Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Celestial Globe (The Kronos Chronicles, #2) by Marie Rutkoski

Oh bother. Pop a great book in my hands and the day careens off course. Duties? What duties? Students? Ummm... yep, I see 'em. Sort of. My nose sticks to the inner spine of a terrific book like a barnacle. Take "The Celestial Globe." Fingers twitch as they near the glossy green-covered novel that rests on my desk. Eventually, I stash it under my jacket sneak-reading every chance I get in-between library classes. In the evening, a pungent scent from my burnt dinner swirls in the air reminding me that the story's climax was more exciting than cooking spaghetti. Gobs of action, complex characters, and an engrossing plot sucked me into this book from the start. I have a good crick in my neck and dent in my reading chair from a late night of blazing through this paperback that was worth every bit of bother.

Prince Rodolfo has sent the Gray Men, or Gristleki, to the home of 13-year-old Petra and her father after she stole back her father's eyes from him in "The Cabinet of Wonders," book 1 of the Kronos Chronicles. Gristleki were once men transformed into monsters with scales for skin, no lips, no eyebrows or eyelashes, and claws that slowly poison victims. They can run unnaturally fast and are difficult to kill. When magician John Dee saves Petra from them using a Loophole, you would think she'd be grateful, but Dee has imprisoned her in his London home. For her own good, so he claims. She's a caged tiger who is hot-headed and angry because she wants to rescue her father captured by Rodolfo. She sees Dee for his manipulative ways and is extremely rude and belligerent towards him. Astrophil, her mechanical spider, is there to advise her as she sorts out Dee's odd family members and political alliances.

Meanwhile, Tomik decides to rescue Petra and ends up falling through a Loophole where he is captured by a boatload of Roma sailors who are on their way to Morocco to get the celestial globe, a device that allows people to portal all over the world. Neel is with them and the two strike a tenuous relationship deciding to work together to find Petra as they sail to Africa. When the three heroes meet in London, they are embroiled with Prince Rodolfo and traitors to the crown. The different points of view allow for action on the seas as well as action in London as the reader gets to know the traits and motives of the different characters.

Fiction is full of likable characters and unlikable characters. A skilled author creates unlikable characters compelling enough to keep readers hooked to the story. Petra's defiance with John Dee, her stubbornness and ferocity, make her unlikable at times. Yes, as readers, we revel in characters such as Junie B. Jones whose bad behavior makes us feel superior or laugh because we'd never have the guts to do what they do or say what some characters say, but in Petra's case, her unlikable traits aren't off-putting because it shows her vulnerability and lack of control over adult authority. In the first book Dee establishes a mind link with her so that the two can communicate through thoughts, but he never gets her permission and tricks her into it. In this book, he makes her a prisoner in his home even though it is so she won't run off and get killed freeing her father. He's never straightforward with answers and she is unbelievably rude, yet justifiably so, in responding to him.

In addition, her defiant character is a clever creation of subtext that reflects the dual meaning of the mythical creature she represents in myth and genetics. Don't worry, I won't reveal the creature and spoil it for you. This subtext explains on a deeper level her fearlessness and impulsive behavior along with her link to water. None of this is explained. I looked up the mythical creature and my research made me realize how closely Petra represented its traits and gave an additional reason as to why the wind spirit didn't consume Petra. The result of the subtext is more complexity to the plot and characters; thus, creating a richer understanding of the character's behaviors and motives. Quite fascinating.

Rutkoski's mixes quite a bit of history and magic that made me enjoy the story even moreso than if it was a straightforward fantasy. Her author's note usually points out what is factual but I think it is fun figuring it out as I read along and researching historical figures on my own. Many of her descriptions of paintings and artifacts are real in both books of this series. Magical powers and their backgrounds are built on from the first book with John Dee taking a larger role in this story. Historically, the real John Dee was a famous alchemist and the author's fictionalized account uses real people that he influenced or who studied him such as Robert Cotton, Francis Walsingham, and William Cecil to name a few. I recommend reading the first book to get the most out of this book. Back to work. Bother.

5 Smileys

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