Picking up not long after A Wrinkle in Time, this book starts off with just as much intrigue and mystery as the first! If I would’ve remembered how easy these were to read and how entertaining they were, I would’ve re-read these a long time ago. Seriously, I’m devouring them and loving every minute of it. This will count for the 47th book of my Classic’s Club list!
Although powerful, this one didn’t quite stack up to the first in the series. I think it’s a combination of parts of it taking place in such a foreign setting and that about half-way through I once again had the thought about how good versus evil as an archetype isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can get a bit exhausting if you read too many in a row. This series, like many others, at heart deals with dark versus light/good versus evil/heaven versus hell. There are dozens I’ve read on this blog that deal with this from young adult to classic literature. Where they separate themselves is the story they tell and how they chose to portray the battle this time.
It was a strange connection to make, but because I read it so recently I see a lot of this in Terry Brooks Word & Void trilogy (Running with the Demon, A Knight of the Word and Angel Fire East). Both series feature a young female protagonist coming of age at a crucial moment in the battle of good versus evil. Both series feature commonplace settings with the mix of urban/modern fantasy. This really hit home for me when I read two particular quotes. The first is when Meg, like Nest of Word & Void, realizes that the world isn’t as safe as it used to be. Whether it’s not as safe or whether they’ve just become more aware of the dangers is a moot point.
“But she felt a panicky dependence on having both her parents home at night. It wasn’t only because of her fears for Charles Wallace; it was that suddenly the whole world was unsafe and uncertain. Several houses nearby had been broken into that autumn and while nothing of great value had been taken, drawers had been emptied with casual maliciousness, food dumped on living-room floors, upholstery slashed. Even their safe little village was revealing itself to be unpredictable and irrational and precarious, and Meg had already begun to understand this with her mind, she had never before felt it with the whole of herself. Now a cold awareness of the uncertainty of all life, no matter how careful the planning, hollowed emptily in the pit of her stomach. She swallowed.” (35)
All of us have to come to terms with this at some point in our lives. It’s losing our childish innocence and a portion of our youthful naiveté. We can swing too far in the opposite direction and become hardened overly practical entrusting adults, or we can keep a bit of our childish innocence and joy for the world and see the good in the world as well as the bad. It’s a choice we have to make.
The second quote deals specifically with choices and how something as minor as one cell in one person could potentially change the outcome of the world.
“It is the pattern throughout Creation. One child, one man, can swing the balance of the universe. In your own Earth history what would have happened if Charlemagne had fallen at Roncesvalles? One minor skirmish?” (173)
Now I don’t see the one cell changing the universe quite as clearly, but I can definitely understand how one individual person not being born, dying to soon, being raised differently or any other number of factors could change how our world progresses. Imagine a world without Marie Curie, without Mahtma Ghandi, or any of the religious deities who’ve walked the earth. It’s a different world isn’t it?
In comparing Word & Void to the Time Quintet I also noted both Brooks and L’Engle seem to cover a very finite amount of time in each book. The difference is L’Engle does it in roughly 200 pages and Brooks takes nearly 400. It’s not problematic there is this difference, but it is very indicative of their writing styles. As much as I enjoyed Brooks and the complexity of his world building and storytelling, the simplicity of both L’Engle’s language and description are truly amazing.
“It was no longer autumn-cold. There was a light breeze, warm and summery. All about them, encircling them, was the sound of summer insects, crickets, katydids, and–less pleasantly–the shrill of mosquito. Frogs were crunking away, and a tree toad sang its scratchy song. The sky was thick with stars which always seemed closer to earth in summer than in winter.” (124)
Often science fiction/fantasy writers get a little heavy handed with words. In less than 75 words L’Engle places the reader in a very specific time frame. Honestly, I think she could’ve done it with the first and last sentence because they’re that eloquent and somewhere on a deeper level I get it.
Recommendation: Definitely keep with the series up to this point. There were even harder concepts in this novel than in the first, but L’Engle continues to explain things simply. The action and story ended too fast again for me, but in a way to have the ties cut and wrapped up so quickly works in the favor of the books.
Opening Line: “There are dragons in the twins’ vegetable garden.”
Closing Line: “Then she went up to Charles Wallace.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers; highlight to read.)