Son of a Trickster

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Last year, I read only one magical realism novel and I lamented the fact that I hadn’t found more. This year, I’m starting with one in the hopes that it will bring more my way! Wishful thinking, maybe, but it certainly can’t hurt.

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First, much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me the chance to read this fantastic book pre-publication!

Son of a Trickster will be published on February 7th, and it certainly fits the bleak tone of the month. Jared, the main character, is a teen with a damn hard life. With a grandmother who thinks he’s a trickster in disguise and a mom bouncing around with a drug-dealing boyfriend, things are certainly not rainbows and roses.

Here’s the thing though: it works. It works so incredibly well. This is the most realistic magical realism novel I’ve ever read. The characters seem like they could have walked out of any small town, and the stoner community and mindset were super accurate. People sometimes have hard lives. That’s just the way it is. It was a great change to read about such a realistic teen who is also such a good person.

I think it’s also worth noting that Jared is Native American, as are most of the characters in the book. So is the author herself – which makes this an #ownvoices read that I was happy to pick up. I rarely get to read YA with Native protagonists, which is really a shame.

Characters were complex and believable. Everyone is dealing with their own issues and they often complicate each other’s lives without even trying. Jared’s mom has a mantra that is often repeated throughout – and rings both true and false.

“The world is hard. You have to be harder.”

I’ll say right out that this isn’t the book for you if you take a critical view of underage swearing, drinking, drug use or sex. Maybe you should reconsider what you know of teenagers if you think their lives don’t include those things though.

I was interested to see how the magic would function as I expected it to stem from Indigenous beliefs, and I was pretty mesmerised by what was included. (Those otters, though. For real.) I’m really eager for more! The small hints of the fantastic are included from the very start, but they never overwhelm the narrative. The clear existence of a mystical world just sitting alongside our own was pretty shocking, but in the best possible way.

(Also – Jared’s reaction to weird shit (read: magic) was always spot on. A+ to that.)

Though there was a focus on the ‘realism’ aspect of this book, it was still steeped in magic, even when the characters were blitzed out of their minds. Despite their utter strangeness, the magical aspects of the book were totally believable. They were perhaps more believable because the reader is left to focus on the aspects themselves rather than the ‘why’ behind them.

The strange short interludes in italics were an interesting addition to the book, and a welcome one.

I was ultimately satisfied with the ending of the book when I took some time to mull it over. I learned that this is the first in a series, which means that the elements of magic that were briefly touched on may get more screen time in the next book.

I can’t wait to read more from Eden Robinson, and considering this book, I know that she won’t disappoint!

Can you recommend any great magical realism? Have you read any of Eden Robinson’s other books? Let me know in the comments below!

Bone Gap

 

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Despite the age-old adage to not judge a book by its cover, I often choose books based on their jackets. Lovely and interesting covers draw me in – an homage to the illustrators and graphic designers who create them. When buying a book the blurb on the back and occasionally the first page is what I use to make my decision. But when I have the freedom of borrowing a book (or browsing titles on NetGalley) I often choose books based entirely on their outer beauty and allure.

That’s how I came to find, read, and love Bone Gap.

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Magic realism has always been a genre that fascinates me. Whether done well or badly it’s something that has always stuck with me. I love stories where odd things happen and the characters accept it as the norm, or when strange beings or peoples coexist silently in the world already familiar to the reader.

Bone Gap is kind of both of those things and neither of them.

This book tell the tale of an abduction that the majority of side-characters don’t believe actually happened.

Alternating chapters tell the story from the perspective of several characters. While usually a writing device that I hate, I found it wonderful here. Every character was nuanced enough to seem real, and I wanted to hear more from all of them. No matter who I was with, I was always deeply engaged in the story.

The characters we see the most of are Finn, who is called ‘Moonface’ among other unflattering names by those in Bone Gap, Roza, a captivating young woman whose beauty is not her most important quality, and Petey, who struggles with an undeserved reputation.

Set in a small town where different often means outcast the magical elements of this book were subtle but pervasive. Though seemingly normal, the entire setting of the book was magical – the strange occurrences that spurred the plot along only proved it. The very subtle inclusion of a familiar myth made it all the better for me, especially as more of Roza’s backstory is revealed.

Through the eyes of different people, both good and bad, this book explores love. What it means, how it works, and what it does to us as individuals, families, and communities. Because of the subject matter, I found the villain of the book particularly chilling and excellently characterized.

Laura Ruby’s writing was powerful and beautiful, and I think she tied up all the loose ends of the story perfectly. I will gladly seek out more of her books.

Is there an excellent tale of magical realism that has stuck in your head?