Monday, June 15, 2009
An outstanding fantasy series - the Pellinor books by Croggon
I've just finished the last installment of the Books of Pellinor - The Singing, by Alison Croggon (Candlewick, 2009). This series, which began with The Naming and continued with The Riddle and The Crow, is a rare example of impeccable world-building, memorable and complex characters, and a plot that moves inexorably toward a final clash between good and evil.
Tolkienesque? Yes, but not at all derivative. Like Tolkien's ordinary heroes, Maerad and Hem, young siblings, undertake their world-saving roles only with the greatest reluctance, knowing that if they don't, evil will conquer the world forever - but they would much prefer to be ordinary people leading safe and normal, even boring, lives. Their growth as the series develops is both astounding and absolutely understandable, given the context of their talents and their experiences.
War is hell. People die in awful ways for the worst reasons. Evil threatens our heroes from all sides. But Maerad and Hem, as well as their stalwart companions, manage to hold on to their own common sense and their deep certainty that good and evil are not relative but rather absolutes. And luckily, this is not all doom, gloom, and heroic stands - far from it. There is plenty of humor and sparks of joy - as in Tolkien's works, it's the humble activities such as eating a good meal and sharing jokes with friends that make life worth living - and saving.
This is one of those rich fantasy series that would satisfy any adult fantasy reader. Another series that has similar cross-over appeal and whose plot and writing style is honed to perfection is William Nicholson's Wind on Fire trilogy, beginning with The Wind Singer.
Both series are highly recommended for sophisticated fantasy readers, grades 7 and up.