Old Kingdom Series

Old Kingdom series books: Clariel, Lireal, Goldenhand, Sabrial, & AbhorsenNix, Garth. Sabriel. New York: Harper Trophy, 1995.
Nix, Garth. Lirael, Daughter of the Clayr. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.
Nix, Garth. Abhorsen. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
Nix, Garth. Clariel. New York: HarperCollins, 2014.
Nix, Garth. Goldenhand. New York: HarperCollins, 2016.

It has taken me a long time to figure out what to write about this series that wasn’t covered in other blogs.  I realized I couldn’t.  This is a wonderful series about strong women, who have choices to do what is right and uncomfortable or to forget about responsibility.  Sometimes is goes right and good prevails.  Sometimes it goes right and good prevails, but there isn’t a happy ending for everyone. Everyone works hard and there is sorrow and joy in equal measure, much like life.

This series could be considered tales of two countries: a country of magic and a country of technology.  These countries are separated by a mysterious Perimeter Wall.  South of the wall is Ancelstierre.  This is the land of technology.  Many in the southern part of this country don’t believe in magic.  North of the wall is the Old Kingdom.  It is a place of magic.  Some of it constrained in the Great Charter and some in Free Magic.  The Perimeter Wall between the two countries has an important purpose, to keep magic and the Dead out of Ancelstierre.  In the Old Kingdom, the Dead don’t stay dead.  Free magic sorcerers and necromancers use the Dead to do their bidding.  This causes problems for the living as The Dead crave life. It is the work of the Abhorsen to find and send the Dead back to the River of Death and through the Ninth Gate, where they are gone forever.  The Abhorsen, both Charter Mage and Necromancer, is the only Charter Mage who can use Free Magic and Charter Magic.  The Abhorsen and Free Magic necromancers use a set of seven bells to control the Dead and other creatures. The Abhorsen wields free magic bells and a charter magic marked sword in his/her work. At the beginning of their stories, Sabriel and Lirael are Abhorsens-in-Waiting.  Their books are coming of age stories about how they accepted their roles and strove to save both kingdoms.  I think Clariel’s story, a prequel to Sabriel, is a warning for what happens when a society becomes complacent and those with important responsibilities don’t accept them. All five of these are wonderful, compelling stories.  I am looking forward to the next installment in this series.

As noted earlier, writing about this series has been difficult. My impetus to write again is the news that my nephew and his wife are having a baby girl.  I have prepared my husband for the idea of creating another new library for a young relative.  I have more time to think about books for this little girl.  There are so many great girl protagonists in books: Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Jo of Little Women, and Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice.  I will start her books with these four heroines and I will add Sabriel.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read this series, please do so.  The long, hot days of summer are a great time for kicking back and reading something new.  Better yet, pour a glass of tea or lemonade and share these stories with a young person you know.

Garth Nix

I admire Garth Nix and have for many years.  For this series I wondered how he got the idea to use bells as a weapon.  As I was reading about him, someone else asked this question.  Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Tailors influenced him.  If I didn’t admire him before how could I resist?  Her Lord Peter Wimsey series of which The Nine Tailors is a part is one of my favorites.  In that story he learned that church bells had names and he went on to name the Abhorsen’s bells and describe their characteristics.

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The Dark Is Rising Sequence

DarkRising

  • Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1965.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Dark Is Rising. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1973.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Greenwitch. New York: Simon Pulse, 1974.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Grey King. New York: Simon Pulse, 1975.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Silver on the Tree.  New York: Simon Pulse, 1977.

Last year, I started out with a series based on Welsh mythology, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. I love stories based on myths and legends. While I was writing about that series, I thought about this one.  The Dark Is Rising Sequence is based on Arthurian legends with some other mythologies in the mix.  It is a sweeping tale of the final struggle of the light against the dark. It is an exciting, well written, high fantasy series.  It appears on several best fantasy series lists. Once I decided to write about this sequence, I had to locate the books. Unfortunately they aren’t carried in my local Barnes and Noble.  I had to scour my Half Price Book store to find them.  I consider it well worth the effort. These are excellently crafted books that carry you away to another place and time.

