Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book Review by Aimee: Random Magic, by Sasha Soren

What is that, you say? A book that can be described as Alice in Wonderland meets Harry Potter? YES PLEASE!

Random Magic by Sasha Soren is a firecracker box crammed full of crayon-colourful, whizz-happy tricks. I was so excited to be accepted as part of the somewhat extensive blog tour for this book I almost wet my pants. Figuratively, of course.
And the care package I received upon acceptance into the tour did little to quash my anticipation - there were chocolates, rubber duckies and a symbolic (but very real) blue feather that suddenly floats gently down into your lap as if out of nowhere, when you reach the very middle of the book...
Obviously, the author and her marketing team care very much about spraying the right ambience to surround and envelop the story, and that's what struck me most about this novel: The Atmosphere. Well, that and the fact that upon finishing this book you'll want to sit down, put your legs up, nurse your poor frazzled head and sip some cool water, as if you've run a marathon.

But first, the story itself. Henry Witherspoon is an educated, upper-class boy who is thrown almost absentmindedly into adventure - when Alice goes missing from the beloved classic Alice In Wonderland, Henry must kick himself into action before Alice, and Wonderland itself spontaneously combusts. He unwittingly enlists the help of the self-proclaimed "doodlewitch" Winnie, and together they prepare themselves for an Alice-hunt.
Leaping from book to book looking for the girl with hair the colour and consistency of cream, Henry and Winnie must battle a myriad of mythical beings and be assaulted by Labyrinth-style puzzles in order to solve the mystery of the little girl lost. Can Henry and Winnie "save the world by tea time"? I sure hope so. I thought at this point I'd also include the book trailer, so here it is:

Random Magic is such a glorious idea. It's as if Ms Soren was on an extreme sugar high during the "lightbulb moment". It's full of whimsy and teacups - you really have to suspend a helluva lot of disbelief to go with the flow of the story, but if you do, the magic carpet'll lift right off the ground and take you with it, whether you're ready or not.
And to be perfectly truthful, I wasn't really ready to be carried along for about three or four chapters. I resisted it - the story launches straight into the adventure and there are an incredible amount of characters to keep track of all in an instant. But after a bit of time and some calming breaths you'll settle into the rhythm. This is the perfect book for chillun who are interested in learning about the foundations of classical myth, and thrive on what I like to call "instant-noodle" adventure - two minutes and the adventure's ready to gobble up.

Almost completely dialogue-driven and jammed with halting sentences, concentration is a must for positive readings of Random Magic. At points I got rather annoyed at Henry's intrusions and repetitive questions on Winnie's pearls of wisdom, and wished he would just sit down and be a good boy and listen to what the wacky witch had to say, dognamit! I do have a short attention-span though, so perhaps I'd be in the minority on this one. You might find Henry's curiosity appealing and idiosyncratic in a GOOD way, *wink*.

This is a cracker of a book to read to some young "advanced readers" just before bedtime. Girls and boys will be dreamily exhausted after running an absolute gauntlet of crazy monsters, and so will you. Kiddies will also appreciate the rapid bursts of onomatopoeia and the general witty commentary from Winnie zipping and zagging through each page. Don't get me wrong though, teens and older ones can enjoy this style of book too - there's some more mature humour that thankfully can go over the younger heads, but generally those who love the adventures of Alice in Wonderland will find something familiar to love in Random Magic, too.

Interestingly, in the Advanced Copy version I received, there's a "deleted scene" at the end of the novel which Ms Soren, along with her editing team, decided to cut away because it didn't fit well with the rest of the story. And I totally understand what she means. The deleted scene is a backstory about one of the characters which lends itself more to the "evil clown" side of the Carnival fair rather than the "ferris wheel" feel of the rest of the book, if you catch my drift. Strangely though, I think I prefer it - I do love me some tales of dark whimsy - the blacker, the better. Again, it might just be personal preference - just the way I prefer Alice's Adventures Through The Looking Glass to the flossier (and more well-known) companion (see that review, here). I can only hope that Ms Soren might choose to write a sequel in the vein of the deleted story...I'll cross my fingers for it. And toes.

Actually, this book reminds me a lot of a young Australian author, Alexandra Adornetto, who at 14 wrote a book called The Shadow Thief and spouting the writing style of Enid Blyton... on crack. Fortunately, Alexandra won the lottery in cover art for her book (see cover here), whereas Random Magic's cover...well, let's be nice and say I have a bone to pick with it. I mean, CLEARLY, this cover is Nicole Kidman's face. Post-too-many-botox-and-collagen-injections. With red pigtails. It ain't the most original picture by any book's standards. And nor is it the right style for this particular book, in my humble opinion.
Now I know that this is not the author's fault in any way, but I do hope that perhaps there might be a new cover of the book printed soon. Something that better depicts the quirky, youthful and left-of-centredness of the book, like a tea party scene with Henry as the Mad Hatter, for example, rather than the face of a mainstream 42 year old celebrity painted in somewhat garish shading. But, eh, it's a small bone to pick! And maybe no one agrees with me anyway, hehe.

All in all, Random Magic might be a bit too quirky for some, but it's a strangely lovable creature. Kind of like that eccentric neighbour three doors down who recites poetry to her flowers, and throws the newspaper back at the postman. AND has about a thousand cats popping out of each nook and cranny around the yard, including the evil spitting one that you have to cross the road in order to avoid on the way to school. But all is forgiven because that same strange neighbour bakes the most delicious cupcakes - and always offers you the biggest one.

This is exactly what Random Magic is like. Try a bite, and see if it's to YOUR taste.

Rating: 3.5 candy-coloured stars for Random Magic.

P.S. Since it's on tour, why not see what other people have to say about Random Magic? I'm lucky enough to be one of the first blog stops - see the rest of the bloggers boarding the Random Magic train HERE. Toot toot!


Eni said...

As for being reminded of Enid Blyton, I am glad to inform you that I have just published a book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five:A Personal Anecdotage (www.blyton.com)

Stephen Isabirye