The Awful Truth About Forgetting – Quick review

The 4th book in L. Jagi Lamplighter (what an awesome authorial name)’s Rachel Griffin series was released earlier this week. My recommendation is buy and read books 1-4. Not all of them are the exact same quality, admittedly. Book 1 is fairly decent, a little rough around the edges: plucky young heroine goes to Magic School, loads upon loads of classmates are mentioned. There is age-appropriate action (how is a thirteen year old girl who knows very little magic going to influence a school-wide battle? She doesn’t. But maybe she leverages her greatest skill to warn people of the danger, and saves one person who needs help more than she does.) and some slightly eyebrow raising romance. (Rachel’s boy craziness is one thing I dislike about the books.) The worldbuilding is lively but the author’s enthusiasm occasionally trips itself up, such as when the description of the dining hall hiccups to a stop to describe the marmalade Rachel is putting on her toast. What? On the other hand, I still get chills from the image of Rachel crashing bodily through a window to warn the unwary students of the geassed attackers massing, or a living porcelain doll attempting to drag its mistress to safety through the trees. Despite its problems, this book is good.

Book 2–The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel–absolutely nails it. This is what it would be like to attend a magical school in the island of Roanoke, hidden from the Unwary mortals by veils of the tenebrous obscurii ; this is what it would be like to have a fast-talking, dragon-slaying hero and his shoulder-sized talking dragon familiar as your best friend; this is what it would be like to discover the seedling of the World Tree and the Elf-woman who guards it.

The Rachel Griffin series was originally a role-playing game between the author and her family and friends; so many of the characters are from other stories (other…universes…!) with the serial numbers filed off. (Vladimir von Dread = Victor von Doom; the mild-mannered gym teacher who can move faster than sight = Superman, etc.) I am convinced that the Elf-woman is a very misplaced Galadriel.

Book 3–Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland–continues in the same vein as book 2, but starts to deepen Rachel’s character and examine the effect of two books’ worth of intense adventures (Saving the World TM) on a tween who literally cannot forget anything, and who is just starting to realize she doesn’t know as much as she thinks she does.

Book 4, The Awful Truth About Forgetting, dials down the action but kicks the internal conflict up a notch higher; and the series is richer for it. Having rah-rah Save The World action, with three friends who never disagree, in every book would frankly get boring after a while. The central trio of the Die Horribly Debate Club is splintered; and Rachel makes a monumental screw-up that costs her own father his memory and post at the Shadow Agency.

This book is really well-constructed. While writing the above, I realized that every one of the character beats prior to the said disasters, indicates or foreshadows what that character is eventually going to do. The hilarious but rather sad scene of Nastasia deflecting Wulfgang Starkadder’s attempts at friendship tie back into her (Book 1!) refusal to lie to anyone; and her current (book 4) guilt and failure at nearly losing a friend in battle.

Further, the book is not all moody, brooding, and glum. I laughed for five minutes straight (and ran around the house to tell everybody else) at Sigfried’s “I’m a robot” announcement.

Likewise, the action–although a bit lower-stakes than Save The World TM this time–is extremely well written and gives everyone involved a chance to shine.

I’ve run out of time again.

Buy the book! Five steeplechase broomsticks out of five.

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