June Corpelle is 15 years old and has been living with her aunt and cousin since a very young age. She does not understand why her parents left her and will embark on a self-discovery journey, shortly after moving to her aunt’s hometown, and starts having odd dreams about a big, white house.
It took me a while to get into this book. Actually, I cannot say I ever really got into it. I kept feeling something was off or amiss, but could not point my finger at anything in particular, so I would reread some things on and off.
When I got to the first third of the book I decided to read the whole thing from scratch, which didn’t really help because I was not reading it for the first time and so was unable to look at it unbiased.
Anyway, I will try to explain to the best of my abilities what did not work for me in this novel.
Usually, when I am reading a fantasy book, I like discovering things bit by bit along with the main character. It allows me to feel enthralled by the story, as if I am the main character.
In this case, it felt like:
1) random thoughts and information were coming out of nowhere and taken as facts when not much actually proved or even pointed in that direction;
2) The narrative would take a direction, something would come up, and the previous line would not be resumed in the least;
3) I did not feel a clear division on what the June of the past (before she discovered anything) knew and the one who is telling the story as a flashback. There were times I am pretty sure she was not even the origin of the information (like the bit about Fexorrous in chapter 5 or about the halls of existence/council guards in chapter 10), even though she is the book’s narrator and we are not told who is transmitting it instead.
Even that prologue/introduction, which obviously happened well after the first chapter, I could not tell throughout the whole book when/where it fit in, though I am assuming it’s at the end.
I couldn’t even tell how long passed since the book started. I thought weeks, months at most, but then I get a line saying A flash focused my attention on the age of my body and the years that had passed since entering the House.!
It’s all those (not so) little connections – which I suppose will be obvious to plenty of people and therefore allow them to enjoy the book much more than I did – that I found necessary to link the elusive information and bring a more solid foundation to the narrative.
Instead, I could not get a grip on what was going on, and kept wondering what I had missed, hence going back frequently and consequently taking 10 days to finish the book, instead of the usual 2/3.
I took some notes of things I didn’t get:
– If June is 15 and went to live with her aunt Marcelle 5 years prior, why does she have no memories of her parents?
– What exactly June’s job was. I thought leaving her at the playground was overly simplistic, or maybe it’s just me and she got this really obvious job that I didn’t understand because we don’t have it around where I live.
– June keeps talking about energies and feeling energized and balancing her energy and whatnot like it’s the most normal thing in the world. And yet she mocks Ms Baynes and even Granny, saying the latter’s stories were anecdotes. That and saying things like first the plains and then the house felt like her true home, and other things, made me wonder what exactly she found normal.
– Why it took so long for June to get that the white house was the Magician’s house. She had been told by the store lady that the magician’s house was right next to the park, then by Kostas and Ette that Ette’s grandmother lived 2 houses before the Magician’s, and then with Ms Baynes’ story about the house… I just didn’t get the big surprise.
– June telling her aunt Marcelle that Ms Baynes had invited her entire family to the dinner party. Granted, she invited the whole neighbourhood but still, when they were talking, I only saw her invite June, not showing any interest in meeting the rest of her family, unlike what June told Aunt Marcelle.
– I didn’t quite understand the thing about wanderers and feeders. If a soul exits a body when it’s hurt, and goes out looking for a better carrier, as it was put, doesn’t that carrier already have a soul? What happens to the wandering soul then? What exactly is a soul then, just energy? A person’s true self, what makes them who they are, is just energy that someone else can absorb and then cease to be? All the person’s memories, their essence, it all just disappears as it gets consumed? I struggled with that concept.
– I found the explanation for carriers and wielders confusing as well, and didn’t get why wielder was always written in italic when the rest was not. I thought I got it, that carriers, well, carried energy, and wielders manipulated and transformed it (although I never understood how or into what), but then I don’t get how Seb Creat was able to manipulate said energy without being either.
– I didn’t get why one minute the evil lord is, I quote, mocked for his efforts to join the Royal Militia and the next he is so charismatic that he convinces everyone that he should be their leader. Someone who has neither power which is supposedly required or at least valued for such a position (Creat had not been doted as an energy Carrier. He was also not a wielder of it.).
– Besides, there was no place where we wouldn’t be found. I stood out like a beacon. Why? At this point June did not even know about her ‘powers’ if one can put it that way, so why would she stand out like that?
– So one minute Aunt Marcelle is telling June she has to go live at the House because her energy has overflowed and all of them can be tracked, and the next several days have passed and life is still normal. There is this pending atmosphere of doom, of it being so easy to be caught if they are not careful, and yet they always seem to get away and there doesn’t seem to be any urgency at all in making the required changes to keep everyone safe.
These notes concern the first 6 chapters of the book, the part I reread from scratch. I stopped taking any after that point. However, I do recall that I never found out who Ette’s friend was, for instance, the one who told her not to worry; why Leev said her body didn’t feel the same and the town was sucking up her energy if she was a normal human; why normal people supposedly felt ill at the House, but when everyone was there having dinner they all seemed fine except for Kostas; why June recovered her memories when she went to the Plains or why Netania’s got hers in the Halls of Existence, for that matter (Dez basically sucked them out of them and absorbed them as part of their energy, right?); and I know I found other things amiss that contributed to me not feeling content by the time the story ended.
