31 March 2012

Book Review: Among Others

Title: Among Others
Author: Jo Walton
Publisher/Year: Tor / 2011
Source/Format: Tor, ILAs / Print
Date Finished: 18 January 2011
Book # 3

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

The Short and Sweet of It
Morwenna and her twin sister were raised by their insane mother who is also a witch. Recruited by fairies to prevent their mother from amassing too much power, the girls fight and in the process Morwenna is injured and her sister dies. And then the story begins....

A Bit of a Ramble
I was very excited when this book made the short list for the Independent Literary Awards; after all, I had heard such wonderful things about the book from various bloggers and I adored the cover. And I must say I was not disappointed. But I was surprised.

It's not often I read a story where so much nothing happens. The plot of Among Others is very difficult to pin down. More than anything, this reads like an insight into a character, not a "story". Of course, this is in part due to the structure of the novel which is written in a series of diary entries. The real story has already taken place by the time the book begins. What readers get here is the aftermath, the healing. Mori, the protagonist, ran away from her mad mother to live with a father she had never met who quickly sent her away to a boarding school where, honestly, the most exciting thing that happens is she joins a book club at the local library.

As I'm writing this, I'm worried you may think the book boring because of a lack of action, but it's far from it. I was riveted by the three levels this story had going: the tale of witches and fairies, the coming of age of our main character, and the consistent focus on science fiction-fantasy novels. This is not a heart-pounding thrill ride, but rather a quiet stroll, a walk at dusk complete with profound thoughts and reflection.

I really must direct you to Carl's review of the book over at Stainless Steel Droppings and Ana's at things mean a lot for true reviews. They artfully state what I would love to say, and I highly recommend reading their reviews.


  1. That does seem a bit odd for all the action to have taken place before the book starts … but I trust you that it works.

  2. It is an odd little book as far as the action of it goes! Usually plots are my thing, and character study sorts of books bore me to death. But like you I found this one enthralling!

  3. I really liked the other book I have read from this author (about dragons but the title escapes me right now.) I need to get to this one in due course as I have heard it is good.

  4. Jenny said it perfectly. And thank you for the mention, Trisha!

  5. This sounds like a quiet and contemplative book, and though it seems like there is not a lot going on, it sounds like something that I need to read. Great review today!

  6. It was an interesting reading experience for me. I ended up really liking it, but couldn't say that I loved it because I felt like I was missing out so much on the great references to other science fiction works from the 1970s. It did motivate me to pick up and read some of the authors she referenced, particularly Ursula K. LeGuin. I think this might be a fabulous re-read for me once I've really explore the genre even more. All in all, though, I really enjoyed this story and look forward to more from Jo Walton.

  7. I JUST finished this book about 30 minutes ago. I know what you mean about lack of action, but I think since she was so engaging a narrator, I didn't mind that much.

    That said, I think I was annoyed that everything happened at the end- I don't want to say much more, but I would be happy to move this onto an email conversation!

    In some ways, and I realize this sounds blasphemous, I thought there was TOO MUCH book talk in this novel. And now I want to look up all these sci fi/fantasy novels- were they ALL published before 1980? Good heavens, I will be stuck in the 20th century for that genre forever.


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