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Fly Girl's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg

Month

November 2015

Sorcerer to the Crown : Zen Cho

content“English magic faces its darkest hour”  

An enjoyable  romp with an engaging heroine, Prunella, coming to terms with the twin themes of magic and social manners.

I found the arch language a little difficult at times but, as the pace quickens, Cho gives some glorious scenes of mermaid and dragon familiars battling it out, a gentle love story and a couple of satisfying twists and reveals.

That magic has be to curtailed or diminished is a standard construct – or any difficulty could be very simply despatched  by a lead character; in Sorcerer to the Crown, it is done so by social convention (women aren’t allowed), an old ailment and sensibility (Zacharias) and a lack of magic coming from Fairy land.  All these reasons stand up well though perhaps are a trifle laboured for such a convention.

When Cho stops trying to explain and just has fun with her ideas, the plot speeds along with panache.  And, yes, I did stay up too late to finish it! There are delightful secondary characters: Damerell, Lady Wythe and Mak Genggang; and some well rounded walk-ons parts such as Mr Hsiang.

A very enjoyable novel with scope for sequels.

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

I am so pleased that one of my favourite authors has been short listed for the Costa Book Awards.   Here’s a short review I wrote for my lovely local bookshop’s window.  (A Festival of Books.  Yay!)  the-lie-tree-978144726410101 “… here in the drawing room, each lady quietly relaxed and became more real, expanding into the space left by the men. Without visibly changing, they unfolded, like flowers, or knives.” A superb Victorian fantasy thriller with a complex and feisty heroine fighting to find the truth behind her father’s murder. Frances Hardinge is a wonderful writer with brilliant original ideas and sparkling descriptions that linger long in the memory. Possible age range 11 – 13.

Why I Love Old Science

I write in an alternative c17th world, researching into the history of inventions and occasionally pulling technology back into that space from later centuries.  Why?

It is fun.  It is accessible.

It recreates a sense of wonder and creativity – the sheer exhilarating Romance of scientific discovery and invention.

I grew up with a very scientific older brother who seemed to grasp instantly the detail of incomprehensible particle physics and who revelled in all the  logical-Mr Spock- shiny white sterile laboratories it seemed to entail.

Whereas I have always wanted simple, mechanical explanations that I could visualise.  I want dirt and grime and the smell of grease on hot metal. It is more tangible and emphasises the work-in-progress feeling.   It makes me remember that scientific theory is a collection of ideas about how to explain the world.  It may not be right but it fits.

And to celebrate that fact here is Solomon’s House, a fictional institution in Sir Francis Bacon’s utopian work, New Atlantis, published in 1627.

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