Well there is no denying that this was a very interesting book, just the writing style if nothing else. The book is written like a journal, a journal that Mori is writing (in mirror, apparently). Now, that's not unusual, of course (the journal part), but what's unusual is that I actually didn't figure that out until about fifty pages in. I was getting slightly muddled by the tenses (past tense most of the time, but then present tense at the end of each section/chapter) before I realized what they meant.
The reason for that is that although the book is written like a journal, it does not at all conform to what you would think a journal would be written like. It's still written like a novel, a narrative. There is one point where Mori hints that she's writing it as a memoir, though it never says for what reason or why this particular part of her life was important to record but not the rest. You see, the plot of the book is kind of all like you would imagine the beginning of a fantasy story to be--it all feels like establishment of world/characters, for whatever reason. And then the climax is rather sudden and short and over too quickly and too easily. That could just be due to the journal aspect, because I suppose if you keep in mind that it is Mori writing down her adventures, she might not want to write a long, drawn out description of events. But it also meant that it wasn't particularly exciting, because you know that Mori survived to write it down, so there's no suspense.
Things I did like about this book: it's very well written. At times it almost seems like just a compilation of sci-fi book reviews--because she talks about a lot of sci-fi books. And how brill they are--I love that. Brill. I also liked how the fairies exist in the world and Mori pretty much takes them for granted--and how the magic works to change the pattern of the world so that it is unnoticable and deniable*. The suspension of plot elements--like what happened to Mori's sister Mor--helped me to want to keep reading as well. I also LOVE how much she loves The Lord of the Rings, and how she and Mor named a bunch of places in the valleys after places in LotR, like Ithilian and Osgiliath and Mordor, and how they named that one fairy Glorfindel.
*except that the magic isn't consistently like that--she is constantly saying throughout the book how magic does not make sense like in books and if you do magic you are disrupting patterns and changing people's lives that you don't even know about, changing the past to suit you. But then there are the illusions that her mother casts and the fire that Mori herself conjures ("becomes") in the climax... those sound a lot more like regular fantasy book magic than what she was talking about...
Okay now I will show you the parts that I bookmarked for quotes. There were more bits where I considered putting a marker in but didn't and then forgot what page they were on, but here are the ones I did mark:
There are some awful things in the world, it's true, but there are also some great books. When I grow up I would like to write something that someone could read sitting on a bench on a day that isn't all that warm and they could sit reading it and and totally forget where they were or what time it was so that they were more inside the book than inside their own head. --pg. 52
Oh yes, I do have to give this book some credit other than just for some beautiful writing--it was inspirational. It inspired me to write my own journals in a much more interesting way than the way I normally (lazily) do, which is a chronological, almost lifeless listing of events. It also gave me ideas for how to make my fictional writing more interesting. All right, moving on. Ah, good, a description of magic, the way Mori insists it is for the entire book until the end:
Waiting for the bus back to school, I was thinking about magic. I wanted the bus to come, and I wasn't exactly sure when it was due. If I reached magic into that, imagined the bus just coming round the corner, it isn't as if I'd be materialising the bus out of nowhere. The bus is somewhere on its round. There are two buses an hour, say, and for the bus to be coming right when I wanted it, it must have started off on its route at a precise time earlier, and people will have caught it and got on and off at particular times, and got to where they're going at different times. For the bus to be where I want it, I'd have to change all that, the times they got up, even, and maybe the whole timetable back to whenever it was written, so that people caught the bus at different times every day for months, so that I didn't have to wait today. Goodness knows what difference that would make in the world, and that's just for a bus. I don't know how the fairies even dare. I don't know how anyone could know though. --pg. 123
See what I mean? How unique that is? But then it--never mind, I already said. Anyway.
We went down the hill to the bookshop, sort of automatically, as if that's the way all our feet wanted to turn. I said that to them.
"Bibliotropic," Hugh said. "Like sunflowers are heliotropic, they naturally turn towards the sun. We naturally turn towards the bookshop." --pg. 154
I don't think I am like other people. I mean on some deep fundamental level. it's not just being half a twin and reading a lot and seeing fairies. It's not just being outside when they're all inside. I used to be inside. I think there's a way I stand aside and look backwards at things when they're happening which isn't normal. It's a thing you need to do for doing magic. But as I'm not going to do any magic, it's rather wasted. --pg. 169
And I thought all that was wasted, all that time practising up there, because Mor is dead and I can't run and neither can Grampar, not any more. Except it wasn't wasted, because we remember it. Things need to be worth doing for themselves, not just for practice for some future time. I'm never going to win Wimbledon or run in the Olympics ("They never had twins at Wimbledon..." he used to say) but I wouldnt ahve anyway. I'm not even going to play tennis for fun with my friends, but that doesn't mean playing it when I could was a waste. I wish I'd done more when I could.. I wish I'd run everywhere every time I had the chance, run to the library, run through the cwm, run upstairs. Well, we mostly did run upstairs. I think of that as I haul myself up the stairs to Auntie Teg's flat. People who can run upstairs should run upstairs. And they should run upstairs first, so I can limp along afterwards and not feel I'm holding them up. --pg. 189-190
I thought, sitting there, that everything is magic. Using things connects them to you, being in the world connects you to the world, the sun streams down magic and people and animals and plants grow from sunlight and the world turns and everything is magic. Fairies are more in the magic than in the world, and people are more in the world than in the magic. --pg. 294
And I like the last line of the book. The book ends with a long passage of typical "now I know who I am and what I want to do and what life is and blah blah blah" and then concludes with:
Gates of Ivrel turns out to be really brill. --pg. 302
So what do I really think of this book? I honestly don't know. I like the writing style, and I like the storyline (mostly), and I like that it was inspirational... but I don't really like the plot structure and the suddenness of the ending. So I don't know. You'll have to see for yourself.