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Book Report: The Star of Kazan

YHB had read one or two of Eva Ibbotson's books, and I liked 'em well enough, or so I think I remember. I picked up The Star of Kazan (Dutton) from my new local library because it looked good enough, and in fact I thought it was terrific. It's very Cornelia Funke, I think, although it isn't a fantasy but an adventure book. That is, it has some of the atmosphere that led me to expect magic, but there isn't actually any magic at all. It's set in 1908 Vienna (and northern Germany), which is magical enough, in its way, much the same way Venice is somewhat magical in The Thief Lord, but Ms. Ibbotson does a better job (by me) of evoking that sense of wonder and excitement. It reminded me of Emil and the Detectives, although it didn't remind me enough to actually bring any details of Emil to mind. One thing I really liked about the book is that it plays with the trope (which I've mentioned before) of the child who is not really her parents' child, but actually a Princess, and will be taken away to a place where her hereditary powers can blossom. I find that whole trope really annoying, both (as a father and a son) because the child abandons her real family who raised her for someone who has only genetic connection to her, and (as an American) because the whole idea of hereditary merit smacks of monarchy and eugenics. Kazan does a great job of playing with those expectations and ideas, and is explicitly anti-aristocratic as well, hee hee. So it's an answer to one YHB's pet peeves, and as such bound to be pleasant.

Even leaving that aside, though, it's a magnificent book. Lots of excitement, some good and memorable characters, lots of atmosphere (unlike that restaurant on the moon), and, um, horses. I would imagine it's perfect for an eleven-year-old girl (or so) who likes to read; I think I'll be buying a copy for one such pretty soon. Unless she already has it; I'd better check.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,