A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{July 30, 2012}   Half World by Hiromi Goto

Plot: There are three worlds: the world of the flesh, where the living reside; the half-world, where the dead go to work through their issues; and the world of the spirits. Originally, the living died, passed into the half world, then the spirit world and were reincarnated. Only a millenia ago, the three worlds were severed. Prophecy says that only a child born in the Half World, where nothing is ever born, can reunite the three worlds and bring order back to the universe.

Half World is a fascinating fantasy novel, halfway between an Escher and a Bosch painting. The heroine, Melanie, goes through a pretty standard hero’s journey but the well constructed mythology, the strange world and the stranger characters that inhabit it bring something new to the familiar narrative. This novel is not, however, for the faint of heart: mixed with the quest and the fantasy are brief moments of horror that sent shivers down my spine.

Melanie is a great heroine for this sort of narrative. She has no powers. She isn’t athletic (she is, in fact, described as slightly overweight) or unsually intelligent, she has no magic. She changes her world through her birth and by having the courage to make choices.

I enjoyed this novel (though I gasped outloud in disgusted horror more than once) but if you are a fan of buddy stories, this isn’t the book for you. Melanie is followed by crows and (sometimes) has a magical jade rat, she is also aided by wise old archivists but she makes her journey alone. This isn’t a fault but it may not appeal to all.

On the whole this is a well written, well constructed tale about life, death and how people can be twisted by suffering. And like these things, it is not always easy.

2012 (#77)

Title: Half World

Author: Hiromi Goto

Publisher: Puffin Canada

Year: 2009

ISBN: 978-0-14-305206-7


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