Susan Cooper received a Newberry Honor Medal for the Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.  I couldn’t write this summary of the entire sequence without giving you some spoilers so stop here, if that is a problem for you. Please take my word for it this is a wonderful adventure.  I know I didn’t read this when I was young, because I started with The Dark Is Rising, which was published in 1973 when I was busy in college. I must have discovered it when my oldest daughter did and again when my youngest daughter did.  We all loved it.

In the first story, Over Sea, Under Stone, we are introduced to the story of the struggle between the light and the dark for control of the world.  Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, ordinary, intrepid children, have their part to play in this struggle.  Theirs is the first quest.  During a trip to the Cornwall Coast, they are introduced to this struggle by their Great Uncle Merry.  They find an ancient map that leads to an important manuscript and to the grail.  These are crucial weapons for the Light’s fight against the dark.  They must find a hiding place that is over sea, and under stone.  How can they prevail when all their actions are scrutinized by agents of the dark?   Can these agents be outwitted?  There is intrigue, danger, and excitement in this book. Read along to see how they discern the clues needed to solve this puzzle.

We move on to the second book, The Dark Is Rising. This book provides the title for the entire series.  Here we meet Will Stanton, the last of the Old Ones.  Will is the seventh son, of a seventh son.  On his eleventh birthday, he discovers his special gifts and his great responsibilities (sounds a lot like Spiderman).  He  must learn from the mysterious Merriman Lyon all that it means to be an Old One.  What are his powers?  What are his gifts?  He learns about the final contest between the Light and the Dark.  His quest is to find the Six Magical Signs that will aid the Old Ones in the final battle.  Here is a book rich with myth, mystery, adventure, terror, and delight.  Does Will prevail? Who is the mysterious, Merriman Lyon?

After Will’s discovery of his heritage and of his quest, we move to book three of the sequence, The Greenwitch.  If you’ve read this far, you probably have figured out that both the Drew children and Will were successful in their quests.  It really isn’t spoiling the stories for you too much.  A lost of exciting things happen to these children in both books, making them excellent reads even if you know the outcome.  Susan Cooper can weave a spell around you.  In Greenwitch, Will and the Drew children meet.  Here we learn the prophecy which has guided them thus far and will do so through this book and the next.

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold;
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

Greenwitch opens with Simon, Jane, and Drew discovering that the grail they found in Cornwall was stolen from the British Museum.  They are at the museum looking at the display, which had held the lovely grail they had discovered during their Cornwall adventure.  The grail came with a manuscript.  While the children were able to retrieve the grail, they lost the accompanying manuscript to the sea.  With the help of their Great Uncle Merry, they travel back to Cornwall to see if the manuscript can be retrieved.  At this point, the trio of children becomes a quartet as Will Stanton joins them.  He has grown into his responsibilities as an Old One with training from Merriman Lyon, a.k.a. Great Uncle Merry. Again, agents of the dark are all around them.  Although this story has tasks for all of the company, it is quiet, thoughtful, Jane who turns the day.

The Grey King is a quest for aid in the battle between light and dark.  Will has been very ill.  His illness has robbed him of most of his knowledge of the Old Ones.  He is left with this riddle to guide him. Although he can’t remember, it is the riddle from the manuscript retrieved from the grasp of the Greenwitch in the previous book. In this book and the final one, this riddle guides his way.  To unravel the riddle and find all of his answers, he will have to find the translation for the last two mysterious lines.

On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the Light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.

When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Ymaent yr mynddoedd yn canu,
Ac y mae’r aglwyddes yn dod*.

