Monday, July 9, 2007
This week I read Laura Ruby's The Wall and the Wing . A dark-but-funny book I'll file under "orphans and magic."
It's a quick read, the story of a girl named Gurl, raised in an orphanage, lonely as can be. Gurl finds a friend in a boy named Bug, and together Bug and Gurl unravel the mysteries that lurk at the very core of their universe (why people have learned to fly, why neither of them can remember the past, etc)
What I love about the book is that it blends a contemporary voice and setting (New York, kid-lingo, etc) with a really unusual kind of magic (a pen that can conjure anything into being, a strange professor who pulls cats and kittens (because cats are riddles and riddles are everywhere) from his pockets. And while some authors today blend such worlds, Ruby fully integrates them. New York street punks and sewer-alligators and street musicians merge seamlessly into a kind of old-world-gangsterland and both are overtaken by really interesting kinds of magic.
It reminds me just a bit of Harry Potter in this way. Complete as it is with orphans and a "Flyfest" vaguely reminiscent of a mad Quiddich game. But in some ways Ruby has risen to a greater challenge, as she's gotten wildly creative, but left the contemporary world intact.
Which is something I find difficult as an author. Merging magic and whimsy with the "real" world. It's something I admire in authors like Ruby, and Ellen Potter. Because it's so much easier to send magical flying beasts through a city you've invented. A city in which you can rearrange the architecture. R
uby's done an admirable job of leaving the buildings intact.