Book Review

Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude 

Recently, in my MFA program, I took a magical realism literature course where I was required to read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I had never read anything by Marquez, although he has been on my to-read list for quite some time. I found that reading this book was an absolutely magical experience and I’m so glad that I finally had a chance to explore this great author’s work.

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Magical Realism is an interesting genre. It’s very prevalent in South American literature, although it pops up in a lot of cultures. The trademark of magical realism is in its own name: it is realistic (often literary) fiction that focuses on the real world, however it contains elements of magic. It often has a feeling of folklore and fable which makes it seem almost timeless. Other notable works of magical realism are The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

One Hundred Years of Solitude takes place in the fictional land of Macondo, a place colonized by weary travelers who decide to stay and create their own haven. However, as time goes by, this seemingly perfect paradise becomes corrupted by the encroaching world around it. Macondo acts as a sort of “Garden of Eden” and there are many Biblical allusions in this book, another staple of South American literature. The large cast of characters intersect in their parable-like stories that show different forms of frailty in human nature. Peppered with visits by a God-like character who seems to know everything before it happens, this is a truly magical tale of humanity, magic, and the circle of life and culture. I definitely recommend it!

 

Book Review

Book Review: Libriomancer 

I’m not a huge science fiction/fantasy fan, but every so often I get in the mood for something other worldly! I decided to pick up Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines because I really enjoyed his Princess Series (a retelling of some classic fairy tales). I was so impressed by this book, and I can’t wait to read more in the series! It was incredibly unique and fast-paced.

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Libriomancer is jam-packed with action and adventure, and it really sucked me in from the very beginning. I would classify this book as magical realism because it takes place in our world, but there are definite elements of magic. I loved the way that magic was set up in this book – certain types of magicians called Libriomancers can literally pull out items from books and use them. (Just think of how cool it would be to pull out the sorcerer’s stone from Harry Potter!) The structure of the magical world in Libriomancer was well-defined and developed: there is a secret society that governs how magic can be used (led by Gutenberg himself – who has gone missing). There are also vampires and nymphs and spiders that emit fire. A LOT happens here, but it all really works and was so entertaining.

The main character, Isaac Vainio, is a disgraced libriomancer who now catalogs  magical tomes as a librarian instead of practicing magic. However, when a band of rogue vampires get him entangled in the mystery of where Gutenberg has gone, he must face his past and rediscover the magic within. He’s a great main character with many complexities. I enjoyed his personal, internal journey as well as the vivid, exciting plot. I would highly recommend this book to someone who loves magical elements and is looking for something plot-driven!

 

Book Review

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

It’s very rare that I reread books. I just find that there are so many things I want to read that I often don’t make time to reread something. There are definitely exceptions to this like with the Harry Potter series which always helps me to relax and find an escape, but for the most part, I don’t often make time to reread things.

Another exception is the book A Discover of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I believe I have read this wonderful work of fantasy three times now, and I feel like something new stands out each time.

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This book is essentially about a powerful witch who falls in love with a vampire. It’s sometimes marketed as a grown-up version of Twilight, which I suppose is fair in some ways, but I think that this book is so much more than a love story. Diana, the witch and main character, is a really interesting character and she grows a lot throughout the book and the trilogy. She is complicated because she seems to be simultaneously strong-willed and unsure of herself. She has very relatable fears and hopes. And while the love story is interesting, I find her discovery of herself and the journey of her coming to terms with herself to be an even more gripping aspect of the book.

While this is fantasy and has an amazing amount of world-building, I am so impressed at the other things contained in this book: vast descriptions of history and science (especially when it comes to genetics). This is a well-researched book that shows off Harkness’ prowess as a historian as well as her great imagination.

At 579 pages, it is quite long for a novel (although most fantasy novels do tend to be longer generally). There is a lot of description and the pace is quite slow. These are things that don’t bother me, but I think it is fair to mention them since I’m sure they will deter some readers. Overall, however, I think that it will be worth your time if you’re interested in the subject matter and want a character-driven magical realism book. Also, if you adore history, you’ll want to definitely continue on to the second book of the series Shadow of Night, which I thought was even better than this first installment.