Jo Walton,
Among Others
(Tor, 2012)

In the first chapter, we meet twin 10-year-old girls, Morganna and Morwenna, who live in Wales, believe in magic and interact with entities they call fairies. The girls believe their mother uses magic for evil purposes. From chapter 2 on, we gradually learn that the girls were able to stop their mother's evil intentions, but only at great cost; Morganna was killed in the effort and Morwenna, now five years later, has a bad leg that causes her to limp and experience frequent, significant pain.

Morwenna had been living with her grandparents but had to go elsewhere when her grandfather, whom she loves, became ill and had to go to a state nursing home. She cannot and will not live with her mother, and she goes to live with her father, who is divorced from her mother and whom she barely knows. The rest of the book tells of her life adjusting to this change and fitting in at the private school where her father arranged for her to be enrolled.

This book is written in the form of a memoir, and the writing reflects that in a very natural way, with occasional diversions. The writer's reflections are interspersed with dialogue, scene descriptions and descriptions of actions. It is very easy to read through this writing and feel comfortable with the characters and the settings. The only exception is the very unusual Welsh names, which are unpronounceable for me.

One of the things that I like most about this book is the ongoing debate, through introspection and reflection, by the protagonist regarding the nature of magic. Is it real? Is it a way of explaining coincidence? Is it some combination of both? The magic in the book can really be described in either of these ways. If there is magic, it is not the blatant, tangible magic of the Harry Potter books, but something much more subtle and ambiguous.

One weakness of the book is the somewhat slow and disjointed start of the story, most notably in the chapters immediately following chapter 1. The protagonist and narrator of the book acknowledges the somewhat rambling and disconnected nature of what she is writing.

book review by
Chris McCallister

30 June 2012

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