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Monthly Archives: April 2014

I started reading Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series mainly because of how much I enjoyed his Old Kingdom series.  Rather than trying to review each book individually, I’m going to review the series as a whole.

The setup is simple enough: The Architect (i.e. God) has long since gone missing, leaving her will to be executed by seven trustees – who instead broke and imprisoned the will and took control over The House (a sort of central command station for the universe).  Each of the trustees is designated a day over which they have power (Mr. Monday, Grim Tuesday, etc.).  When one part of the will is freed, it selects a human to be the heir to the kingdom.  The heir, Arthur, must now defeat each of the trustees in turn to release the remaining parts of the will.  And suddenly we have a convenient setup for a 7 – book series.

One thing I particularly like: Arthur is not the “Chosen One”.  He is not special in any way, aside from being good-hearted.  He is chosen merely because he is in the right place at the right time – in this case, the precipice of death.

As Arthur confronts each of the trustees in turn, he travels through the house, he encounters a world with Nix’s characteristic creativity.  Every new area has unique people and locales.

The plot, from a high level, is not terribly surprising, and the storytelling, though engaging, wasn’t as captivating as the Old Kingdom series.  This was a fun series, but not one of my favorites.

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These days, a good portion of the reading I do is via audio books on my commute.  This is, for me, an efficient use of my time as well as a nice way to relax heading home from my day job.

As an aside: I have a friend who is a fellow writer, as well as being a librarian.  Her husband likes to tell her that audiobooks don’t count as “reading”, so she shouldn’t count it on books she’s read.  I think this is silly, personally, though I’m sure he’s not alone in his opinion.

There are some books that I listen to that don’t engross me.  That in itself, of course, shouldn’t be surprising.  Not every book can be The Wheel of Time.  It occurs to me to wonder, though:  Does the reader impact my perception of the story?  Would I have found it more interesting or engrossing, the characters more relatable, if I had read the book myself?

Most readers do a remarkable job.  I have just enough acting experience (during my college days) to appreciate how difficult it must be to bring a world to life with your voice.  A few of the readers, though, have struck me as off on their tone.

We’re all told to judge on substance, not the superficial. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  But we do.  Every day we judge people based on how they are dressed, how they look.  We decide on which book to pick up off the shelf because it has more interesting cover art.  As a writer, particularly, I find it unsettling that I may be deciding whether I like a book based on a reader, rather than the content.

Disclaimer 1: This post won’t be religious, per se.  I’m not in the business of convincing people to change their religious views.

Disclaimer 2: I am Catholic, which is the basis for my observations.

I attend Catholic mass (nearly) every Sunday, as well as (most of the) Holy Days of Obligation.  The readings we hear are mostly familiar, or extremely familiar.  Recently, the Catholic church updated some of the language to make it more modern, or to make the intent less ambiguous.  And I understand that.  Language evolves over time, and so the biblical translations will need occasional updates.  Anyone who has struggled through their first experience at Shakespeare understands this.

There is a part of me, however, that mourns the loss of the more elegant phrases that the previous version contained.  This strikes me particularly twice a year: at Christmas when the shepherds are no longer “sore afraid” and the angels proclamation is no longer, “fear not, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy”; and at Easter.  Christ once proclaimed to Peter that, “before the cock crows twice, you shall deny me thrice.”  Now He simply says, “before the cock crows, you shall deny me three times.”  As I mentioned, there is no loss of meaning, but the elegant language is now common.

It’s hard for me, as a writer, to accept this change.  How things are said is as important as what is said.  I can’t help wondering if this change, meant to help more people comprehend the message, is losing something.  God is after all, greater than we are.  Shouldn’t the language we use to invoke Him be on a higher level, too?

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