Here’s a post by Liz Bourke at tor.com: Two Books About Family Situations
The two books are these:
This caught my eye because I quite liked Dragonhaven, a book I haven’t read for a while. Opinions are, I believe, mixed. I’ve always liked Liz Bourke’s book reviews, so I was quite curious to see whether she enjoyed this one.
Also, I have two books by Zen Cho on my TBR pile, and of course I KEEP hearing about her books ALL THE TIME, and someday, someday. No guesses about when, but if any of you have read Black Water Sister, by all means tell me what you thought. In fact, if you’ve read Dragonhaven, what did you think of that one? I wouldn’t say it’s one of McKinley’s best, but that sets the bar fairly high. As I say, I liked it.
Liz gives both books a thumbs up:
Black Water Sister: “[I]t’s a striking, appealing narrative of family, displacement, “home”-coming, coming-of-age… and ghosts.”
Dragonhaven: [T]the teenaged protagonist is constantly exhausted from parenting a newborn marsupial dragon (definitely endangered, also grows up to breathe fire) and spends most of the book in a dazed parental fugue. You may be surprised (or not) to hear that Dragonhaven is nonetheless a compelling read.”
10 thoughts on “Families”
I loved Black Water Sister. Engaging characters, a wonderful voice, and Zen Cho writes Malaysia in a way that makes me see and hear it, while at the same time never compromising for a (likely unfamiliar) audience. She’s written about how, growing up reading books set in Britain, she just had to accept unfamiliar words and concepts that the text didn’t explain — and she wanted to do the same here, using Malay and Hokkien words without defining them in text or glossary. I learned a lot when I looked up terms afterwards, but in reading the experience is best if you just immerse yourself.
Also all the food sounds wonderful. And there’s a fantastic cranky awful grandma. And difficult, complicated relationships with parents who love you but don’t understand you.
As for Dragonhaven—I read it once, when it first came out, and spent the entire book with a raging headache much like Jake’s. It was such an unpleasant experience I’ve never reread it. I think at the time I was expecting something more like Damar, and I really disliked the first person narrative voice I got instead. (Sunshine worked a lot better for me, though even that one I had to give a second chance.)
I loved Dragonhaven—the voice is challenging, I agree, but it is exactly the voice of a teenage boy in waaayyyy over his head. (He has a splitting headache for most of the story, because of [spoilers], so I can understand where Mary Beth’s headache comes from). It’s a very unique fantasy, nothing at all like her earlier work or like Sunshine, which I also love.
I can’t wait to read Black Water Sister. I have her book of short stories set in Malaysia, Spirits Abroad, and it’s fabulous.
At one time I thought there couldn’t be a better book out than the Blue Sword, but I now feel that Sunshine is her best piece of work. Dragonhaven was not on the same plane.
I really like how Ilona Andrews works with family dynamics, particularly in her Edge and Hidden Legacy books. They drive each other nuts, but also love each other unconditionally.
I’ve read Dragonhaven a few times. Reading it was a positive experience overall, but I think I’ve read too much raising-young-dragons fiction (by Lackey, by T. McCaffrey, etc) for it to really stand out to me.
I agree that Sunshine may be McKinley’s best work, but also that Dragonhaven is very different and hard to compare.
Also, yes, Ilona Andrews handles complicated families REALLY well, especially in the Hidden Legacy series.
I just finished reading Dragonhaven. For me, this was an absolutely amazing book. It might even be my favorite of hers, though I haven’t read any of her others recently.
I didn’t find it slow-paced. I didn’t find Jake’s voice to be annoying, either. It’s almost like a slice-of-life; it’s just an extraordinary slice of an extraordinary life.
I’m glad you left this comment, Robert. I know multiple people who didn’t care for Dragonhaven, but I liked it a lot myself and enjoyed Jake’s voice.
My favorite of hers is probably Sunshine, though. Have you read that one?
Yeah, the reviews on Goodreads aren’t all that great. But it seems that most of them were expecting something else. What you actually get, in spades, is a huge sense-of-wonder. Of a teenager trying to cope with something that was almost beyond what he was capable of dealing with. Robin made this world feel real, like it could be our world in the universe next door.
It’s been many years since I’ve read Sunshine, but I remember that I enjoyed it very much. I seem to remember that the protagonist was a baker (I think). I probably need to read this again. Even though I also remember that I wish there’d been more books about what happened after Sunshine ended. Oh well, better to leave readers wanting more than less.
Sunshine badly needs a sequel, but it’s not actually a cliffhanger ending, so it could be worse!