Orson Scott Card is well-known for his science fiction work. I know him particularly for the compelling story “Ender’s Game” – where a young boy’s victory in a “game” results in the destruction of an entire alien race – so imagine my surprise when I discovered he had written a fantasy/ fairy tale titled “Enchantment” O_O! In this novel, we follow Ivan Smetski from his early childhood and initial discovery of the sleeping princess Katerina, all the way through her rescue and the subsequent battle between the young couple and the evil witch Baba Yaga. The author effortlessly weaves modern day life and fairy tales together with a subtle sense of humor, creating a tale that spans from the ninth century in Russia to today in the United States. It even provides a unified backstory that explains the source of most other fairy tales ;-).
There are several elements in this story that make it unique compared to what I normally read. One is the author’s interesting use of time – the characters literally jump back and forth between the centuries. Which, while not something I think I would ever do – I do have stories that take place in different periods of time, just not all at once – it does work for this tale. Another feature that I enjoyed was the interweaving of both magic and Christianity into the same novel. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who does this! Although, Orson Scott Card places magic and faith as equals in this playing field. There is an unnamed “force” that is given credit for the final key to their victory, but its true identity is never made clear. Personally, I prefer to have Christianity demonstrated as superior to magic rather than having the two on par; “The Heart of Everything” is a great example of this, when Emer’s faith succeeds where her magic does not.
One particularly fascinating aspect of this book is that despite the clear inclusion of magic, there are a surprising number of practical solutions to the characters’ problems. Ivan is not a knight, nor does he have any magical weapons, so he simply runs circles around the bear guarding the princess until he wears it out. And again, when preparing to fight to evil witch, Ivan doesn’t have access to magic, so he uses the science of the modern age and learns how to make bombs, Molotov cocktails and even a hang glider from scratch, and takes that knowledge with him to the past. Even the witch’s familiar – a wasp – is defeated by an ordinary can of Raid. This gives the “fairy tale” a decidedly modern feel. It’s reassuring to see a story where ordinary people can use “ordinary” means (knowledge or access to information, for instance) to defeat an extraordinary foe, though I admit I prefer a bit more of the “fantasy” for my stories :-).
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Until the next time, keep reading!
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I have two passions: reading and writing. You can't write good stories without first reading good stories - that's my theory, anyway. So this is where I'll share with you the depth of those passions: background on what and why I write, as well as talking about the books that I read and how they impact my writing.