July 15, 2016

Turning Pages Reads: IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT, by Kersten Hamilton

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!

Aquafortis got me thinking about comfort reads a few weeks ago. While I really started reading fiction mostly late in high school, I have some read-again books which resonate with me mostly because of their relative proximity to Narnia. One author with a key to the wardrobe is Kersten Hamilton, who was interviewed in 2008 at Cynsations, and whose book, TYGER, TYGER was a 2011 Cybils contender. A warmly written book about Teagan Wylltson, whose children's book illustrator mother and librarian father teach her to practice her Irish Catholic faith and care for those who need it - be they pets or people. The book goes unexpectedly sideways into the paranormal when a long lost "cousin" stays with the family, and Teagan finds out that the harrowing goblins from her mother's illustrations are... real. When myths are real and goblin nightmares come to life, only deep friendships, deep faith and strong hearts will get you through. Rereading TYGER, TYGER this week turned out to be exactly what I needed, and though I cried all the way through it - mostly at the poignant reminders of what stout-hearts do in times of trouble - I launched directly into the sequel. This might be a weird book to you for "comfort" but I grieve better with my boots on and a sword in hand, I think. And, so does Teagan.

Synopsis: Though she survived discovering how she and hers fit into the land of Mag Mell, that once mythical place of both the Green Man and the Dark Man, Teagan is far from resigned. She's had dreams and goals all of her life - she is going to Cornell. She is going to study animals. And no Dark Man nor his shadows, no Maggot Cats, no sluaghs and no gorgeous, heart-stealing saints are going to stand between this girl and her goals. But, it's not as easy to make the kinds of choices which keep Teagan on her path. She was born to be a Stormrider, born to shape the world to her liking, to bend to her will those inferior to her smarts. To stay on the path of rightness is a lot harder than she thought it would be -- and when things keep happening to her family and loved ones, it's almost impossible not to retaliate. Those who live by the sword die by the sword, and though Teagan is a Stormrider, she knows there's more to life than to just mindlessly ride the storm. If there's a way to heal Mag Mell, and to stop the rule of the Dark Man and to bring back peace and goodness, it needs to begin with her.

Observations: This isn't a good stand-alone novel, though there's a bit of backstory woven in to catch up those who haven't read the first book. But, oh, please do. It's all so much better then.

As always, I love the uses of literature in this book - having a librarian father means there's a lot of poetry read aloud and a lot of mythology and history; it's a treat. The prayers and the Irish blessings are also gorgeous and heartening. The writing is clear and the action is intense.

I suggested you read the first book, right? It's like reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, mixed with Charles de Lint and set in a modern setting. I can't say enough good things. It's not a simple story, readers will have to read closely but this will do well with those accustomed to the ins and outs of old fairytales and Irish mythology, and those who like poetry -- and who have read Tolkien, of course. READ TOLKIEN, I said, not watched that trifling film.

Conclusion: While not as heart-stopping as the first in the series, this necessary second novel isn't just to impart information, but furthers Teagan's relationships and gives the side of Light a working team. The third book of the Goblin Wars was published in 2013 which means that yes, I am really late to the party on this, but I always prefer to read a series when it's finished - so I'm off...!

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my public library, on Overdrive. You can find IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT by Kersten Hamilton at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

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