After excoriating a book yesterday, it's nice to heap praise on a book today.
Among Others by Jo Walton is a tremendous book. Much has been made of its portrayal of a bookish teen's relationship to books, and rightly so. But I'll point out that I passed it to Malasada as soon as I was finished -- she didn't have that immersive relationship to books as an adolescent, didn't know most of the references to science fiction and fantasy, and she still liked it (and noted that she understands me better for having read it.)
Most of what I'd like to say about it involves spoilers, below.
Immediately on finishing the book, I felt its end was anti-climatic. But I quickly got that that was one of the points. The whole book is anti-climax. Walton was talking back to The Lord of the Rings in a big way here. In the first scene, twins visit a polluted Welsh factory, explicitly likened to Mordor, on a mission to drop something in the polluted water.
Then we jump forward several years. The twins prevented their mother in her bid to become the dark queen of the world, leaving one of them dead, and the other crippled. This was the most dramatic adventure of their lives, and it was off-stage and is over now. And it left our heroine, Mor, feeling incomplete. Like losing the ring (as well as his shadow pseudo-twin Gollum) left Frodo.
And, like Frodo, the elves give Mor a chance to sail into the west. But her experiences didn't break her, like they did him. She realizes she has better things to do. Living, and loving, and reading. Ultimately, her mother tears apart Mor's beloved copy of The Lord of the Rings and magically weaponizes it. And Mor magically restores the wood pulp pages to living trees, choosing life over her attachment to the past.
In a quiet subversion, male counterparts to the trio of crone, mother, and maiden rush to her aid in the end... and arrive too late, and clearly couldn't have helped. She could and did solve her own problems. But they mark that she's not alone.
Walton may not have written the book on celtic mythology, but she co-wrote a good one. This book features one of my favorite portrayals of elves and magic.
There were a lot of things going on this book, and a lot worth talking about; these were just the ones I had on my mind right now. I will no doubt reread this, and maybe write more eventually.