Reviews in Brief: the burning realm

Righto. Let’s begin with Michael Reaves’ sequel to The Shattered World. In THE BURNING REALM, Reaves takes up with his kooky cast a year later; Amber (symbolic love interest #1) has acquired the rank of Conjuress, Pandrogas has desperately researched a way to prevent the decay of the shattered world’s orbit, and Mirren’s started training as an assassin. Thankfully, Amber, Mirren, and the other female characters emerge as more complete characters. At times, Reaves use of the physical as a means of characterization (esp. with his female characters) becomes a little self-conscious, but overall this is a marked improvement over Shattered. Sadly, the trilogy hasn’t yet been completed — this is a pity since it looks like Reaves was coming into his own as a writer. I mean seriously? This time I remembered the names of his now-distinct characters.

Gail Carson Levine’s Fairest is unacceptably awesome. It’s a retelling of Snow White so creative that at times I found myself genuinely surprised at the plot twists. Levine uses the story of Maid Aza and Ivi to tell a tale of TWO Snow Whites — both whom are placed in danger because of beauty, its lack, and the fear of its loss. Plus, the beauty that panicks people isn’t just of the face and the body — it’s also of the voice, which I know will devote some of the more musically inclined readers out there. It’s a young adult novel, BUT ISN’T FLUFFY. Levine’s prose is so elegant (and fun!) that I’ve been keeping my copy by my computer to flip through when I need a break from critical theory. <3

Chanukah Guilt was another a surprisingly good, fast read. I was a bit concerned at points, since it takes a good minute for the action to really get going, but the characters are enjoyable enough that this wasn’t a huge concern. Rabbi Aviva Cohen is a twice-divorced rabbi living in southern Jersey. She’s also an older foodie (in her 50s), and relishing her delightfully single life. Her family is quite kooky, and one of the B-plots features her lesbian neice’s changing relationship with her autistic son. This kooky family is, I think, key to one of the underlying missions of the book, since a lot of it has to do with what it means to be a Jewish American in the 21st century. The answers Schneider offers are quite varied, ranging from Aviva’s goofy joy in life to Trudy’s modern family to the more secular Jewish-ness of the murder victim’s family. These dynamics are honestly more fun to explore than the murder mystery itself. Good times!

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