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08 January 2014 @ 08:24 pm
Among Others by Jo Walton  
Mori is an isolated 15 year-old Science Fiction fan. She's leaves the Welsh valleys where she grew up following the death of her twin sister, and is sent to boarding school by her father and his controlling sisters.

Oh, and she can see fairies and her mother is a witch.

Among Others is written as Mori's diary, as such we get the ongoing story of how she makes a place for herself at boarding school and in the nearby town, the backstory of the events leading up to her sister's death and her own injury and, in between it all, the musings of serious teenage SF fan growing up in the 1980s. It is a clever mix of material and well executed. At times I got irritated both by Mori's serious pronouncements on how the world should be and her massive enthusiasm for various SF books she reads (lots of things are "brill!") but, of course, the book is written as by a 15 year-old girl and the somewhat whiplash inducing changes of tone and pace are very evocative of that age. The 1980s touches are good as well - the excitement of which girls at school got a Walkman for Christmas.

All this would be clever without the fantasy plot that goes with it. This is a world in which magic is incredibly subtle. Were it not for the fact that Mori can see fairies she would doubt the magic both she and her mother have done because its effects are always attributable to co-incidence. But she can see the fairies and occasionally other characters can too. The book very carefully steers clear of the suggestion that the events are unfolding only within Mori's head. I was sort of in two minds about this, since it would have been very easy to leave the case ambiguous - but in the end I think the book is better for a "sane" (for some value of the word) protagonist. Just because it would have been easy to make the fantastical elements ambiguous doesn't mean they had to be made so.

I was a little disappointed at the conclusion partly, I think, because I wanted to know what was going to happen next, and partly because it is never entirely clear, because it is never clear to Mori, what it is she is fighting against. Although the magic is very real, it is possible she has over-estimated her mother's power and the story is more about Mori finally breaking free of her mother's influence than it is about saving the world.

This is a good book and very well-written considering how accurately it invokes the voice of a teenage girl. The fantastical elements are well done and nicely thought through. It is a coming of age story, but it is a coming of age story about an SF-loving teenage girl and there are not many of those out there.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/108768.html.