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Book Report: Frogkisser

I’ve been re-reading some of my old Book Reports about Garth Nix’s stuff. I have been writing this Tohu Bohu for a long time, haven’t I? I’ve written, at least briefly, about nine of his books. Or ten, now, with Frogkisser. And Frogkisser may be my favorite of all of them, or perhaps second-favorite after Sabriel. Looking at the whole list, I’ve read (I think) fourteen of his novels? That seems like an awful lot, doesn’t it?

At one point, oh, maybe twenty years ago, I mentioned to a friend that I had read and enjoyed ten novels by Robertson Davies, and that was an awful lot of books by any one writer to like. Ten novels! I have lived another twenty years since then and read a lot of novels, but I wonder if there are very many more writers with ten I like. Hm. Lois McMaster Bujold, yes. Dick Francis? Are there ten Dick Francis novels I like? Probably, tho’ I wouldn’t want to have to name ’em. Terry Pratchett much the same. Are there ten Diana Wynne Jones books I actually like? There are ten James Morrow novels, do I actually like all of them? John Scalzi has written ten novels, more or less, but I haven’t really liked all of them. John Dickson Carr? Orson Scott Card? Eva Ibbotsen? Maybe Eva Ibbotsen. Six great books, two more very good ones that I should probably own but don’t, and probably at least two of the children’s books that I don’t really remember. Anyway, not very many writers have, including many of my favorites. There aren’t ten Charles Dickens novels I enjoy. Kazuo Ishiguro hasn’t written ten novels yet, and I don’t like all the ones he has written. Mary Renault, five novels I absolutely love, a couple of others I like okay, a couple I don’t like much at all, haven’t bothered with the rest.

Anyway, I don’t know why that came up, because I haven’t enjoyed anything close to ten of Garth Nix’s books. I liked Sabriel a lot, and I enjoyed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the Keys to the Kingdom series, and I didn’t actively dislike most of the others. Enough to keep reading them, I suppose, and enough to pick up Frogkisser, once I made sure it wasn’t part of a series.

Frogkisser is lighthearted, which it turns out is a wonderful thing for his stuff. Both of the Big Series (well, the two Big Serieses that I’ve read) were very dark, which he did very well. But this one is silly. Oh, there are a few of his remarkable spooky visuals (well, prose visuals, you know what I mean) but those punctuate what is fundamentally a romp. I wouldn’t have guessed that Mr. Nix would do romp that well. Some of the incidental jokey stuff is genuinely funny, and much of the adventure is nicely adventurous. Even with the one bit that I found tiresome from the beginning, a running gag about Heralds speaking in Headlinese, he doesn’t run it into the ground. Or perhaps I was just in a good mood about the rest of the book so that bit didn’t wear on me as much as it might otherwise have done. It’s not a perfect book by any means—I’m not sure why it was so important to emphasize that the world was not our own by mentioning the two moons so awkwardly—but it’s the kind of book that I just enjoyed reading without thinking about too hard.

It is also yet another (and welcome) entry into the set of books where the Hero is a Princess who doesn’t wait around for a Prince. Princes are not entirely unavailable, but they don’t seem any likelier to rescue Princesses than anyone else is.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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