September in Books: The Dragonbone Chair; The Gospel of Loki; The Order of the Phoenix

The Dragonbone Chair, Tad WilliamsThe Dragonbone Chair

Young, inept servant boy Simon falls into a world of monsters, mages and magic swords after accidentally rebelling against the High King of Osten Ard. Sometimes, you just can’t beat a good bit of absolute pulp.

And that’s exactly why I loved The Dragonbone Chair. Sure, the plot is very much a remodelled Fellowship of the Ring, the dialogue is stuffy and melodramatic, and every other character has the classic Exotic Apostrophe wedged into their name (hello, Khendhraja’aro); but Tad Williams doesn’t seem to care. He’s cheesy and he knows it – and with the fantasy genre firmly entrenched in the serious and the grim these days, a little unashamed cheese is no bad thing.

The Gospel of Loki, Joanne M. Harristhe-gospel-of-loki

The rise and fall of Asgard, retold from the perspective of Loki the Trickster.

I won’t lie, I bought this one purely for the cover. I thought the premise – reimagining the villainous Loki as a victimised anti-hero – was neat, but if it weren’t for the oh-so-shiny cover, I doubt the blurb would have been enough to sway me.

In fact, I actually put off reading this for months purely because I was worried the book itself wouldn’t live up to its packaging – and now it’s finished, I can’t honestly say that it did. I’m not sure whether it’s because my love for the cover art set too high a standard or because I was never really invested in the ‘sympathy for the Devil’ angle to begin with, but I just struggled throughout to find any real foothold in this. I think perhaps if I were younger I would have found something more in the snarky, misunderstood tone (Harris really does reduce Loki from a god to a seething, “oppressed” teen sometimes) but as I am now it just didn’t do it for me. A shame, considering how great it looks on my bookcase…

the-order-of-the-phoenixHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling (reread)

After going straight from Ulysses to Don Quixote to A Brief History of Seven Killings, I needed a bit of a detox – and what better for that than the favourite book of my childhood?

I’ve honestly lost track of how many times I’ve read Order of the Phoenix, but clearly not enough times for it get stale. One of the things for which I’ve always loved this book is introducing two of my favourite characters in all of literature – Luna Lovegood and Bellatrix Lestrange – and also for developing Ginny Weasley into something more substantial than the hapless damsel she was pared down to in the films.

And then there’s that great climactic set piece as Dumbledore finally confronts Voldemort himself; until now, I’d never really appreciated Dumbledore’s weary sense of duty as he marched into the Ministry, entering a fight he was too old for but couldn’t yet leave behind. “It was foolish to come here tonight, Tom” – one of those sublime moments when J.K. Rowling truly nails the scene.


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