In the Grey King, Will’s family sends him to their relatives in Wales to help him recover his strength. Little did he or his family realize that Wales was the next step in his journey. Here he meets the enigmatic, Bran.  Is Bran the son of the Pendragon?  He is curiously pale.  He has tawny eyes, like a bird.  At their first meeting Will names him as “the raven boy’ boy from the riddle. Although most everyone else doesn’t know about Will’s status as an Old One, Bran recognizes him immediately.  There is something curious about Bran aside from his pale coloring. He has a sort of quiet austerity.  Is that due to the nature of his upbringing or his parentage.  Will learns that King Arthur and his knights fought the previous great battle against the dark.  While they weren’t able to defeat the dark completely, they did diminish the dark’s power and postponed the final battle between the light and the dark. The time is coming soon for the final battle.  Will and Bran must work together to find the tools needed in the Light’s fight.  At every angle and with every tool that can be mustered, the Dark works seeks to foil their attempts. Finding the Golden Harp and waking the seeker is the quest that Will and Bran must complete.   Will Bran meet his father?  Are they successful? Do they find the harp and wake the sleepers? Who is Merriman Lyon, who appear mysteriously, when aid or guidance is needed in all of these books.

The conclusion to the sequence is Silver on the Tree.   In this book all the players from all the books are present and necessary to the conclusion.  Each had his/her part to play.  Simon, Jane, and Drew come to Wales for holiday.  They are joined by Great Uncle Merry and Will.  Here they meet Bran and his family and allies. To start the book, Will has been receiving messages from the Old Ones around the world that they are prepared for the final battle.  Is everything ready?  Are the weapons and resources gathered?  Are all the necessary players in place?  The last object of power must be found, a sword, which has been hidden away.  Arthur’s sword it what they seek.  Will they find it? Like all the other books, Will and his companions must travel through space and time to gather what is needed for the final battle.  Here is the epic conclusion to this wonderful series.

Susan Cooper

  1. She has always loved reading and writing.
  2. She lived near London and was not evacuated during the Blitz. Her experiences during that time color some of her stories.
  3. After graduating from Oxford, she wrote for the Sunday Times. Her boss was Ian Fleming.
  4. She wrote Over Sea, Under Stone in her spare time in order to win a cash prize. She didn’t win the prize, but she was bitten by the fantasy bug and in time went on to write the other four books in this sequence.
  5. She married an American widower and moved to the United States, where she still lives.
  6. She was awarded a Newberry Honor for The Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.
  7. She has been nominated for an Emmy award for the scripts she co-wrote with Actor Hume Cronyn.

If you want to read more about this author, here are some interesting sites to visit.

The mountains are singing, and the Lady comes.

Armada

Cline, Ernest.  Armada. New York: Broadway Books, 2015.

I have lived near Austin for many years and have never attended the Texas Book Festival.  Every year, I think this is the year I will go.  Well 2017 was the lucky one! Last fall we drove down to Austin (shudder!), found the right parking garage near the Texas Capitol and attended the Texas Book Festival.  It was a dreary, misty day.  What the day lacked in ambiance, it made up with books and authors!  I bought some good ones!  I missed Ernest Cline’s presentation or panel at the festival, but I did manage to snap up this signed copy.

I have struggled to write this blog.  I am not a video game player so it has been difficult to focus on the points others might like to know about Armada. On the way home from the gym, I heard a story on the World Video Game Hall of Fame on the radio. I didn’t know there was one. Today they were announcing their 2017 video game inductees.  It was fate!  I had to complete this brief review on a book about a video game for you today.  I learned that these games are chosen on 4 criteria: Icon Status, Longevity, Geographical Reach, and Influence.  After reading this book, I wonder if Armada, the fictional video game of the book would meet these criteria?

As the book opens, we meet Zach Lightman, high school student, video store clerk, and an avid video game player.  When he is not in school or being tormented by the class bully, he is at the video story playing the online, multiplayer, flight simulator game Armada. He happens to be one of the best players in the world.  As he gazes out his classroom window, he sees a spaceship straight out of his video game zip across the horizon. Did he see it? Is he going crazy?  No one else seems to notice.

He isn’t crazy and that spaceship is real.  He isn’t playing a game, but has been training for the life-and-death alien attack some authorities fear is inevitable.  Read this book to find out how Earth got embroiled in this conflict.  Do they defeat the alien or are they defeated?

