Spec Fic: Coming of Age
The Book of Dark Days by Marcus Sedgwick. I admit, this was somewhat of an impulsive choice from the library–particularly since I have never heard of this author before–but sometimes, new finds can be quite serendipitous (the last male fantasy author I’ve encountered in similar circumstances was Garth Nix). What drew me to this book was the setting–during the last extra days of the year that didn’t fit neatly into the rest of the months–because I had used this plot device myself in a Nanowrimo novel. The Book of Dark Days takes place in a nameless European city where two orphans (Boy and Willow) accompany magician Valerian on his quest to find a book. Valerian believes the book will help save him from a demonic pact in which the deadline is at the end of the Dead Days. There are mysterious and dark scenes as Boy, Willow, and Valerian tramp through the decaying city–from a murder at the theater and a mortician animating bestial frankensteins to grave digging and underground canals. But the main questions are, just who is Boy and what is his role in the magician’s quest? The tone is dark for a young adult novel but while the characters themselves may seem a bit distant, it certainly isn’t lacking in any atmosphere.
A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Gypsum is the middle child of the extraordinary LaZelle family of Southern California. Unfortunately, where her brothers and sisters–not to mention her mother and other family members–are able to wield impressive magical talents, Gypsum failed to go through “Transition” when she hit adolescence and must content herself to being normal and magic-less like her father. But then at twenty while the rest of her family is on vacation, Gypsum undergoes a violent Transition and develops the dangerous talent for cursing. Things become hilariously funny as Gypsum tries to control her own powers, interact with her close-knit family, and prevent the curses from wreaking havoc with everything around her. Hoffman has written a lovely book which is not only about a young woman’s literal Transition but an emotional and maturing one as well.