The good guys aren’t that good, which can be something positive, since it can portray different and deeper dimensions to a character. But in this case, even the so called saviour of everyone, the mighty magician, seems more like a power hungry squizophrenic who cannot be trusted and has worse mood swings than a woman on nasty PMS.
Considering he is designated a magician, I found it surprising that his powers bore down to, besides creating a very nifty house, putting himself asleep for a really long time, opening portals and creating a spiffy flame that would keep their energy undetected. That’s it. That’s all the powers I can remember reading about.
It bothered me that June seemed to embrace her new life so rapidly. She would just go along with what anyone wanted her to do (except her loving aunt of course, only complete strangers) and keeps talking about feeling a power and an energy filling her, almost as if it was the most normal thing in the world. If in her opinion granny’s stories about Fexorrous, carriers and wielders were anecdotes, as the author put it, then all of that should have felt very abnormal to her.
On the other hand, June never learns how to use this awesome talent she supposedly has. Her ‘powers’ remain utterly dormant throughout the whole book and only at 89% do they mildly manifest, when she manages to open a door without touching it. That’s it. The rest of the book, she only talks about feeling energy every once in a while. There is no progress of control of such energy and no further demonstrations beyond that point. So basically we are introduced to a system of magic which has such potential but it is not developed at all.
There were positives, of course.
Some descriptions were interesting, both of scenery and wardrobe.
The house description was really nice.
I liked some characters. Leev was great, she felt real. Mr Zorga made me giggle. I sympathized most of all with Aunt Marcelle, someone who did her best to protect the ones she loved, going against her own instincts and inner struggles to follow orders she didn’t really believe in but trusted.
The rest, even Ms Baynes with all her quirkiness, felt completely bland to me.
I also felt that the narrative would take a direction which I would not have followed. For instance, on chapter 5 when Aunt Marcelle is telling June that her energy overflowed (whatever that means), that the process of her becoming a Carrier started, and that she will have to go live in the House, June does not inquire about any of this any further. Even after seeing Leev is against Aunt Marcelle in an obvious crucial matter, she does not ask any questions.
And in the beginning of chapter 6 we are told someone gave Aunt Marcelle the orders that got her in such an anguished state and, still, June cares not for any of this. All that matters is the picture. I for one would have tried to make the person who took care of me for one third of my life feel better, and tell her that regardless of the reservations she may have in speaking about it, it’s okay to tell me whatever she knows, that she understands that her aunt did her best, try to comfort her.
But then again I am not 15, so maybe that’s just the issue.
The fact is I did not feel related to the main character throughout the entire book. Not only did she have reactions that just felt off, to me, like the one I mentioned above, but she also went from being a seemingly normal kid, hoping to find some purpose in her life, something exciting, to complaining about everything and how crazy it all was, but not really wanting or striving to get explanations, instead blindly obeying; then at other times she would get into these speeches or ramblings or grandeur thoughts (Future generations would use my name to describe the one who seeks, etc), I don’t even know what to call them, really, making the writing, though very accessible, a bit too flourished for my taste (stuff like Nature is as nature is, and my nature was mine, destined to be acknowledged by my being), and finally she ends up wanting to be a queen, wearing a crown made of all things evil.
She went from being a follower to wanting to be a leader without any noticeable or meaningful progress, or at least that’s how it felt to me. Abrupt and convenient.
A lot of the book read sort of like a dream, a jumble of disconnected thoughts that I kept hoping would make sense soon. There was a serious lack of fluidity. For instance, there is a passage where one minute she won’t be caught dead in a certain dress and the next it’s already on. A while later, one minute she is blindfolded, the next she can describe the door in front of her. This happened a few paragraphs apart, but it was something present throughout the narrative, on and off.
There was no emotion in the few scenes where there should have been plenty, like Kostas telling how his daughter was killed or June realizing she had watched her father get murdered in front of her eyes, or her reunion with her mother.
The characters were flickery, changed their mind and even personality like crazy, not just June. It’s like they didn’t know who they were or who they wanted to be.
The ending was beyond convenient and hopeless.
For a book to completely grip me, I need to feel I am in the story, that I would make similar choices than the main character’s (or at least that they are valid ones) and that the way and rhythm by which I get the information make sense. In this book, I constantly felt one step behind or ahead, most often the former. So I guess I felt that the information was not introduced in the most intuitive way.
The book could use a proper edit, not only for misspellings and missing/extra words, but especially punctuation.
One thing that baffled me is tht the fact that the novel is called The Magician’s Home makes me wonder why there isn’t even much magic in the book and what exactly its purpose is. I suppose it might be a coming of age story with a few fantasy elements, but mostly about finding one’s origins and who to trust.
I really wanted to love it, since it has some features which could be quite interesting and different from what is out there. And I do think it will appeal to plenty of people; sadly, it’s just not my cup of tea.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Read from March 21 to 31, 2015