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Minor Mage is a perfect escape, a light-hearted tale with a charming young protagonist, a droll armadillo (seriously, how can you not love an armadillo familiar?) some nasty villains, a few tense moments, and some great world building. Kingfisher’s work makes me smile and it’s always worth escaping into her stories for a few hours. I agree that it feels like a children’s book but it does have a bit of darkness. Of course, so do many traditional fairy tales. If you enjoy a good fantasy yarn that doesn't take itself too seriously, with a bit of humour, you'll love this. :-)
A story every child needs to hear (although I'd recommend with parental supervision. It gets a little dark). It is also a story every adult needs to hear. A reminder that that heroes are only necessary because of the failure of others to do the right thing.
Only rated 4 stars because the author has other books that are even better.
As always, T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, has made a lovely book. She's got the magic and the herb-lore and the funny talking animals and the simple yet engaging plot. She writes like she writes, so if you already know you like her writing, you'll like this book. And there's no sex in this one. Because it's a KIDS BOOK. Although her editor apparently disagrees.
The only reason it didn't get FIVE stars is because it is very clearly a book for little kids. I would have happily read this to my own kid when she was six or seven, and she would have loved it. There are those that may argue that it's too gruesome for little kids, but those people haven't recently read the Aslan "crucifixion" scene in the Lion, the With, and the Wardrobe, or the pulsating brain controls the world scene from A Wrinkle in Time. Hello, folks, remember? Kid books are OFTEN creepy and gruesome! It's a long and honorable tradition going back to the Girl Who Trod on a Loaf, for pity's sake. You want gruesome? Heck, THAT one has been giving kids nightmares for a few hundred years!
So, because it was a KIDS' BOOK, and because I didn't think it was QUITE as good as the other notable kids' book this author did, which was EXTREMELY different and unusual and was called Summer in Orcas (please go immediately and buy it, because it's awesome), I gave only four stars, which still means I liked it VERY much. Just not QUITE as much as many of her others.
Keep writing them, Ms. Vernon, and I will keep buying them. If there was a way to set my Kindle up to AUTOMATICALLY buy anything you write, I would do it. As it is, it's set to offer me a one-click purchase each time one is released. You are just THAT awesome. (And for anyone trying to decide, my all time favorites so far are the Clocktaur Wars duology and the Black Dogs duology, along with Nine Goblins, but really, they're all good.)
If you have read A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher, this book feels very familiar. The main character, Oliver, is a "very minor mage", as he repeatedly avers. His familiar is a sarcastic Armadillo, whose name is Eglamarke, although that rarely matters, and he is a lot of fun. Oliver is the mage of his small village. The book begins with Oliver being sent off by a mob to bring rain. He passes through dangers which he must survive by making the best of his limited gifts.
Like A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, the book ends on a not entirely hopeful note. T. Kingfisher (or at least one of her characters) has reflections on the long-term damage done when an angry mob sends a kid into danger to solve their problems. It is not exactly a Hollywood happy ending. I found that a strength of both books, but some readers will, I predict, be left unsatisfied.
I guess this book is aimed at kids, so don't expect anything heavy, but it is delightful and short, and I read it in one sitting. Oliver is a very young but likeable village mage whose master had died before he was properly trained. Evenso, his village force him to go to the mountains to find rain to end their deadly drought, a quest for which he's ill equipped. The bulk of the story is of his and his familiar's (an armadillo) adventures, and despite his lack of skill manages to survive and eventually win through to the mountains where there are rain clouds. The situations and characters he meets and deals with are imaginative and amusing, and of course at the end he finds rain. As I said, delightful.
The writing is brisk and descriptive, but the writing seems geared to the YA market; no love interest, certainly nothing sexual, expletives that are much tamer than Prime Time TV and a vocabulary that appears to be geared to adolescent readers. Some have claimed differently but when I compare this to Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Martha Wells, John Varley or even Ursula Le Guin, it definitely reads as a YA novella. I found the story to be interesting and engaging with a diverse world and a coming of age storyline.
When Trebastion describes his first creation, a harp made from a drowned woman's remains, he says it only plays "Oh the Dreadful Wind and Rain." Kingfisher is alluding to a Jerry Garcia tune called "Oh the Wind and Rain" which is one I have heard perhaps too many times. The last two lines of the lyrics are
The only tune that the fiddle would play Was oh the dreadful wind and rain
The song tells the story of this poor maiden's demise and ultimate fate. This is not a Grateful Dead song (the recording I have is by Garcia and David Grisman) but I'll wager that Kingfisher is a fan. You can find the full lyrics by searching on the song title.
A journey for a young mage along with his familiar, an armadillo, to find rain for his village -complete with bandits, ghouls, an encounter with another young mage compelled to make harps from the bones of murder victims, a ghost, cloud herders and the clouds they care for. The author insists this was intended as a book for children, and so it may be in the way that Grimm's Fairy Tales were. The journey is hard, the outcome uncertain. Our young mage needs to come to terms with the unfairness of life and to accept what is. Essentially, it's a coming of age story. Well-written and very engaging, I particularly enjoyed the ending. Our mage succeeds and returns home to find his mother, a retired soldier, grimly sharpening her sword and assembling her armor to come after her son. Loved that image! (She was away from home when the villagers forced him to go on this quest for rain).
I bought this book after reading and enjoying "A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking" by the same author. This book is shorter and follows 12-year-old Oliver and his armadillo familiar on a quick quest to bring rain back to their village. Oliver is relatable, filled with self-doubt and hurt about how he was sent off. Armadillo is sarcastic and endearing and devoted to Oliver. There's magic and monsters and friendship and danger on the road to rain. In the end, you'll be proud of Oliver's true heart and probably want an armadillo familiar of your own.
("What did you use this product for"? I read it. Sheesh amazon.)
This is a novella. It is short. As a result, it is pretty straight to the point. Our Hero, and his armadillo familiar, have to summon rain, or everyone dies. There are bandits (which is to say, land pirates), some monsters (including one human monster), a sweet friendship between two boys, magic, and a love of books.
The author says this might not be appropriate for kids. If the kids in question are fine with some scary situations, and monsters attacking monsters, then it'll be fine.