My Search for a Not That Awful Fantasy

In my continuing search for a good fantasy novel written by someone who’s still alive, I picked up City of Secrets, part of the “Stravaganza” series by Mary Hoffman.

Well, I’m still searching.

These books should be good. Should be. It was a nice creative stroke to create a fantasy world patterned after Renaissance Italy, and skew it a little because it’s in a parallel universe. Kids in our own world get access to “Talia” via magic.

Having come up with this really very promising original idea, Mary Hoffman comes up short in the execution of it. She writes down to her readers; it’s as if she thinks too much imagination is beyond their capabilities. So the action in the book is anchored in the real world of school, text messaging, homework, girlfriends, and more school. It is suffocating.

Yo, Mary–every teenager already knows what school is like. They don’t need to read about it. Show some mercy!

As seems to be usual in these books, the teenage characters’ parents are basically nonentities (if they appear at all), their siblings vaguely annoying but quite unimportant, and their age-group peers are everything. This is queer and unnatural; it is also the most enduring legacy of public education. No one really matters except your own narrow group of fellow children–and they matter more than anything. This is the single worst lesson taught by public schooling. They call this abnormal age-group segregation “socialization.”

One of the reasons people read fantasy is to escape. Lord knows we have an awful lot to escape from! Why Ms. Hoffman keeps dragging her characters back to school and peer pressure is a mystery to me. She won’t allow her readers any break from the unrelenting tedium of being a teenager in public school.

All that being said, it’s still better than A Clash of Kings.

4 comments on “My Search for a Not That Awful Fantasy

  1. “… the most enduring legacy of public education. No one really matters except your own narrow group of fellow children–and they matter more than anything”

    You know, I was one of those parents who had my kids after thirty, so there is a little more “gap” between my generation and theirs than some parents have, however, I was shocked to see this very thing in my own kids lives. I guess I was sort of different even in my own generation, but my “school clicque” consisted of maybe three people whom I only saw at school, therefore they were not so much a huge or central thing in my life. Blessedly my parents took me to church and I felt much closer to kids in my youth group and church classes, and I felt like I had very little if anything in common with most of the folks I went to school with. I wasn’t interested in partying, sneaking into clubs, sneaking alcohol, smoking, trying drugs. These things that kids supposedly got into for the sole purpose of feeling accepted, held no interest for me. I guess that made me a “goody-goody”. But it was a happy childhood. Imagine how shocked I was when I grew up and found that most of those people who were into all of that back then, had never outgrown it. I feel every bit the “alien and pilgrim” in this world that the Bible says we are. Still do. In fact nowadays, even fellow confessing Christians lap up the world’s slop just about as eagerly as those who don’t claim any faith. Good is bad, bad is good. It’s all been turned on it’s head.

    1. Great post.

      I grew up in a modest family and lived a simple life, for the most part, although I had grandiose tastes in vehicles in my younger days.

      I went back to school in my thirties and found that the people ten years my junior were shockingly selfish and immature. Many were in their twenties and absolute hedonists, even though they had families of their own. Since then, it’s only gotten worse. We have a world where some creep could be photographed pantomiming a sexual assault on a sleeping woman, shed some elephant tears, promise to quit the senate, and then keep his seat after the storm blew over. (All of this is hypothetical, of course.)

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