Rainbow Rowell: Carry On

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I started my Rainbow Rowell journey with Fangirl, moved on to Eleanor & Park and finally to Carry On. The last one I read first in Finnish and then in English. I just had to check whether it really was so good as it felt on the first read. And yes, it was.

Carry on by Rainbow Rowell 2015

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: MacMillan 2015, UK
Category: Fantasy
Original language: English
Rating: 5/5

HelMet Reading Challenge 2017: number 9. A book inspired by some work of art.

Rowell clearly has the skill in her finger tips. All three novels are exceptionally good romances, with unique characters and unique plots. She manages to surprise you, touch you and make you feel warm all over with happiness.

While reading Fangirl*, I wasn’t too much into the Simon Snow inserts in the book. But after reading the Carry On on its own, I’m completely converted. It is one of the most beautiful romance descriptions ever, which is incredible considering the characters being somewhat tongue-in-the-cheek magicians in a twisted harrypotteristic world. But this delusion is soon shaken off as Simon and Baz come to their own. They have a relationship and connection that is beautiful, tender and gentle, while being passionate, burning and touching.

I would recommend this book to all those people, who say they don’t like fantasy and deem it as a waste of time. Rowell brings in all the clichés of the sword and sorcery fantasy, paranormal romances and – indeed – fanfiction and twists and turns it so that in the end the reader finds herself having read a story with the most authentic, raw and honest description of human relationships in a long time.

As a bonus to all this, and to the humour imbued in the magical world she’s created, is the fact that this world operates literally by the power of words and phrases. Rowell creates layers into her writing with an elegance and ease that can only be admired.

Susan

*Fangirl tells about a girl writing fanfiction, and the story she’s writing is the story of Carry On.

 

“Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlsfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he was here – it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a love letter to love stories and the power of words – to every “chose one” who ever had more on their mind than saving the world…”

Fangirl, in which Simon Snow first appeared:

By the same author:

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Mikko Kamula: Ikimetsien sydänmailla (In the Heart of the Ancient Forest)

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Welcome to the world where the ancient myths of the North are all true. Where a house-elf can save your life when a bewitched bear attacks or an otherworldly, beautiful dryad can seduce you by the open fire in the middle of an ancient forest. The family of Juko Rautaparta lives in the midst of this all and more and tries to survive in the harsh and unrelenting nature.

Mikko Kamula: Ikimetsien sydänmailla

Author: Mikko Kamula
Publisher: Gummerus 2017, Finland
Category: Fantasy / Historical fiction
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 4/5

HelMet Reading Challenge 2017: number 5. A book about travelling in the wild.

Mikko Kamula is a researcher of history and folkloristics. He studied the ancient beliefs of the Finns for 15 years before writing the first book in this to-be a six parts long novel series. And Kamula has definitely nailed it.

Contrary to usual fantasy novels, this one doesn’t have a clear-cut plot or a quest structure. But it doesn’t matter. The life of the Rautaparta family is so fascinating, it keeps the reader hooked. Three characters are brought forward as the MCs: oldest son Heiska (17 years old), daughter Varpu (15 years old) and youngest son Tenho (10 years old). This trio leads the reader through the everyday life of the 15th century Finnish people as it was in the frontier lands of the eastern Finland.

It is a wild life and it is very much governed by the faith in the mythological creatures of the nature. In the novel these creatures are the living reality, just as they must have been for the people of that era.

But besides mythology, the life takes its turns because of other humans too. There are several competing tribes, and when they tumble into each other in the wilderness, the results can be fatal. The young MCs are also beginning to long for romantic partners, albeit the chances to find peers in the wilderness are very limited.

Kamula has joined together in an interesting way the myths of the time, the hard life in the untamed wilderness, the simple standards of living back then and the MCs, who are relatable to the modern reader, despite their circumstances. In another book review published in a Finnish newspaper, the reviewer remarked that the MCs talk and think too much like modern people.

I think this choice has been a good one. A speech and thinking set that would be completely faithful to the period, would be too strange to the modern reader to be interesting or enjoyable. It would downright make the dialogue incomprehensible for many – how easy it is to figure out the speech patterns of Kalevala?