Cline has many nods to modern video game developers, movie makers, and other science fiction movies and books.  Most of that escaped my notice!  As I was reading, I thought of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. 

I think this would be an enjoyable read for a youthful student who lives for video games.

Ernest Cline

I just read his autobiography from his website.  It is one of the funniest I have read of late.  I like a guy who doesn’t take himself, too seriously.  Like many of the rest of us, he has been warped by his childhood, but managed to pull himself up and grow from a boy to an author.  Both his books Ready Player One and Armada have been optioned for movies. I liked both books.  They might make your average or above average video game player pick up a book and read.

About Ernest Cline

2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016

The Grim Legacy

thegrimmlegacyShulman, Polly.  The Grim Legacy.  New York: Puffin Books, 2010.

This is a book that my daughter, Sarah bought for me.  She thought I would like a book base on fairy tales and she was right!  Thank you, Sarah!

This is an amusing riff on “What if magic is real.”  Who would collect all the magical artifacts from fairy tales and other tales of magic? Warehouse 13? Well they might get some competition from the New York Circulating Material Repository.  Just think, a library for magic items! This illustrious institution loans artifacts to patrons for a small cost: your first-born child or your sense of direction or some other personal item.  You get your deposit back as long as you return the magical item intact with all its attributes.

The story’s heroine, Elizabeth Rew has a Cinderella like back story.  Her mom has died.  Her dad has remarried.  She has two-step sisters.  Her stepmom is not evil, but Elizabeth misses the closeness she had with her dad.  By good luck she is recommended for an after-school job at the repository by her history teacher, Mr. Mauskopf.

The repository is a grand and mysterious place. It is Tardis-like, bigger on the inside than the outside.  One of the most mysterious collections in the repository is the Grimm Collection.  If you have ever read any of the Grimm Fairy Tales you may know that some of the tales were bloody and gruesome.  It goes without saying that some of the items in the Grimm Collection are very dangerous.  Elizabeth and her friends discover that someone has been stealing items from the library and more worrisome items specifically from the Grimm Collection.

I love fairy tales!  Does Elizabeth use the magic cloak the soldier used to follow the dancing princess?  Does she use a pair of the dancing slippers?  When she and her friends discover the thief, what kind of magic will they deploy to foil him/her.  Read this book for yourself or read it to a young friend!  It is a very clever and fun read.

Reading Report from North Central, Texas: September 2016

sept2016September has come and gone.  What a month! Everyone here was very busy.  Imagine my surprise when I saw our reading stack for this month!  I thought there would only be 3 or 4 books, I guess we made more time for reading than I thought!

Alexis

In September, Alexis made ample use of the library.  She found a new author to read, Dorothy Cannell.  Her heroine, Ellie Haskell triumps over her problems, solves mysteries and marries her handsome friend, Ben.  She revisited Superfreakonomic.  This is not the entire list of her readings, just what I was able to notice this month.

  • Cannell, Dorothy. The Thin Woman.  New York: St. Martin’s, 1984.
  • Cannell, Dorothy.  The Widows Club.  New York: Bantam Books, 1988.
  • Cannell, Dorothy. Mum’s the Word.  New York: Bantam Books, 1990.
  • Cannell, Dorothy. Femmes Fatal.   New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
  • Levitt, Steven D. & Stephen J. Dubsner. Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitues and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance.   New York: Harper Perennial, 2009.

Robin

You will notice that David Sedaris’ book, When You Are Engulfed in Falmes appears on my list again this month.  I finally finished it!  I think David is an excellent writer, but I was hoping for a very funny book and this book was only vaguely amusing to me.

I celebrated the old fashioned romance/mystery by reading a couple of the Dorothy Cannell books Alexis brought home from the library.  The two I read were fun, easy reads.  Ellie Haskell has a very eccentric family.

My favorite reads in September were the two novellas by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Lord Penric is a gentle, humble soul probably the last person you would expect to obtain a Bastard’s Demon and control it.  These novellas were set in the world of the five gods.  The first in the series is the Curse of Chalion, which I mentioned in an earlier post.

