-- Anonymous 'curse' on book thieves from the monastry of San Pedro, Barcelona --
Getting behind with my book reviews again, so time for a catch-up.
Close Kin is the second book in The Hollow Kingdom trilogy, the first book of which I blogged about a few weeks back. I liked it so much I ordered the last two straight away from Amazon.
The story picks up a few years after the end of The Hollow Kingdom. The Goblin King, Marak, and Kate are married and have a son. (Sorry, that's a bit spoilerish but I can't see how I can avoid it.) Kate's sister, Em, is happily ensconced in the Goblin Kingdom, not thinking of marriage at all, when Marak's protegé, shape-shifter, Seylin, proposes. Not taking him seriously Em declines and Seylin, devastated, decides to go off into the outside world on a mission. His real self is very beautiful and elf-like in appearance and he decides to look for remnants of the long extinct elf tribes. Too late, realising her mistake, Em takes off after him with a cranky female goblin teacher and a part human urchin boy she picked up in the last book. She has some lessons to learn but then so does Seylin when his mission eventually come to fruition.
A few reviews I've seen describe this as the weakest of the three books. Not having read the third yet I can't judge, I do know though that I enjoyed this one every bit as much as the first. So there you go. I liked its humour, its pacey plot, the characters are all very real with weaknesses as well as strengths and I liked the satisfying ending. I have no complaints whatsoever. Excellent.
Brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, decide that help is needed on their farm and that a sensible thing to do would be to adopt an orphan boy to help out. All is arranged and Matthew goes to collect the boy from the station. Unfortunately, what he finds when he gets there is that there has been a mistake and a girl has been sent instead - Anne Shirley. On the way home shy Matthew and talkative Anne get acquainted and Matthew secretly hopes they can keep the girl, but the decision is not his; Marilla will decide. At first Marilla decides against it and even gets to the point of returning Anne. But she discovers that Anne, who up to now has had a tough life, is to be passed on to a shrew of a woman with a lot of children who just wants a slave. Marilla relents and decides to keep Anne. To grossly understate the matter, red-headed 'Anne' with an 'e' (as she insists) is a bit of a handful. She never stops talking, she's romantic, over-imaginative, and day-dreams to the point of forgetting her chores. She falls in and out of trouble at the drop of a hat but reassures her guardians that it's all right because she 'never makes the same mistake twice'! Matthew and Marilla's lives will never be the same again...
I can't say when it was I first read this book, I'm thinking I must have been somewhere around 13 - 14. Weirdly, hardly a thing was familiar except for the beautiful setting of Prince Edward Island, off the coast of Canada. I know it made me want to go there (I never have but, well, you never know...) So, reading this was like discovering a new book entirely and I was completely and utterly charmed by it as most people who read it seem to be. It's very much a story about a way of life that has disappeared. It was not ruled by the motor car or the TV, people made their own entertainment and life was very much slower. They sang, did recitals of poetry, enjoyed the countryside, studied, read books etc. Anne is a very believable heroine with many faults - she makes mistakes but is never afraid to own up and confront her own shortcomings. I shed more than a few tears when reading this book, I don't mind admitting. I got totally wrapped up in Anne's childhood adventures, friends, adopted family. The book is nothing short of delightful. There are many more 'Anne' books and I fully intend reading every single one of them!