Fowl). Airman has echoes of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Conor Broekhart was born in a hot air balloon and he’s got flying in his blood. This comes in useful when, through a series of really unfortunate events, he’s imprisoned in an island jail and must escape to clear his name and bring to light a dangerous political conspiracy. Set in the 1890s on the Saltee Islands (off the southern coast of Ireland).

book coverUn Lun Dun, by China Mieville. Two girls (Zanna and Deeba) stumble across UnLondon (if that isn’t a name for a dystopic alternate world I don’t know what is), where everything (and everyone) is like a broken version of London. UnLondon is under siege from a dangerous, toxic Smog (isn’t normal London too?) and Zanna and Deeba must help the UnLondoners defeat the Smog, but this is complicated by the small matter of what might happen to Deeba if everyone in London forgets she exists. At 520 pages this is a rather large tome.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud. Again, set aside some time: these are doorstop books. Bartimaeus, the titular character, is a 5,000 year old djinni (a sort of spirit). The books (being The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate) are set in an alternate world that, like other fantasy worlds (Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials world, Un Lun Dun, for example), draws on and resembles reality (past and present). Feeling tired just thinking about summarising more than 1,000 pages, I’ll let Wikipedia do it for me:

“As the books progress, three cycles become evident. The first and largest from the overarching plot line standpoint is the rise and fall of London as a world power. The second and third are more personal; the boy changing from the pitiful, yet noble, Nathaniel, to the power-hungry, arrogant John Mandrake and back again to the boy he was, and the third, involving Kitty and Bartimaeus, who restore each other’s faith in their races.”


book coverHouse of Many Ways, Diana Wynne Jones. If you’ve had the pleasure of reading Howl’s Moving Castle then this might interest you. It’s dubbed “sequel to…” in the same way as Castle in the Air was, but it isn’t really (a sequel), well not in the way that Howl fans might wish. But if you’re a Sophie fan, you’ll enjoy reading this; Charmain is much like Sophie, in that she’s quite plucky and forceful, and takes strange houses (with many ways, see) very much in her stride. Howl’s there, but in a twinkly sort of way (I don’t want to give too much away); he and Sophie have a couple of domestics which made me laugh.

Fly By Night, Frances Hardinge. Another novel set in a parallel world, this time 18th century England. Mandelion (a city) is ruled by Guilds, who are locked in a tense power struggle. Mosca Mye, an orphan, together with Eponymous Clent, a conman (an interesting pair), becomes involved in the dangerous machinations of the city. Frances Hardinge’s website explains:

“A born liar, Mosca lives by her wits in a world of highwaymen and smugglers, dangerously insane rulers in ludicrous wigs, secret agents and radical plotters. She is recruited as a spy by the fanatical Mabwick Toke, leader of the Guild of Stationers, who fears losing his control over the publication of every book in the state. Mosca’s activities reveal a plot to force a rule of terror on the Realm, and merry mayhem soon leads to murder…”

So there you go: check out some of these for a bit of a breather. Fly By Night and Airman are also available on CD.

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