Rowan of Rin, by Emily Rodda

Rowan of Rin is a children’s fantasy novel by author Emily Rodda (Jennifer Rowe), I just finished reading this book both to my grade 5 class, and at home to my son (grade 3). Rowan of Rin is, in many ways, a simple story, it’s plot progression, series of challenges and climax all pull from fantasy tropes, from prophesy to quest completion. It is a rags to riches tale; the story of a boy broadly rejected for his weakness and cowardice, who discovers on the quest he is forced to undertake that he has bravery and strength aplenty.

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In many respects this could be described as a by-the-numbers piece of fantasy fiction: everything we expect of the genre is present. I say this not to denigrate the book, but to highlight it’s strength. Rowan of Rin is an excellent book. It is tightly plotted, cleverly evolved and well written. For those who read it carefully, or read it multiple times, the use of foreshadowing is brilliantly executed throughout. There are few books that could be described as more typically fantasy, and yet rise to achieve what Emily Rodda has managed so neatly, succinctly, and evocatively. It is a wonderful book, with no wasted verbiage, that manages to pack both adventure and emotion into a quest story heaped with character growth.

Rowan

The story itself revolves around a small village, Rin, whose water source has dried up with looming consequences. A party of adventures set forth to uncover the source of the problem, guided by the poetic prophesy of the wise-woman/witch Sheba. Rowan, a boy and the least capable of the village, is compelled to join the party, and in so doing is set upon a path of self-discovery and high adventure.

Short, with uncomplicated prose cleverly woven into a tight and emotional package, Rowan of Rin is a wonderful fantasy book. My class highly enjoyed the story, and my son is now reading the second in the series. For anyone with children, Rowan of Rin makes for a fantastic introduction to the genre. For any adults looking for quality exemplars of tight and cleverly plotted stories that use an economy of words to best effect, this is also well worth a read.

 

 

 

Artemis, by Andy Weir

Artemis is a science fiction murder mystery by Andy Weir, author of the Martian. I found The Martian to be an exceptional story. A character I liked in a do-or-die situation, using pure intellect and willpower to bully his way through every one of the multitude of problems he faces. I loved the book, and it ranks as one of my all time favourite reads. Needless to say then, when I read that Andy Weir was working on his next book I was very excited.

The story is set in the eponymous city of Artemis, humanity’s first settlement beyond the fragile shores of Earth. The setting of the story is compelling. Highly detailed and lovingly crafted, Artemis is as scientifically accurate a moon-city as can be found anywhere in literature, it is, I would go so far to say, unrivaled. Like The Martian, Andy Weir shows his understanding of science and technology, which, coupled with a keen imagination, makes for a fascinating backdrop to the story.

The story itself I found to be something of a slow-burn, The Martian I read in a flurry over about a day and a bit, it hooked me from the first scene and didn’t let go. Artemis was a more gradual climb. I found the main character’s internal dialog to be a little abrasive at times, and the while the plotting and action was intelligent, I didn’t find the reasons behind the action in the story thoroughly compelling.

All that changes as the book progresses, which is why I describe it as a slow-burn. As Jazz gets tangled in a mess far greater than she ever imagined, and the setting itself hangs in the balance, the stakes are raised to an all-time high and I was finally pulled fully into the book.

Artemis is an excellent novel, the overarching story, the raison-d’etre for the action and plotting is hidden behind a veil, off to the side of the characters and their concerns. The chief architect of this larger plot is a secondary character, and while the events in the story are important to this larger plan, the story itself, the plot of the novel, deals with a portion. The larger question, about creating an economy for Artemis moving forward and the struggles and implications that holds, are fascinating concepts. The novel though deals with a vitally connected but independent story line, which while fascinating in its own right, really shines when connected to the implications of the bigger picture.

Artemis is an intelligently written and unbelievably well conceived novel. The characters are interesting, even if a little abrasive. The writing is solid and the plot progression is good, but it is a slow-burn, in my opinion, only fully grabbing you by the throat around half-way through. Anyone who is a fan of hard science fiction would be well rewarded by reading Artemis, while I personally didn’t enjoy the book as much as I loved The Martian, it is a solid offering, and I look forward to Andy Weir’s next book.