Monday, 30 May 2011

Shaun Tan - The Arrival

Title: The Arrival
Author: Shaun Tan
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 128
Editor: Arthur A. Levine Books

Summary: The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment. He is helped along the way by sympathetic strangers, each carrying their own unspoken history: stories of struggle and survival in a world of incomprehensible violence, upheaval and hope.

What a better way to talk about a book than the author’s way? This simple plot summary contains all the essential elements that will make you fall in love with the story: images all over the place, small and square, big and bright, overwhelming and poetic. No words seem to be necessary to convey all the feelings the author is trying to pass on. We leave the protagonist’s family along with him, taking in the sadness, the fear of the unknown. This unknown that proves to be unbearable at first, full of questions that we don’t understand, of papers we cannot read, of things we don’t recognize and other that are almost frightening. The giant city is impersonal, overwhelming once again: giant buildings like monsters, strange people and pets everywhere, strange jobs that we cannot take... and in the midst of it all, some people are here to lend a hand, to tell their own stories, their own arrival, and we marvel with them at the beauty of it all.

I think I said it all already, but Shaun Tan really has this magical touch with drawing, this unmistakable talent that makes his stories alive, touching, engraving themselves in your mind forever. By choosing subjects that anyone relates to, like being a stranger somewhere, helping someone who is lost, reuniting with your family, he ensures that the message is received by every reader, big or small, old or young. Because the only size that matters to love one of his book is just the size of your heart.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Robin Hobb - The Dragon Keeper

Title: The Dragon Keeper (The Rain Wild Chronicles, book 1)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pub. year: 2010
Pages: 553
Editor: Harper Voyager

Summary: Too much time has passed since the powerful dragon Tintaglia helped the people of the Trader cities stave off an invasion of their enemies. The Traders have forgotten their promises, weary of the labor and expense of tending earthbound dragons who were hatched weak and deformed by a river turned toxic. If neglected, the creatures will rampage—or die—so it is decreed that they must move farther upriver toward Kelsingra, the mythical homeland whose location is locked deep within the dragons' uncertain ancestral memories.
Thymara, an unschooled forest girl, and Alise, wife of an unloving and wealthy Trader, are among the disparate group entrusted with escorting the dragons to their new home. And on an extraordinary odyssey with no promise of return, many lessons will be learned—as dragons and tenders alike experience hardships, betrayals . . . and joys beyond their wildest imaginings.

Robin Hobb has written some of my favorite books ever. So, when I saw that she wrote another part of The Realm of Elderlings, I couldn’t wait to read it! And since I didn’t want to wait for it to be translated in French, I bought it in English when I was in London last summer.

For those who don’t know Robin Hobb’s Realm of Elderlings, these are the books you can find in it (I’ve read those in red):

The Farseer trilogy: 
Assassin's Apprentice - Royal Assassin - Assassin's Quest

The Liveship Traders: 
Ship of Magic - The Mad Ship - Ship of Destiny

The Tawny Man: 
Fool's Errand - The Golden Fool - Fool's Fate

The Rain Wild Chronicles: 
Dragon Keeper - Dragon Haven

Short stories:
Homecoming - The Inheritance - Words Like Coins - Blue Boots - Cat's Meat

The Rain Wild Chronicles, new addition to The Realm of Elderlings, takes place in the Rain Wild (no way) and in Bingtown, like in The Livership Traders. If Althea or Brashen are names we’ve already seen before, they’re not the main characters of this story. We follow new ones, like the dragon Sintara, Thymara who lives in Trehaug or Alise, a young women more interested in dragons than in men. Between each chapter of the book, notes are sent between two keepers of the birds about stuff of their “world” (family, city, events, …).
It wasn’t really easy at first to get into the story, ‘cause it was the first time I tried Robin Hobb in English. I had to learn the vocabulary of this world, and as in French, I had to learn to know the character in order to really appreciate the story. But once this done, it was a really nice reading. Being back to Robin Hobb’s world is always such a pleasure. She brings so much stuff in her worlds, her imagination is amazing and she knows damn well how to write what she has in mind!
Anyway, the book ends on a little cliff-hanger, not really frustrating but teasing enough to make me wanna read the second. Even without it I would have read it, anyway!
My only regret is that I didn’t chose a better moment to read this book, ‘cause I know I read slower in English, and it was an exam period, so...
I’ve bought a copy of the second book and will try to have it signed at the Imaginales that she will attend (in France, in two weeks). I probably won't have time to read it before the signing, but I'll try to do it as soon as possible to be back in this world again!