Echo, A Great and Terrible Beauty

All my blogging energy was going to writing book reviews for awhile. That may happen again, as the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books periodically needs me to pitch in and write reviews, especially of new fantasy titles. The handful of fantasy titles that I reviewed AND that have stayed with me this year include: Roar by Clayton, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Ryan, and Watersmeet by Abbott. Graceling by Cashore was not one I reviewed, but was splendid (thanks KQ!). I recommend them all.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libby Bray

Historical fiction and fantasy in one? Bray tackles this odd combination and makes it work in a plot that revolves around Gemma, whose mother's unexpected death in India sends her back to a London boarding school. But death is not the end, and Gemma sees her mother again in the "realms," spirit worlds where Gemma must learn to travel. I only read the first of the trilogy, but Bray wraps this installment up neatly while leaving plenty of room for future installments.

Echo by Francesca Lia Block
This seems fragmented at first, but the stories of Echo, Wendy, Eden, and Smoke do converge into yet another dreamlike Block narrative. The pacing is slow, but nobody reads Block for her page-turning prose. Oddly, this reminded me of an epic family narrative by Maeve Binchy, in that there are characters stacked on characters and Echo's family figures in dramatically and symbolically. By that standard, it's quite pithy!

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