I was never very interested in reading this book until lately, when political pundits began setting it up as an opposite to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. After reading it, I don’t really see them as opposites so much as complimentary, dystopian views of the direction our world may be headed.
The world waited ten years for a sequel to Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It had plenty to keep it busy while it waited, though. During that time Maguire published several other books, notably Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror Mirror.
I’ve had plenty of opportunity to read this book since it came out in 1995. For one thing, I have owned a copy of it for some years. It isn’t that I wasn’t interested. It’s simply that I didn’t think the book needed any boosting from me. It’s a popular bestseller. Dozens of readers have recommended it to me. So what do I have to add except, “Ding, dong, I read it too”?
I’ve never read anything by Brandon Sanderson before, and I’m generally leery of thick fantasy novels that have the look of “Book One of a Punishingly Long Series.” Three things convinced me to give this book a try. First is the fact that, although it was his first published novel back in 2005, Sanderson hasn’t written any sequels to it… yet. I’m told he plans to, but so far all he has rolled out is a novella set in the same universe, titled “The Emperor’s Soul”, and a short e-book called “The Hope of Elantris”. It’s possible we may luck out, and this will be a standalone novel; that would be just about perfect. The second and deciding vote in favor of reading it is the fact that an audiobook, read by Jack Garrett for Recorded Books, was available at the public library. Third, and making it unanimous, is the list of other works by Brandon Sanderson, which includes a bunch of other stuff that I suddenly want to read.
Winner of the 1970 Hugo Award for Best Novel, this book by the author of “A Wizard of Earthsea” more than deserves to be in the company of such books as “Stranger in a Strange Land,” “Dune,” “Foundation’s Edge,” “Ender’s Game,” “American Gods,” “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” and “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”. It packs a powerful impact on both mind and heart. It is rich both in world-crafting inventiveness and in human detail. It is—it is, straight-up, devastatingly beautiful.
Readers who thought the creator of “Harry Potter” needed magic, make-believe, and syrupy kid’s stuff to bring a world to life, will be surprised and impressed. Make no mistake; this book is not a comedy. It is a very serious story that does not pull any punches. It may leave you winded and feeling a funny sting at the corner of your eye.
If a boxed set of “Harry Potter” were to fall through the looking-glass, what came out the other side might be a lot like the “Bartimaeus Trilogy”, of which this is Book 2. The fantasy world in this series is somewhat of a bizarro, backward-land version of Harry’s wizarding world, which forms a secret enclave within the present-day world of us ordinary muggles. In Bartimaeus’ world, the British empire is openly run by magicians, while the majority of the population—dismissively called “commoners”—toils in a condition not far above slavery.