Amazon | Goodreads
First Published September 30th 2011)
I'm always a little leery of self-published works, so when a self-published author emails me asking to review, I always go looking for an excerpt first. Almost always, the answer is then a polite, "Um, no." But occasionally the excerpt will win me over and have me intrigued enough to start thinking a hesitant, "Yeah, sure?" The excerpt I found for Titan Magic led to a much more resounding, "Yes, please! Gimme, gimme!" But excerpts can fool you, so I was still a teensy bit hesitant. That is, until I actually picked the book up, because within the first chapter, my hesitancy went out the window and it never showed its face again. Titan Magic is easily one of my favorite things I've read this year. For realsies.
When I finished it, my initial one-line review on GR was 'This is a book to be discussed, not rated' which means this is going to be a difficult review to write. (And yet watch how long I can blather on. Talent, people!) But seriously. As I said in my review of Shadows on the Moon, I would love to read this in a lit class or book club because I would love to have passionate, face-to-face discussions with people about it. It's complex and intriguing, and will potentially make some people uncomfortable, which to me is the hallmark of a good discussion book. But beyond that, it's really readable and engaging - you can't have a discussion if 1/2 the people there couldn't be bothered to finish the damn thing. With this, I don't think that would be a problem.
The world building was fantastic. The world, or more accurately, the setting, is very insular for such a huge story, which was kind of neat. The whole thing is based in mythology, philosophy and religion, but it's done in a very organic way. It's very folkloric, with lots of fairy tale and mythology references, but it's not bogged down by them. The most, um...religiously sensitive? among you may be put off by a few things here or there, but then, I wouldn't expect you to be reading a fantasy about people "playing god" and trying to create life, so... As I said, it may make some people uncomfortable, though I don't think that's ever the intent. (Basically, the people made uncomfortable are going to be the people who are always made uncomfortable. By everything. Ever.) Personally, I found the philosophical and moral implications really fascinating, part of what would make this such a good book to sit and chat about, and it added this great layer to the story and the world. The slight totalitarianism of the society added a nice layer, too. But mostly the idea of love - in all its forms, with no such thing as good or bad love - that comes through strongest in the end added warmth and humanity that really set Titan Magic apart.
From here on out, things get slightly spoilery (not much, but some), so you have been warned.
The main character, Maddy, is so very rootforable. Throughout the story, she learns that not only is she not quite normal, she's not even quite human, and her struggle to understand what she is and to decide for herself whether she can ever be more (or even ever should be more), was really gripping. Like a good philosophical debate, the reader questions how things should turn out and whether there can be - or should be - a happy ever after for Maddy, or anyone else involved. Maddy has to struggle with not only what she is at her core, but whether, as potentially powerful as she is, she has any amount of control. The idea of being a vessel for other people, of being a slave to others emotions and having them rampage through you, yet never feeling your own and not even being sure if you can have emotions, was really intriguing. And as I've stated in the past, I love an unusual or silent character, and even if Maddy's silence sort of had loopholes, she certainly fits the bill of out-of-the-box characters I love. Her need to find her voice is a good metaphor for her story in general, but even if you don't want to get all metaphor-y, Maddy just works as a character. She's relatable even when her circumstances aren't, and it all just makes for really interesting reading.
More interesting, though, and very impressive, was that it had me constantly reevaluating not only what I wanted to happen, but what should happen and what needed to happen. And Maddy questions this, too, which is part of what makes her a great and intriguing character. Everything is built on shifting sands, and I was constantly wondering where and when the sinkhole was going to open up and swallow everyone whole. This, like some of the philosophical nature of the book, is something I think may make people uncomfortable because they like to have a clear idea of who to root for, who to fall for and who to hate. But for me, the best stories are never cut and dry. Everyone is flawed and even the most flawed can be good. Lamm really capitalized on this.
Now, there was a time about 2/3 of the way through that the train got derailed a little bit. Part of it, I think, was Lamm's exploration of gray area and those shifting sands I was talking about. It seemed to lose focus a touch, or like too much was going on/in the air, for it to really come clear. I think some people would be more bothered by this than I was because I think some people get really irritated when they're confused. But though it began to feel a little chaotic, it worked because it suited the core of the story, and it pulled together in the end, anyway. The only reason it even bears mentioning was because for literally the rest of the book, both before and after this rough patch, I was just sort of enthralled and never doubting a single thing. I read every line rabidly and it all seemed so smooth and perfect that any little deviation from that was bound to stand out.
In the end, I am so very happy Jodi emailed me, and so very happy that I have a habit of looking up excerpts. I enjoyed myself thoroughly reading this, and think it's one I'll want to reread in the future so I can get different things from it each time. And, um, I know I used the word 'philosophical' a lot in this review, but don't be put off by that. That's just me being a Very Happy Geek, but even if you're not the type for philosophical discussions, Titan Magic is a very fun, fast-paced book, too. I can't wait to start pushing it on people because, as I've said in the past, I am a tabber - I have lots of little post-it flags sticking out of this book, and though I'd love to share them with you here, I'd rather not spoil them for you because they're going to be so lovely when you come upon them yourself. But until you do - until someone does - I have no one to discuss them with, so I need to start pushing.
Okay, okay, I'll give you one. I love a strong character who knows herself, and I love a strong statement, so this one kind of gave me chills:
"So what good is a soul to me? I am what I am. The only one who needs me to be anything else is you."Love it. <3
Don't forget to check out my excerpt and giveaway of Titan Magic for FTF! (ends May 5th)
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