There are not many new novels that I enjoy these days (although I used to read recent fiction voraciously up to my early twenties) so I am always delighted to discover something that hits-the-mark; and I will always re-read any novels that I have enjoyed (often several times).
So I was very pleased to come across the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment by L Jagi Lamplighter:
(I will not be including any 'spoilers' in this notice (it is not a 'review') so that anyone who likes the sound of the books can discover what happens for himself or herself.)
There are three novels, so far, in this series; and I have enjoyed them all very much, with re-reads being even better than first time.
They are distinctly odd books, to me; I haven't come across anything of the kind before. They are light and humorous in tone, mostly - pitched at a Young Adult readership; but also very complex in terms of their magical and fantasy system ('hard' fantasy in terms of world-building); and they offer a lot of 'glimpses' of further vistas and back-stories (in the same kind of way The Hobbit does).
Many of the 'ingredients' of the books are quote explicitly, and indeed self-referentially, drawn from other fantasy works (such as the Narnia Chronicles and Harry Potter) - but the way they are combined, twisted and added-to creates an unique 'flavour' which I find very appealing.
The character of 13 year old magical schoolgirl Rachel Griffin provides the point of view, and she makes an unusually multi-faceted heroine for this kind of book; yet she reminds me of several 'tomboyish' young women I have from real life - both in my schooldays and as an adult. Rachel combines courage with romanticism, innocence with encyclopaedic knowledge, she is independent - yet very loving of family and devoted to friends.
Indeed, her character and the books are strange in that way that sometimes strikes me when I realise (for the umpteenth time, yet it is still rare) that women are different from men not just biologically but in some deep and existential fashion; such that it is like sharing a world with elves or some other 'species'!
(As a believer in Mormon theology, I regard men and women as complementary parts and the completion of the wholeness of Man (there is no generic 'human being'); and that we all are either a man or a woman, in essence and from eternity. So to know Man it is not enough to know men - that is incomplete; one must also know women.)
The Rachel Griffin books are therefore fantasy fictions from a woman's spiritual perspective in a way that is not the case for, say, Harry Potter - and in a totally different way from the large mass of anti-men fiction-by-women.
(Which itself isn't all bad by any means! One of my absolute favourite novelists, Barbara Pym, is very bitter about men - not for doctrinaire reasons, but as a consequence of her own unusual nature and experiences.)
Anyway, Jagi Lamplighter's Books of Unexpected Enlightenment are both light and entertaining reading, packed with adventure, incident, love and friendship; but they also have touches and glimpses of something distinctive and deep. Some people, like me, will find them quite special and endearing with a flavour all their own.
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