  • Sedaris, David. When You Are Engufled in Flames.  New York: Back Bay Books, 2008.
  • Cannell, Dorothy. The Thin Woman.  New York: St. Martin’s, 1984.
  • Cannell, Dorothy.  The Widows Club.  New York: Bantam Books, 1988.
  • Bujold, Lois McMaster. Penric’s Demon.  Kindle Version, 2015
  • Bujold, Lois McMaster. Penric’s Demon.  Kindle Version, 2016.
  • Schulman, Polly.  The Grimm Legacy. New York: Puffin Books, 2010.
  • Bell, CeCe. El Deafo.  New York: Amulet Books, 2014.

Jim

In September, Jim finished the book Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. He has started on a book Alexis read a few month back The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu.  Also Inside PixInsight, a book he ordered early in the spring was finally released and came in the mail. PixInsight is the software that runs his new mount and telescope.  He is learning more about this every day.

Sarah

The new school year has begun.  Sarah has been busy with school.  We have both been so busy this month that I haven’t had time to follow up with her on the literacy pieces she incorporates into her music classes.  I will catch up and report next month.  She is reading Everything, Everything  by Nicola Yoon.  She is reading this as part of Austin ISD’s books study.

  • Yoon, Nicola. Everything, Everything. New York, Delacorte Books, 2015.
  • Hoke, Helen, editor.  Dragons, Dragons, Dragons.  Carol Baker, Illustrator.  New York: Franklin Watts, 1972.

Elijah’s Little Library Recap

I started this blog back in April, because I was so excited about all the books I purchased for my new nephew.  It has been my whigmaleerie, my notion, my fancy that I might have something to share with the wider world about these books and others. My family is amused by this new hobby of mine.  They have been gently encouraging me to carry on with this writing.

The Hobbit blog marked the last entry for books from Elijah’s Little Library.  His Crazy My PhotoAunt Robin (that’s me!) had so much fun buying the books and writing him a book about his little library. Here’s a picture of me, taken when I was working on his book.  Don’t I look like someone’s Crazy Aunt?  I wanted the fun of thinking about the books we gave him to continue, ergo I started this blog.  To finish the section about Elijah’s Little Library, I’d like to share the introduction to his book.

Welcome to the World!

It is a wide, exciting and sometimes frenetic place.  All our family, Uncle Jim, Cousin Alexis, Cousin Sarah and I, are looking forward to meeting you.

I think your Mama and Daddy are rolling their eyes at this point, wondering why we decided on a small library for your very first gift as it doesn’t seem very practical.  Well I could say that we are your crazy Aunt Robin and Uncle Jim and that’s just what we do.  Ask your Mama when you can, how often a gift from us included a book.

I am your crazy Aunt Robin, but here’s the truth, we love to read and we want to share that love with you. We think if you can read you can go anywhere and do anything even if it is only in your own imagination.  With a good book, you are never alone and you always have something to do.

We want you to remember the way it feels to snuggle with your Mama or your Daddy, while you listen to one of their sweet voices reading you to sleep.  The way it feels to laugh, when you read a silly story for yourself.  The secret joy it is to read covertly under the covers with a flashlight when you are supposed to be asleep.  The guilty pleasure you feel when you look up from finishing a thrilling novel and realize that it is 2 am and you have to get up and go to work the next day.

Elijah, enjoy a good book!  We have chosen the books in this mini library with you in mind.  We hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.  When we started to think about this gift, I asked everyone here to give me the names of two books.  One they remembered from when they very little and one that was their favorite when they were in upper elementary or middle school.  I think you will be surprised at what was included in this little library.

God Bless You Little One!
Love Aunt Robin, Uncle Jim, Alexis & Sarah
April 2, 2016

For those of you who are interested in starting a little library for a young person you love, I have compiled a list of the books in Elijah’s library: LibraryRecap_Aug17_2016.  We tried to get something that would please a young boy, however, I think they would be fun for many different readers.