Recently, I’ve been reading much more. And I did mean to blog more about my renewed reading habits, but there just hasn’t been any time. I’ll try to remedy that a little with this post. While I’ve been reading all sorts of things (including a LOT of manga) on this post I’m going to concentrate on two things: the book I am reading right now, and the series I just finished.
🦖 Ultimate Dinopedia By National Geographic Kids 🦖
I’ve started reading this beautiful National Geographic Kids “Ultimate Dinopedia” and it is AMAZING:
When I picked it up some months ago, I was impressed at a quick glance –especially by the illustrations. But I did not expect it would be so informative or so respectful of its audience. If you are a dinosaur fan who actually knows little about dinosaurs, you will love this book, even if its intended audience is children.
Scientific books for kids do not usually (in my experience) give so much “we suppose”, or “it is believed” or “we imagine, but can’t actually know”. At least growing up, I saw much more “this is how it was” and now why or how we “knew” it was so. This book, however, tells you of specific paleontologist’s theories, and whether most other paleontologists agree with them or not. Even on the slightest illustrated detail, like a bit of flesh on a dinosaur’s face, it will tell you: “we think it might have had this thing –we have no way to know”. It is a book of suppositions and generally agreed upon ideas about these wonderful creatures.
For all my love of dinosaurs, I do not know much about them. I hope as I read this book I can at least learn to identify basic species as well as the time periods they lived in.
📚 The Hagwood Trilogy 📚
Over the past few months (starting at the time of the ill-fated New England trip that didn’t happen as planned) I’ve been reading The Hagwood Trilogy. It is comprised of Thorn Ogres of Hagwood, Dark Waters Of Hagwood, and War In Hagwood. It is written by Robin Jarvis. Without a doubt, it has been an unforgettable journey, the sort of dark fantasy series that will stick with me for a while, and I do not come across often.
The protagonist is a little werling boy called Gamaliel Tumpin. Werlings are a species that can shapeshift (AKA “wergle”) into animals of approximate size of their own or smaller –think hedgehogs, birds, squirrels, mice. They can also wergle into insects or other things, with potentially grave consequences, which definitely plays into the story.
I was familiar with Robin Jarvis’ writing from The Deptford Mice Trilogy. Much like in the Deptford Mice books, the Hagwood series is a pretty gruesome affair involving tiny cuddly critters, none of whom (and I do mean NONE) can you afford to get too emotionally attached to, because Jarvis has zero hesitation about giving major protagonists (including very likable ones) quite grisly ends, often completely out of nowhere. Once you are familiar with his work, you basically hold your breath through any book of his, praying that your favorite character doesn’t die.
Jarvis also has an uncanny knack for generating villains that not only do you love to hate, but you can actually be afraid of. Every time Rhiannon, The Queen Of Faerie, appears in the Hagwood books, you are very glad that you are safely on the other side of the page, and you half wonder if she can still reach you with some of that horrendous dark magic.
WARNING: I’m gonna get extremely spoilery below, so do not proceed unless you’ve read this whole series or don’t care if it’s spoiled for you.
I think one of the highlights for me was Rhiannon’s first “death”. You, the reader, knew it was impossible for her to die so easily, as did many of the characters present to witness this unsettling moment, but an explanation for the situation evades you, and something just feels so, so horrendously wrong as you’re just waiting for that other shoe to drop. You really do feel for poor Gabbity, and for Grimditch as well. It’s such a horrific reveal, and such a heartbreaking one.
Speaking of horrific –Mufus’ death, what the actual hell. I think up to that point the book still felt moderately fluffy. Then you are firmly reminded that YES, this is a Robin Jarvis book and you had better strap in.
Bufus, despite being a mean-spirited little jock, is to me the most sympathetic character in the books. His heartache over the loss of his brother is so terrible and profound. His growth as a character is so wonderful to read, and flows so naturally. Terser Gibble’s own “wergling of the heart” flowed less naturally to me, but by the time he was bringing the three werglings back from the brink of the precipice by doing his best school-days scolding impression, all with terrified tears in his eyes, I was fully won over by his transformation. Also, I didn’t expect it. He was a pretty nasty piece of work, who seemed to have gotten his just desserts. It’s nice that he got some redemption in the end.
If you’ve proceeded this far past my spoiler warning, you already know or don’t care if the ending of the trilogy is spoiled for you. So that’s just, one bit of a final warning as I’m discussing that below.
I should have seen it coming, I think… it feels like hints were dropped all over the place. But I did not expect Gamaliel to be the one of the three who died. I guess Bufus made more sense, or rather… as much as I liked him, I knew he wanted to die… I don’t know, I just kept thinking surely, surely Gamaliel will be able to wergle back… but that didn’t happen, and I was a little shaken up closing the covers so soon after that.
I would have liked to see a little more happiness, in particular for Princess Clarisant. That made me really sad too. For all the death, and loss, and terrible suffering, I wish Jarvis had let us glimpse a little bit more joy for the characters at the end. It felt like some of them had nothing left to live for beyond the fact that they had their lives.
I get this feeling from the Deptford books too, but it’s like… at the end, the Great Big Bad is defeated, but at the cost of how many lives? How many of those you wanted to see make it to the end remain? The characters are feeling their losses keenly, and you feel for them, too, especially after such a harrowing journey by their side.
Still, it was a wonderful read all throughout. Definitely a gem to add to my library and something I’d highly recommend to anyone who doesn’t mind some (or a lot) of gore with their cuddly fantasy critters.