Thus, as it is, the novel is a mixture of fantasy and historical fiction, true in its facts and imaginary in its characters, just in the way a great fiction should be. This series will absolutely be a fantastic way to understand what everyday life was like for our ancestors in a time, when nobody wrote a diary and it does it in a way that will take the reader flying through the almost 700 pages without noticing the time passing – and end up craving more.

Susan

“What if the ancient myths of dryads, goblins, giants, witches and shamans were true?

Ikimetsiern sydänmailla / In the heart of the Ancient Forests starts the Metsän kansa (the People of the Forest) series, that tells about the pioneer family of Juko Rautaparta in the 15th century Savo (eastern Finland). Heiska dreams of heroic deeds as a hunter. Varpu is fed up with the everyday chores and can’t wait to get to the Ukon Vakkajuhlat, the mysterious midsummer festival in the honour of Ukko, the chief god. Tenho is interested in the spells of the shamans and the fantastic creatures of the forest.

The life of the family changes completely, when a bear, bewitched by a Lappish shaman, attacks them. The house-elf protects its own people, but the bear still manages to take the new born daughter, Mielo. Juko Rautaparta swears revenge.

Mikko Kamula’s debut novel combines real historical facts and ancient folklore. Myths and beliefs are revived in a novel in the borderline of the fantasy and historical fiction.”

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Hanna van der Steen: Ennustus (Profecy)

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The kingdom of Starcastle has twin princesses, who have been separated at birth to prevent an ancient profecy from coming true. Armada living at Starcastle is, however, not a bit superstitious, but every bit strong headed. When she learns that she has a sister, she schemes Elena to her from the far away Finland, without any regard to the profecy. Elena is introduced to a whole new world, with sgnomes, eeckies, yackierolls, laughing hoggohoggos and other strange creatures (the names translated by me from the original Finnish text).

Hanna van der Steen: Ennustus

Author: Hanna van der Steen
Publisher: Karisto, 2011, Finland
Category: MG fantasy
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 4/5

The introduction to Starcastle’s wonders turns sinister when the magic birthday number 13 is getting closer for the sisters. What is that awful roaring, coming under the castle?

Hanna van der Steen has created an incredible magical world with creatures that are original and defy all conventional fantasy norms. There are delicious characters from the sisters to Orvokki granny/nanny, the court witch, and Armada’s pet unicorn Reino (who really looks a lot like a cow with one horn). It is a story of growing up, entering a new world, dealing with family and sisters and conquering one’s fears.

As is suitable to middle grade readers and quite refreshing after the dystopia trend, this series is very much on the happy side. There are problems and conflicts, but they are solved and the world van der Steen has created is bound to bring a smile on one’s face. The trilogy is very popular among its main target group: 10 to 12-year-old girls. It is a thick book, but the chapters are short – sometimes just one page. This would be an optimal introduction to fantasy genre to anyone devouring books.

I’m sure I’m going to read the trilogy through to enjoy fully the humorous world and characters Hanna van der Steen has created.

Susan

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John Polidori: The Vampire

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John Polidori (1795-1821) wrote one of the first modern vampire stories The Vampire, a tale of the bloodthirsty Lord Ruthven. It was first published in 1819, just three years before Polidori’s own death. This story is far from its current day contemporaries – the Vampire Diaries and Twilight exist in a whole different paranormal universe. Despite that or maybe because of it, the novel is an interesting introduction to the dawn of the genre. It is also incredibly fast reading – with its 83 pages in size A6 it is a veritable nibble.

John Polidori The Vampire

Author: John Polidori
Publisher: Faros-Kustannus Oy, 2005
Category: paranormal fantasy
Original language: English (Read in Finnish translation, based on The Vampire and Other Tales of the Macabre by Oxford Universtiy Press 1997)
Rating: 3/5

HelMet Reading Challenge 2017: number 42. A Debut book

At the time of Polidori, vampires were still considered mainly horrifying monsters and his tale is firmly grounded in this concept. Polidori doesn’t bring much light onto the nature of vampires or their customs neither the logic of their existence. The story revolves around an innocent bystander, young gentleman called Aubrey, who finds himself bound by a promise of secrecy that will gradually drive him into madness and even cause the death of his sister.

