This is a story that stays with you. In a word (one of Mori’s words), it’s “brill.”
Among Others is the diary of Morewenna. The epistolary format in writing is my absolute favorite, so the journal/diary entries reminded me of that very strongly and was a big point in favor of the book. Mori writes somewhat cryptically about her family, her life, and magic, just pieces woven in the tapestry of her life at boarding school and her reading journal (very heavy on the sci-fi!). The plot is one of fantasy, magical realism, and adolescence. Mori and her twin sister were raised by their mother, an evil witch, as Mori describes her. The girls enlist the help of fairies in their Wales hometown and plan to cripple their mother’s magical power. In the end, Mori walks away the cripple and her twin is killed. Mor runs away from home and is eventually sent to live with her father, Daniel, who has been absent from her life since she and her sister were babies. Daniel lives with his three sisters and they enroll Mor in a boarding school. Because of her leg injury, she cannot participate in the sports and games, so she spends the bulk of her days reading in the school library. She catalogs the events of her life in her journal – school, classes, what’s she’s reading, the library in town, her father and his sister, the book club she joins. It may seem mundane and boring on the surface, but I was charmed and delighted by it.
I’ve read some other reviews that panned the book because of the many references to old science fiction and authors of science fiction, but I couldn’t agree less. I was familiar with perhaps 1% of the titles and authors that Jo Walton mentioned in the pages of Among Others, but that didn’t disrupt my enjoyment one bit. Mor made me laugh many times and I was thrilled for her as she found her circle of friends and even a special boy.
In many ways, Among Others is a love letter to books – specifically fantasy and science fiction books – and libraries, a love that I share with Mor. She writes at length about her favorite authors and her favorite stories and series, she pens odes to inter library loan and the beauty of libraries, and she bows down before books in general. I was sad when the story ended; I could go on reading about Mor for always.
About the Book
Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins, but her mind found freedom in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled—and her twin sister dead.
Now, having fled to a father whom she barely knew, Mori is sent to boarding school in England—a place all but devoid of true magic. There, she tempts fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic attracts the attention of her broken and malign mother, pulling Morwenna toward a reckoning that will draw on everything she has learned in her years of engagement with stories and books.
About the Author
Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.