September 6, 2006
First Test by Tamora Pierce (Book 1 of Protector of the Small Quartet)
Tamora Pierce writes her young-adult fantasy novels in sets of four, focusing on a strong female character who comes of age. Backstory: While Alanna “the Lioness” has become famous as the kingdom of Tortall’s first female knight, she diguised herself as a boy to accomplish the feat. While the king has decreed that girls can now enter training as pages, no one, so far has taken up the challenge. In First Test, Keladry of Mindelan (called Kel) changes this. Unfortunately for her, Lord Wyldon, the pages’ the training-master is a traditionalist who thinks women can’t be warriors. He grudgingly allows her to go on a probationary period of a year in which she proves herself capable of the rigorous training. Kel is strong and determined to prove everyone wrong. While she encounters bullies, she also makes friends. The immortal creatures that invaded Tortall during the Immortals quartet are still attacking villages and farms, and Kel and her fellow pages are summoned to help with this effort.
Tamora Pierce hasn’t lost her touch- the story is just as engaging and action-packed. After just one book, I haven’t grown to love Kel the way I have with Alanna and Daine, but she’s definitely growing on me and I look forward to her further adventures in Page. One difference from the earlier quartets is this is the first protagonist who does not have a magic Gift. This makes her more down-to-earth and easier to relate to, though to us moderners it seems strange to see a 10-year-old being so tough and independent.
Some readers will be dissappointed that Alanna does not feature much in the story, but I can see why Pierce made that choice. It allows Kel to grow more as a character, without having a larger-than-life figure like Alanna overshadow her.
Cattle-Lords and Clansmen: the Social Structure of Early Ireland by Nerys Patterson was one of the Celtic books that was recommended to me by online scholarly types. Even though I’m pretty used to reading academic books, this one was rather difficult and tedious to get through. She starts by reviewing and critiquing previous scholarship on what ancient/medieval Irish society was like. She notes that earlier scholars used innacurate translations, and until recently modern scholars did not like to use ancient Irish law as a source for evidence of social structure. Patterson takes a multi-disciplinary approach- using evidence from law tracts, other texts, linguistics and archeology. If like me, you are not interested in the nitty-gritty of law and social rank, skip the first couple chapters to get to the good stuff.
Ch. 3 is about the economics and material culture, and there are some interesting tidbits on the cultural associations of various animals, as well as their uses and roles.Ch. 4 is about how the Irish divided up land , which has some cosmological implications.
Ch. 5 Seasonal Rhythyms of Social Life, was very interesting and informative- it discusses how the cycles of agricultural, military and courtship/marriage/family activity interrelated to the seasons and festivals. The festivals, it turns out, are less solar than they are agricultural and tribal in nature.
This is probably better to read after getting through more of the earlier scholarship. One book you should read first is Celtic Heritage by Rees, which she cites a lot. Though it’s a difficult read, it is useful for understanding how ancient Irish society worked, how they related to the land, how they saw the world they lived in.
September 5, 2006
I’ve realized that I don’t really have enough to say about autism/disability to blog about it regularly, though I do like to write about it when the mood strikes me or something about it comes up. I have more to say about politics and religion, so if you’re interested in those, check out my other blog.
I’ve been wanting a place to put book reviews (I read a LOT!) that is easier to organize than livejournal, and I don’t want to start another blog right now. For now I will keep the autism/disability posts here until I can figure out where else they should go.
I suppose when I write more on these topics I’ll put them on the other blog, under an autism/disability category. Of course I will post on any other changes to the blog.
But if you are a reader who shares any of my interests, stay tuned.