Polidori was the first author to create an aristocrat vampire, who prefers innocent virgins as his meals. However, the author doesn’t really describe much the vampire’s actions. Lord Ruthven is presented to the reader as a withdrawn character, who’d prefer solitude to the society. The seductive processes, which evidently take place are left to be played in the imagination of the reader.The short story that Polidori claimed to have written during “two or three lazy mornings” is more a tale of a one man’s reaction to a vampire than of that vampire.

Vampire is also an introduction to fictional style of the early 19th century – e.g. there is no dialogue at all in this story. Polidori was one of the first in a new trend of vampire stories that were consequently published in the 1800s, culminating in the major work of the genre; Dracula by Bram Stoker in 1897.

John Polidori is an interesting person in the history of horror fantasy. He was born into an Italian family very interested in literature – his father Gaetano Polidori translated the horror fiction novel The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole into Italian. John Polidori graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Edinburgh at the age of 19. He was hired by George Byron as his personal MD for his trip to Europe in 1816. The travel company included Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft (better known as Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus). When they settled in a house by the lake Geneva, the famous writing contest of horror stories took place. One of the contestants was Polidori’s the Vampire.

Susan

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When your life changes overnight

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Maanalaiset (Undergrounders)

One morning when Metuli wakes up, her whole life has turned upside down. Sanna Isto takes the reader to an adventure of her life in the intriguing sceneries and underground tunnels of the bastion of Suomenlinna.

Maanalaiset by Sanna Isto in Read, Write and Publish

Author: Sanna Isto
Illustrations: Sami Saramäki
Publisher: WSOY, Finland 2016
Category: Middle grade, magic realism/fantasy
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 4/5

Metuli is a shy and careful girl just about to enter her teen years. She has a best friend Ama, loving parents and an irritating big sister Monna. Life is peaceful on the bastion island of Suomenlinna, right in front of the capital city of Helsinki, in Finland. But Metuli’s life is turned around one night, when she has the strangest dream ever. As the morning comes, nothing is as it used to be.

Metuli finds out that she has turned into an odd creature, an armadillo of sorts. And she’s not alone, there’s a whole group of these weird human-like armadillos living underground, in the vast tunnels of Suomenlinna island. They call themselves erwins after the first human who exchanged places with an armadillo in the early 18th century, Erwin Bamberg. When the bartering with humans was about to get out of hand, erwins forbid it. Until the night when Lisko (Lizard), an infamous hooligan erwin, snapped his teeth in Metuli’s leg and they exchanged bodies.

Metuli has to face a completely different life from what she’s used to and find the courage to fight against Lisko and his accomplices in order to stop them from exchanging bodies with Metuli’s best friend Ama or her sister Monna.

Sanna Isto has written a beautiful and gripping fantasy, situated on the island of Suomenlinna – a place full of intriguing history. Some of that history is integrated in the story too. Isto’s description of Suomenlinna brings the island alive even to those who have never visited it, and to those who have, it’s a tour of familiar places.

The adventure of Metuli is a fantastical metaphor of the process of growing up – the changes that sometimes, indeed, take place overnight – in a girl’s life. The story builds up quite slow in the beginning, but as it takes speed, there’s no stopping it. After many a twist and turn, Metuli with her old friend Ama and a new friend Limppu (Loaf, an erwin) creates a plan to beat her adversary, Lisko. But the decisive steps depend on Metuli alone – she has to muster her courage and decide what kind of life she really wants.

At the moment this book is only available in Finnish. It would be really nice to see it translated into English!

Susan

 

“Amazing adventure in the underground world of secrets

Can a nightmare turn into reality? Metuli, a girl living in Suomenlinna, wakes up one morning as an odd creature and even her own family doesn’t recognize her anymore. Gradually Metuli finds out what kind of barter has been made with her and who are the creatures living in the underground tunnels of the island. But doesn’t even her best friend recognize her under the strange skin she’s now wearing?

In this touching adventure Metuli has to face the intriguing past of the bastion island and herself. Maanalaiset/Undergrounders poses the challenging question of who we really are deep down.”

 

 

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