Among Others by Jo Walton

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Kindle Edition, 302 pages

Published: January, 2012 by Tor Books (1st published January 18, 2011)

Setting: Wales & England

Literary Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel (2012), Nebula Award for Best Novel (2011), Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel (2012), World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2012), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Adult Literature (2012) Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award (RT Award) for Best Fantasy Novel (2011), British Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2012)
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Among Others is a fairy tale, of sorts, about a lonely, precocious fifteen-year-old bibliophile growing up in the ’70s and struggling with loss. With her characteristic imagination and originality, Jo Walton captured the fierce intelligence and awkwardness, along with the mingled sadness, hope, and yearning, of adolescence.

This story opens in rural Wales, and the sense of place, throughout the novel, is extraordinary — we get vibrant glimpses of the rugged, beautiful Welsh terrain desecrated by coal mining. Due to economic hardship, the coal mines have shut down and have been reclaimed by nature and by the fairies.

After losing her twin sister in an accident, Mori is torn from her family and her Welsh homeland and sent to England to live with a father she’s never met. She is a rapacious reader of science fiction and fantasy, and when she is stuck in an English boarding school, she continues to find refuge in books. Mori looks to science fiction and fantasy to help her understand life. It is the lens through which she perceives human relationships and moral values. It gives her the language to describe her experiences, fears, frustrations and desires. She also seeks guidance from the ubiquitous but elusive fairies.

Mori grew up in my generation, and — needless to say — this tale of an adolescent bookworm, circa 1980, resonated with me. I was an eclectic reader, so I haven’t read all the science fiction and fantasy novels Mori talks about, and I missed many of the literary references. But this did not hinder my enjoyment of the book. On the contrary, I am adding authors and titles to my reading list.

The theme of how people cope with unbearable loss fascinates me — who hasn’t faced this crucible? In a sense, this is a fairy tale about grief.

Among Others also has a comforting and gently stimulating quality — it’s a bit like spending time in the company of clever, interesting, slightly quirky friends. It will be loved by bibliophiles, especially fantasy and sci-fi lovers, of all ages and by smart, lonely kids and young adults who don’t “fit in.”

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