Big Kahuna

MatchKeeperThe Ring of Solomon  v A Conspiracy of Kings

Judge: Richard Peck

And now, it comes down to this. Three books enter, one book leaves.

Who. will. win?

Better yet — why? Why will one book be selected over another?

Peck brings both humor and insight to his judging: “We seem to have awakened into a new era–A.R. (After Rowling) in richly blended melanges of fact and fantasy, looping plotlines, shifting viewpoints, and, often enough, thick tomes in series.  A lot of good reading to keep us occupied until the summer debut of the final Harry Potter movie.” I love the “A.R.”, the pointing out of the “thick tomes,” and then the biting comment that we’re just reading books to kill time between movies.

But wait, there’s more! “But this will ring no bells with the intended readers who don’t know where Libya is, and won’t be hearing about it at school.” Ouch! Double ouch! Or should I say… awesome! (Pulls up map, yes, Libya is where I thought it was.)

I was also terribly amused by “Come to think of it, this story may be set in the future.” I look forward to using it the next time I read something set in the fictitious past.

Before you think it is all wry observations and witty one liners, there is this: “This book is a keeper for its gentle tone in chronicling that jarring moment when you can no longer afford to be as young as you’ve been.” (Well, there is a pun. Discuss amongst yourselves if a pun is wit.) The moment you can no longer afford to be as young as you’ve been. That sentence; it just gets to me.

And then, Bartimaeus and here Peck again brings it: “There is no sex in these many pages, but we can never be sure of Bartimaeus’s.  In the opening scene our protagonist is a lissome young maiden in a misfiring attempt to lure a magician to his doom.  “‘Why so shy, my lord?’ she whispered.” I thought of Susan Hayward, but then I’m in age somewhere between the intended reader and Bartimaeus.” Note how Peck isn’t just picking on those waiting for the next movie or who are still looking in the wrong place for Libya; he’s equal opportunity, with his own age comfortably between teen and thousand-something.

I love the craft in how this decision was put together. Take, for example, the movie reference earlier. An actress reference midway. And then Peck again brings in film, saying “But their epiphanies are gussied up beyond reason by wordplay and action/adventure, and more special effects than Avatar and Rango put together, all in full color.” Peck acknowledges the importance of film — Susan  Hayward is obviously a fond memory for him — yet argues that this book is better, more colorful, more powerful than any film.

I could quote this decision all day. Or point out that…why, yes, on rereading, the decision has a certain amount of snark…and who do we know that also brings the snark? A certain djinn? A certain djinn in a certain book that won a certain Battle of the Books? Is this decision Peck speaking, or Bartimaeus?

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