Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bayern & Shannon Hale: Ima new fan

What I like about the Bayern books:

1) Characters

Her female characters are worth remembering. Ani/Isi and Enna are both strong without being over-the-top. Too often I think authors try to project 21st century views on period characters and the result is a little too feminist and a little less than believable. Also, I don't like ranting female characters: I like my boy and girl characters to have room to change and grow (together). I think that out of the two, I may like Enna a little more, just because she has more spunk. But once again, her "spunk" never pushes her too far ahead of the other characters. There are some girl characters who are sooo into their own strength, they seem to project this image that they dont need anybody else, and I think that is a potentially destructive idea. Both Ani/Isi and Enna have strong (and appropriate) romantic leads, and their "independence" never seems threatened. I do think, however, that her boy characters could use more development. But that's okay, because they're supposed to be supporting characters, mainly. Ani/Isi, I especially like, because although she's smart and well-spoken, she doesnt seem overly eloquent. For example, there's this one character in another book that I read that seems to always know what to say at precisely the right time. When that happens, it makes characters seem a bit emotionally underdeveloped. Sometimes I want characters to explode, or stutter, or be speechless. That's real. And while Ani/Isi is a strong, "leader" character, she's not perfect. She's a good balance for a "leader" character, and Enna is a perfect "spunky" character because there's none of that "ultimate girl power" nonsense.

2) Setting

In Bayern (which I'm convinced is supposed to represent Germany---I mean, come on! "Bayern" means "Bavaria"), the setting is medieval-reminiscent, both in dress and in weaponry. That's something I've noticed: in fantasy stories, there are swords, axes, maces, pikes, bows and arrows, etc...but rarely ever any gunpowder... but whatever... So far, I've counted 4 imaginary lands Shannon has created: Kildenree (where fair-haired people reside), Bayern (where most people are brown/black-haired; militaristic), Tira, and Yasid (Arabian). She does a good job describing the countries and their people, BUUT I am more Tolkien-ish in that I like things really, REALLY detailed :D In my future, I see long, lengthy appendices! Then again, people might find that "boring," so I don't know...

3) Themes
Shannon really reminds me of CS Lewis and Lloyd Alexander in the themes of her stories: they are simple and unpretentious. I tried to go into detail on my review of Enna Burning, but I can't really describe it, or the difference between themes and social commentaries, which is what most authors do now, I think. So just try to remember her narrative voice and find that in yourself.
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