Book: The Secret Country - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: The Secret Country
Saturday, 24 April 2004 at 08:13 pm
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Author: Pamela C Dean

Details: (c) Pamela Dyer-Bennet 1985; Pub Ace Fantasy Books 1985; ISBN 0-441-75739-1

Verdict: The Secret Country would be a great story if it were complete.

Reasons for reading it: Various things have been pointing towards reading Pamela Dean for a while, but the main reason is that:

How it came into my hands: rysmiel most charmingly gave it to me as an unbirthday present!

The Secret Country is one of those lovely E Nesbit type books where a bunch of kids have magical adventures, and a very nicely executed example of the genre. I love stories like that, where real people end up in completely fantastic situations.

The children are well-drawn (though I felt Ellen was under-characterized a little), although sometimes they feel a bit like story-book children rather than real children. That's not necessarily a terrible thing, mind you. I was quite intrigued by Laura's view of life as the youngest; she gets a lot more viewpoint stuff than youngest children usually do in these sort of books, and made me think hard about what it's like to be the one who tags along with a crowd of older children and has a hard time keeping up. (I am the oldest child myself, so I don't really have an idea what it's like to be Laura, but she sounded quite plausible to me, genuinely young without being soppy.)

The set-up of the magical land and its relationship with normal reality are both convincing and intriguing. I was pleased that not all the background is thrown in as infodumps, but the reader has little more information than the viewpoint characters. One thing that did niggle a little was the way that people's expressions conveyed far more information than is really plausible; that technique of incluing got irritating quite quickly. There's also some nice undermining of the expectations of the genre (as well as a few fairly obvious things about life in Mediaeval tech being less glamourous than one imagines), and I do like the quirk of the country being based on something the children made up, so that they expect to know what's going to happen. The children are very clearly aware that they are in a story, and don't have to be implausibly blind to the obvious to keep the story going.

The story is most delightfully adventurous; the children obviously have the possibility of screwing up in ways that have real consequences. A successful outcome seems neither too obvious nor too impossible, which is most pleasing. I was really drawn into the story, very much sympathizing with the characters and very much wanting to keep reading.

Since it succeeds so well on that level, I was even more disappointed than I normally would be when it ends in mid-air. I'm not mad on series anyway, but series that make no pretence at all of working as stand-alone stories really, really irritate me. I liked the book enough that I would have been prepared to go out and buy the sequel to keep reading, but I'm very put off by the way that it ends with absolutely nothing resolved. I feel I'm being effectively blackmailed to buy the rest of the series, and I really object to that. Plus, the lack of ending is extremely unsatisfying!


Moooood: frustratedfrustrated
Tuuuuune: Tori Amos: Happy phantom
Discussion: 5 contributions | Contribute something

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darcydodo: default
From:darcydodo
Date:April 24th, 2004 02:51 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 09:51 am (darcydodo's time)
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At least it's only a trilogy!

You still need to read Tam Lin, speaking of Pamela Dean.
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livredor: bookies (thanks to darcydodo)
From:livredor
Date:April 24th, 2004 03:32 pm (UTC)
3 hours after journal entry, 04:32 pm (livredor's time)
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At least it's only a trilogy!
It should still have a proper ending, damnit!

You still need to read Tam Lin
I do in fact know this.
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rysmiel: default
From:rysmiel
Date:April 26th, 2004 06:59 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 02:59 am (rysmiel's time)
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Come to think of it, we have a spare copy of Tam Lin sitting around - it has a semi-circular hole punched in the back cover, but other than that is fine.

[ Believe me, I was being as nice as I could be absent having the whole trilogy to hand, as there are few endings I have ever read with more inherent frustration than finishing The Hidden Land without The Whim of the Dragon to hand. ]
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livredor: bookies (thanks to darcydodo)
From:livredor
Date:April 26th, 2004 07:20 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 08:20 am (livredor's time)
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Believe me, I was being as nice as I could be
I did not at all mean to imply any criticism of you! It was a lovely present and I'm most exceedingly grateful (I should have made this more clear, I feel). I'm just annoyed with the publishers, or whoever made the decision to make the volume end just there.
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coffeeandink: default
From:coffeeandink
Date:June 4th, 2004 12:00 pm (UTC)
40 days after journal entry, 08:00 am (coffeeandink's time)
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Actually ... I read The Hidden Land before Whim was published, and it never occurred to me it needed a sequel, although I was certainly delighted when one came out.
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